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For many years people living with disabilities have had the benefit of being able to use a service animal to aid them in their everyday life. Unfortunately, the use of service animals had not always been seen as a priority or a need for many individuals. Thankfully, the United States Government stepped in to provide specific accommodations and protections for those living with disabilities. Service animals today, are highly regarded as an extension of a disabled person, aiding and protecting those individuals from accidents. There are various kinds of service pets, seeing eye dogs for the blind, hearing assistance dogs for the deaf, even miniature horses that help individuals with balance and stability issues.

Though service dogs help many different disabilities, the recent explosion in support animals has reopened age-old questions concerning the validity of a person’s need for such an animal. The confusion between service and support animals is one of the underlying reasons people have begun to question the needs of disabled individuals.

 

What is the difference between an emotional support animal and service animal?

The American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) has defined service animals as animals “that are individually trained to perform tasks for patients with disabilities.” An example of such work would be pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, or relaxing a person who has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and many other duties. Service animals are working animals and not considered pets. The task the pet has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Unfortunately, animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not currently qualify as service animals under the ADA. Instead, these animals are classified as emotional support animals (ESA).

Emotional support animals are those that provide therapeutic benefit through support and companionship whether that is to ease symptoms from an emotional or mental disability, as a non-judgmental companion or even as a distraction from stresses associated with daily life.

 

How are ESAs treated or protected under the current federal laws?

Though there are a variety of rules associated with protections of service animals, support animals sometimes fall into a gray area where the federal government is concerned. A few states have decided that to prevent those suffering from mental or emotional disabilities to be lost in the shuffle, they would step in to provide protections whereas other states have chosen not to add any additional protections at all.

Individuals suffering from disabilities are protected when it comes to two specific areas, housing, and air travel, while a third area, employment, has some gray areas when it comes to accommodating ESAs. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Pets that support, assist or provide service to people with disabilities are protected under HUD’s regulations. Assistance animals are not considered pets under these rules and therefore can not be treated as such. Regulations prevent landlords or property owners from denying tenancy or charging fees associated with either service or support animals. In short, the government has determined that these individuals have the right to live in an apartment, condo or home with an animal they have chosen to assist them in their disability.

 

Housing With An Emotional Support Animal

The Fair Housing Act does not require that support animals be individually trained or certified, however, individuals who are requesting protection for support animals must follow specific rules. They must submit proper documentation from a licensed mental health professional stating the nature of their disability and the medical necessity for an assistance animal. Though the most common type of assistance animals are cats and dogs, other species also qualify under these rules as long as they are a legally accepted animal; mice, ferrets, hedgehogs, and even pigs can be eligible as support animals as long as they provide emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptom or effects of a person’s disability. Importantly, these animals are not required to have specialized training as they are not classified as service animals.

While it may seem that tenants have the most significant power when it comes to accommodations for support animals, it is important to note that property owners or landlords have some protections as well. It is perfectly legal and within their right to request for an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. While it is not required that specific medical information is divulged, certain information is necessary to determine eligibility. Your clinician must submit the required information on their letterhead, mainly serving as a prescription. It will state the nature of the disability and that a reasonable accommodation for a support animal is necessary. Even though the renter cannot be charged a pet fee or pet deposit, they can be legally held responsible for any damages that are caused by the support animal.
Additionally, if the support animal poses a threat to the health or safety of others or would cause property damage, an ESA can be denied. These exceptions are limited and extremely hard to navigate without legal advice. Both the tenant and landlord should exercise caution when browsing delicate issues such as this.

 

Travel With An Emotional Support Animal

Travel With An Emotional Support Animal

Patients who wish to travel with their emotional support animal have enjoyed strong support when it comes to traveling by air. However, due to recent abuses, more stringent policies have been enacted by many carriers. The Department of Transportation (DOT) through the Air Carrier Access Act allows ESA owners to travel with their animals in cabin and free of charge as long as the animal is well-behaved and fits within the guidelines of the specific airline. Unusual animals such as snakes, spiders, ferrets, rodents, and reptiles are prohibited under the DOT’s rules. The airlines have strengthened the requirements for traveling with ESAs. To ensure travelers ample opportunity to obtain any additional required information, it is advised that contact is made with the carrier well in advance of travel and that no less than 48 hours before your departure time contact is made once again.

For individuals traveling from either JFK or LaGuardia Airports, both are very accommodating to emotional support animals. As with many other airports, you will need to submit your ESA letter in advance and get in touch with the airline you are traveling with to find out if they require any additional information before allowing you to travel with your support animal.

For those planning overseas travel, some accommodations have been arranged with many host countries but to ensure you will not have any issues, travelers must contact the State Department for additional information and resources. Keep in mind that foreign airlines traveling to and from the United States are only required to accept dogs in the cabin.

The DOT rules for individuals traveling with ESAs on other forms of public transportation (bus, commuter rail, ferries, etc.) do not require providers to consider emotional support animals as anything more than pets under their pricing policies. They can choose to treat these animals as they would service dogs or ban them entirely.

One last thing to consider when traveling, transient lodging establishments such as hotels or inns are not required to treat ESAs any different than other pets. ESAs can be subject to pet fees as well as not allowing them in the businesses. We suggest that travelers seek pet-friendly locations during their travels to avoid any issues.

 

Employment With An Emotional Support Animal

Disabled individuals, seeking employment or currently employed and need the assistance of an emotional support animal fall under the grayer areas of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA provides protections for disabled individuals in the workplace by prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees or potential employees with disabilities in all facets of employment including hiring, pay, promotion or firing and protects the employee from retaliatory behavior if they assert their rights under the law.

While the ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled workers, those who seek to bring their emotional support animals to work with them fall in the cracks sometimes. Most employers will follow the same process as they would a service animal whose hander does not have a visible disability and request the individual to provide proof from the licensed mental health professional and their request to see their ESA letter. Unfortunately, federal law only comes into effect if an employer has 15 or more employees, small businesses may not fall under this guideline.

Employers have the right to expect those support animals, like service animals be free from odors and not be a danger to anyone. While employers are expected to make reasonable accommodations, there are times when these accommodations may cause undue hardship on the employer. To ensure adherence to the law, any business owner who feels that they would suffer an undue hardship should seek legal advice before denying any accommodation.

Read More Here About Emotional Support Pet Laws: Emotional Support Pet Laws You Should Be Aware Of

 

Getting An ESA Letter In New York State

While New York has made some strides to provide additional accommodations for individuals who use emotional support animals, improvements can be made. Neither the federal government nor New York provides protections for support animals in public areas as they do for service animals. To ensure that all individuals with disabilities have equal access improvements need to be made. Be sure to inform and educate yourself on laws and ESA letter duration if you are living with an ESA. Sometimes you are your own best advocate and can affect change by teaching others in a calm and understanding manner.

Call us at (415) 966-0848 from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm PST to schedule an appointment, or visit our website.


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Unlike decades ago, the world we live in has become a complex global society where the movement of people is more fluid. The age of growing up and living in one area, never seeing or visiting other parts of the world or even within the United States has long passed for most of the population. Living among us, however, are individuals who face challenges that require special accommodations and considerations for them to live an independent life.
The time when those who have physical or mental disabilities were expected to have someone with them always to perform activities that otherwise would have been off-limits for them has passed. Thankfully great strides have been made in services that encourage independent living among the disabled. One such service that arguably may be the best program that supports independence is the service animal industry.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as any dog that is specially trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disabilities. The action or tasks performed must be directly related to the individual’s disability. Typical examples of such service dogs would see eye dogs for the blind; dogs used to pull wheelchairs or even those that can warn or protect individuals from imminent seizures.
While there are individuals who benefit from federal protections for service dogs, those who suffer severe emotional disabilities and require the use of an emotional support animal are not generally covered under the ADA’s guidelines except for two areas, travel and housing.

What is an emotional support pet?

An emotional support animal (ESA) provides companionship and emotional support for people diagnosed with a severe mental or emotional disability. An example of a disability that may benefit from an emotional support animal could be someone suffering from severe anxiety or depression. The need for an ESA is always documented by a letter from a mental health professional which legally guarantees their right to live and travel with the animal. These support animals are not always dogs or cats, though they are more common. Other species such as mice, birds, hedgehogs or other animals that are commonly domesticated can be used as well.

Traveling with an emotional support petEmotional Support Animal Travel Laws

The Department of Transportation (DOT) under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACCA) provides specific protections for individuals traveling with an emotional support animal by plane in the United States. Because of heightened safety concerns and the enclosed space in which air travel is done, the restrictions are considered tighter than other laws regarding ESAs. The ACCA allows disabled handlers the right to travel with their support animal in the cabin and free of charge, but there are certain conditions. Under the DOT’s rules, unusual animals are prohibited from the guidelines. It can include snakes, reptiles, rodents, and other animals.
If you are intending upon traveling with your ESA, there are a few things you should be aware of. First, the DOT gives carriers the right to request additional documentation before agreeing to allow your animal to be transported in the cabin. Though the added documentation may vary from carrier to carrier, most common requirements are for an ESA letter certifying the traveler’s disability and the need for a specific support animal that is no older than one year old or veterinary records stating the health of the animal.
Those individuals who rely on emotional support animals should also be aware that should you need to travel outside of the United States, foreign carriers that fly to and from the US are only required to accept dogs as an emotional support animal. Great care should always be taken when traveling abroad. Host countries do not usually have the same laws regarding these animals that we do, and you could find upon entering that your pet is not allowed. Consult an advisor at embassies and the State Department for additional information.
If you intend to travel by other means of mass transit (bus, commuter rail, etc.), the DOT’s rules are not as supportive and not covered by the ADA. In these circumstances, local providers are allowed to either classify the animal as a service animal or as a pet. If support animals are treated as pets, they can accept them under the same pet policy or pricing policy as service animals or ban them entirely. Transient lodging is also exempt from being forced to accept ESAs as anything other than pets. When traveling, we recommend that you seek out places that are pet-friendly.

Living with an emotional support pet

Individuals suffering from severe mental or emotional issues that require an ESA are protected by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (DOT) under the umbrella of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Rehab Act. They enforce the rules regarding emotional support animals as well as service dogs. While service dogs are required to be specially trained to perform a job, the FHA guidelines do not need any training for an emotional support animal including basic obedience. However, ESAs residing in a residential community are subject to specific regulations or requirements. This can include registrations, vaccinations, and prohibitions. Property owners or landlords have a right to request an ESA letter just like airlines to prove an individual’s legal rights under the ADA and HUD guidelines. Although pets may be denied under standard rental agreements or typically assessed fees or deposits, in the case of an ESA, no such demands can be made. However, if an emotional support animal causes damages, the tenant can be legally held responsible. More information here – Emotional Support Animal Letter for Housing

Employment laws concerning emotional support petsEmotional Support Animal Employment Laws

Individuals that are disabled are covered under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act (EEOC). The Act prohibits employment discrimination by race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, and marital or familial status. Added as an amendment to Title VII, it expands the protection of Title VII to public and private employers with 15 or more employees, both public and private labor organizations with at least 15 members, and employment agencies. In addition to the EEOC, disabled Americans are also protected under the ADA. The ADA requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for employees and applicants who have disabilities regardless if the disability is seen or unseen. Changes to how a job is completed or a change in a policy that does not cause undue hardship on the employer that allows a disabled individual to perform the task effectively are considered a reasonable accommodation. While service dogs are automatically covered under these laws, support animals currently reside in a gray area. Some emotional disabilities such as severe stress or anxiety may be covered under employment laws, but others may not.
Any employer that receives a request for the accommodation of an emotional support animal should treat the application just as they would for any other housing. It is always in the best interest of both the employer and employee to work together to build a supportive working environment as long as the accommodations requested would not cause undue hardship or create an environment that could be dangerous to the anyone including the disabled individual.
Undue hardships that may prevent employers from accommodating a request could be a substantial financial cost, the size and number of employees or how the accommodation would affect the facility and the employer. Employers are allowed to expect that any support animal is free from bad odors, be housebroken or potty-trained and not pose a threat to the health or safety of other individuals in the workplace.
While it is a gray area in the laws, many employers are open to an honest and forthcoming discussion about an employee’s need for an emotional support animal. They may request the ESA letter to help them make an informed decision. However, as with all other provisions, there is limited information that employers may demand regarding protected medical information. It is advisable to address specific concerns with a qualified HR representative or other legal professionals if additional information is needed.

Public access laws for emotional support pets

The United States government does not recognize emotional support animals as service animals that perform a job for their handler. Because of this, ESAs do not have the protections in public access areas like service animals do. If the individual state also does not offer protections, access to public areas with emotional support animals can be limited. If your state has not defined additional protections, seek out support-friendly areas that may be close by. Many businesses and business owners are becoming more sympathetic to individuals who suffer from debilitating disorders and are making changes in their policies to accommodate them.

Emotional support pet letter from EZCare Clinic

All fifty states are covered under the American’s with Disabilities Act, Air Carrier Act, Fair Housing Act, and the Rehab Act. While many states leave the protections associated with emotional support animals to the federal government, some states have begun to expand or add to those protections to ensure a higher number of disabled individuals receive equal treatment. To ensure that your rights have not been violated or that as an employer, you are not discriminating against someone unintentionally, check out your individual state’s website for additional information. Understanding the disability laws in your area allows you to advocate for yourself and others effectively regarding housing for emotional support animals and traveling with your ESA. Our physicians here at EZCare Clinic would be glad to help you with all of your questions regarding emotional support pets, as well as aid you in getting a legitimate emotional support animal letter. We are here to help 7 days a week, from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm PST,  feel free to give us a call at (415) 966-0848 and make an appointment today online or in-person.

Online applications, click here.

In-person appointments, click here.


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For those who own any type of pet, you likely already know the difficulties and challenges that come with finding a practical home to lease or rent. This is because many landlords forbid the ownership of an animal in their home, for an array of reasons ranging from potential damages that they may cause, or perhaps because they simply do not like animals. This can become a real obstacle when looking for a place to live, especially if you already own a dog, cat, or any other type of pet, as many landlords may refuse you immediately after learning of your companion.

Fortunately, however, pet owners have a strong ally in their favor when it comes to these situations, and that ally takes shape in the form of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter. These certifications provide justification to the landlord that your animal is for the purposes of well-being and happiness in your life, and grants legitimacy to the ownership of one. When presented with an ESA letter, most landlords are legally required to accept it regardless of their personal feelings, although a few exemptions still apply in which the landlord has the right to refuse it. When it comes to attaining and presenting an ESA letter for housing, there are certain things to consider in order to ensure that the process goes smoothly and without roadblocks. Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking to attain the certification.

The Fair Housing Act

Emotional Support Animal Landlord Rights and Fair housing act

In 1968, Congress passed a law entitled the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which forbade landowners from discriminating against potential renters on an array of grounds. This included a bias toward people based on their gender, race, color, religion or the country in which they originated. The bill holds an array of other specifics about what cannot be discriminated against, and one of these includes that of those who have pets and have justification from a medical professional for owning these animals.

In this regard, most pets become legal in most domiciles, however, there are still certain guidelines in which the landlord holds authority. These include a building with 4 or less units wherein the landlord is one of the occupants of the building; single-family homes in which the home buyer does not enlist a real estate agent in the purchase or renting of the home; as well as housing areas that are owned by organizations and groups that are used for the sole purpose of their members. If you own a pet and are looking to move into a location, make sure that the FHA covers your animal, in order to ensure that the landlord is unable to discriminate.

Attaining an ESA Letter for Housing

This is one of the most important aspects, as many people have little understanding of where to get the certification, and where to steer clear from. With the onset of ESA animals becoming so popular, many online services have sprung up that claim they provide legitimate letters. However, many of these are outright scams, and their certifications hold no legal backing. For animal owners looking to obtain these housing letters, the best option is often to find a legitimate therapist and ask these individuals for the letter.

Only in circumstances where letters are attained from medical professionals is it credible to use, and without such, can cause many headaches and obstacles along the way. When doing your research, make sure that you do not get caught up with these scams, and that you take the time to go in-person, to meet with a medical professional and get the documentation needed for your pet.

Benefits of having an ESA Letter for Housing

Aside from the apparent fact that you cannot be discriminated against by landlords for owning an animal, the ESA letter for housing can also help you save money when renting a home at the same time that you own a pet. One of the great benefits that come with the letter is that you become exempt from any pet deposits that the landlord may be trying to impose on you.

Often times, in situations where landlords allow pets, to begin with, they require that a deposit is put down on top of the security deposit, which is aimed to ensure the property in case of any damages or issues that the animal may cause in the time that you live there. However, having a legitimate ESA certification makes you exempt from having to pay this amount of money, and any attempt by the landlord to receive these funds from you is considered illegal under the legal framework.

Informing Your Landlord of an ESA Letter

ESA Letters and Landlord Rights

Whether you are already living in the specific apartment or home, or if you are just starting to get the paperwork going with the landlord, informing them about your pet and the ESA may be a bit confusing in terms of when and how to present the letter. The ESA can be given to the landlord either before or after the signing of the lease, and it is not necessarily required of you to inform the landlord prior to signing that you own an animal. If you already live in the given apartment, the Fair Housing Act protects you from being wrongfully evicted on the account of the animal, especially when the landlord is averse to pets, to begin with. Understanding this process is crucial to ensuring a smooth and positive relationship upon moving in, and going forward, with the landlord of the property.

When it comes to attaining and presenting an ESA letter to your landlord, it is clear that the process may be confusing and daunting for some. However, arming yourself with the proper amount of information and knowledge that will reduce this confusion is vital to getting the right treatment, and reducing the anxiety that may come with the ESA letter presentation. Consider learning more about the process as a whole, researching more insight into the FHA, and other similar measures, that will ultimately lead you to understand exactly what your rights are, and so no landlord can take advantage of the ESA certification.

Get Your Emotional Support Letter Online or in-person call to schedule your Housing ESA letter appointment at (415) 966-0848


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