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.


HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) has issued new regulations that clarify the responsibilities that landlords shoulder in regard to companion animals inside rental properties.

FHA and Emotional Support Animals

The recently released notice explains how the FHA and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) intersect concerning the use of assistance or service animals by individuals who have disabilities.

The FHA (Fair Housing Act) prohibits any landlord from discriminating based upon familial status, sex, religion, national origin, color, race, and disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination against those who have disabilities in communications, public accommodations, transportation, employment and local and state government activities.

Both regulations feature provisions that address using assistance or service animals by those who have disabilities. While the FHA covers almost all kinds of housing, some kinds of housing, like public housing, are now covered by both regulations.

Disability-associated complaints, which include the ones involving assistance animals, are the most typical discrimination complaint they receive, according to John Trasvia, HUD Asst. Secretary for Fair Housing & Equal Opportunity.

HUD’s recent notice discusses housing providers obligations underneath the FHA, which includes the need to offer suitable accommodations to those who have disabilities requiring assistance pets. Animal restrictions can’t be used to limit or deny housing to those who have disabilities requiring the usage of assistance animals due to their disability. In accordance with the law, housing providers have to grant appropriate accommodations in these types of cases.

Threshold Questions have to be Addressed

  1. Does the individual wanting to use and reside with the pet have a disability” that is, a mental or physical impairment which significantly restricts one or more life activities?
  2. Does the individual making this request have a disability-associated requirement for an assistance pet? Does the animal work, in other words, offer assistance, do services or tasks for the benefit of someone who has a disability, or offers emotional support which relieves one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an individual’s present disability?

If the answer to question number one or number two is “no,” the law doesn’t require a modification of a current “no pets” rule, and the appropriate request for accommodation might be denied.

But, if the answer to those questions is “yes”, a landlord has to modify or offer an exception to a “no pets” regulation to allow someone who has a disability to reside with and utilize an assistance pet(s) in all spaces of the premises in which persons normally are permitted to go, unless doing so might impose an undue administrative and financial burden or fundamentally would change the nature of a housing provider’s services.

A Request for a Companion Animal Might be Denied

The emotional support pet in question poses a threat to the safety or health of others which can’t be eliminated or reduced by another appropriate accommodation, or The assistance pet in question might cause significant physical property damage of others which can’t be eliminated or reduced by another appropriate accommodation. Weight limitations, size, and breed might not be applied to assistance pets.

ESA and FHA Efficiency Tip

A decision that an assistance animal poses a threat of harm to other people or could cause significant physical damage to the property of other people has to be based upon an individualized evaluation which relies on objective proof about the animal’s conduct not merely on fear or speculation concerning the kinds of damage or harm an animal might cause and not on proof about damage or harm that additional animals have caused. Restrictions and conditions which housing providers apply to animals might not be applied to assistance pets. For instance, while housing providers might require residents or applicants to pay a pet deposit, these regulations can’t be applied to companion pets.

The landlord can’t deny a suitable accommodation request because they aren’t sure if the individual searching for the accommodation has a disability or disability-associated requirement for an assistance pet. Housing providers might ask people with disabilities who aren’t readily apparent or well-known to the provider to submit appropriate paperwork of a disability and disability-associated requirement for an assistance pet.

If the disability in question is readily apparent or well-known yet the disability-associated requirement for the assistance pet isn’t, the housing provider might request that the person offer paperwork for the disability-oriented necessity for an assistance animal. For instance, the housing provider might ask individuals seeking appropriate accommodation for an assistance pet to offer emotional support to offer paperwork from a social worker, psychiatrist, physician, or additional mental health specialist that the animal offers emotional support which relieves one or more of the identified effects or symptoms of a present disability. This type of paperwork is sufficient if it establishes that someone has a disability and that the pet will offer some kind of emotional support or disability-oriented assistance.

However, the landlord might not ask an applicant or tenant to offer paperwork that shows the disability or disability-associated necessity for an assistance pet if the disability or disability-associated requirement is readily apparent or already well-known to the provider.

Also, the housing provider might not ask a tenant or applicant to offer access to medical providers or medical records or offer extensive or detailed documentation of or information on someone’s mental or physical impairments.

As HUD makes it crystal clear that private landlords have a legal responsibility under the FHA to accept any eligible companion pet into a rental property, the DOJ narrowed its service animal definition permitted into educational and government facilities underneath the Americans with Disabilities Act, to ‘any canine which individually is trained to perform work or do activities for the benefit of someone who has a disability, which includes a sensory, physical, intellectual, psychiatric, or additional mental disability. ESAs are expressly precluded.

For more information on getting your ESA letter for Housing please get in contact with us at (415) 966-0848.


While searching for rented accommodation, it isn’t uncommon to see that housing providers or landlords have imposed a policy of ‘no pets’ as a portion of their agreement. Usually, it’s due to multiple factors like noise, possible property damage, or merely due to insurance limitations. While most renters must abide by this policy, there are a few circumstances in which people are permitted to keep animals in accommodation in which a ‘no pet’ policy is imposed.

The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) states that disabled individuals might reside in accommodation with their service animals, even when pets aren’t typically permitted. It’s because service animals are very well behaved because of their extensive training and aren’t considered pets. As emotional support animals are given to people as a therapeutic treatment for any psychological disorders, a few landlords will permit them to reside with their owners in spite of the ‘no pet’ policy, yet they aren’t always obliged to, and won’t always permit this. Therefore, what might you do if the landlord doesn’t accept an emotional support animal?


Emotional Support Animal Rights


An Emotional Support Animal isn’t the same as a Service Animal


Animals long have been utilized to medically help human beings with a variety of needs, like a service dog to help a visually impaired or blind individual with protection and navigation, or emotional support animal that provides companionship and affection as a portion of a treatment strategy for anxiety problems. Such animals both offer a likewise service, yet aren’t equally regarded in the eyes of the law.

A service animal is specifically trained to aid with a person’s disability and is recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, emotional support animals aren’t approved animals by the ADA and thereby aren’t exempt from specific limitations like accessibility to private establishments or public places in the same way service animals are.

As applying to rent private accommodation that has a ‘no pets’ policy may be a fairly straightforward procedure for service animal owners because of the ADA, the same procedure may be a bit trickier for those who have emotional support animals. Don’t panic, though! Fair Housing Act protects emotional support animal owners to reside with their emotional support animals within the majority of housing circumstances.


Some landlords may approve emotional support animals; some may not


Because landlords aren’t obliged to accept such animals while processing your application within the same way they must with service dogs, you might need to accept that some accommodation might be off limits to you if you don’t have an ESA letter or documentation from a therapist that is licensed

Whether you already own an emotional support animal and want new accommodation, or already reside in accommodation that has a ‘no pet’ policy and were assigned an emotional support animal, you might be faced with some barriers concerning your application. Read further to figure out how you can protect yourself from landlords who are uninformed.


How to obtain an ESA letter


Begin by asking your own therapist or doctor to check if they provide this service to you. It is vital that you communicate all mental health conditions to the health care provider and be transparent so the doctor can understand your needs. If approved by the doctor or therapist, they’ll offer you their official ESA Letter that makes your animal an official ESA. In taking your health seriously, your Emotional Support Animal may be the assistance that you’re searching for.  It may make a huge difference by having the animal by your side as you need it! If by some chance they don’t know about how to prescribe an official ESA Letter or don’t believe in it, it’s possible to seek assistance from additional resources online which may offer you one.


What do you do if your landlord says “NO” to your emotional support animal?


If you offer the proper paperwork from a licensed therapist and the landlord still is insistent about not permitting the emotional support animal, there are a few options.

  • Call HUD to file a complaint
  • Call an attorney and have them create a firmly-worded letter to the landlord
  • Call an ESA advocate which will point you in the proper direction


All hope isn’t lost because of the FHA


Landlord won't Accept my ESA

When might apartments not permit my emotional support animal?

They will include specific situations in which landlords aren’t obliged to accept such animals, like:

  • Buildings which have four or lee dwellings of which a landlord is the occupant of one
  • A single-family dwelling sold or rented w/o a real estate broker

Thankfully, accommodations which don’t fall under those categories aren’t imposed by such limitations and have to consider all emotional support or service animal applications.

As service animals are looked upon a bit more favorably, the truth that such animals technically aren’t pets is going to go a long way as a landlord processes the application.

Should the landlord determine not to accept the emotional support animal, and if the accommodation does not come underneath one of the categories above, you ought to offer them a letter from a mental health professional who is licensed, which, underneath the Fair Housing Act, ought to be enough evidence of your necessity for an emotional support animal for the application.

For any reason, if you do not have the ability to get a letter from a mental health professional, there will include several available services that offer enough evidence after successful evaluation.

Even though applying for an apartment usually is a straightforward procedure for those who have emotional support animals, without the necessity to hop through hoops to be permitted to reside with their animal, occasionally the procedure may be a bit trickier than it should be. By offering a letter from a mental health professional like your psychiatrist, therapist, or psychologist that verifies your necessity for an ESA, you ought to have little issue making a successful application underneath the FHA.

Schedule an appointment to get your ESA letter today from a licensed California Doctor.

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