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The use of emotional support animals (ESA) has been a hot button topic in recent years. Thanks to wide-spread abuse, individuals who suffer from debilitating mental or emotional disabilities may find themselves in a situation where they need to know their rights under California and Federal law.  Understanding the basic rules governing service dogs or support animals will allow you to be better prepared should any issue arise.

What is an emotional support animal?

While many people confuse support animals with service animals, it is important to note that they are different. A service dog provides the owners with a particular trained skill such as a visually impaired individual or someone that is blind or needs assistance with physical activities require a service animal. In contrast, animals that provide a therapeutic response would be considered a support animal.  A dog or other common domesticated animal that provides support to a disabled individual through companionship, affection, non-judgmental regard, or as being a distraction from issues can be an emotional support animal. Before an animal is deemed as an ESA, a diagnosis of a mental or emotional disability that significantly limits one or more of the daily major life activities must have been made by a qualified mental health professional. Animals that can be used for support may include other species; however, cats and dogs are the ones that typically come to mind. If the disabled person’s need is exclusively limited to a residential setting, any legal species of any age could qualify as an emotional support animal including cats, dogs, mice, rabbits, birds, hedgehogs, and ferrets. These animals are subject to the community’s species regulations, registration requirements, vaccination rules, and prohibitions. However, neither the federal government, the state of California or the city of San Diego requires any type of specialized training for an emotional support animal including basic obedience.

Types of protections for Emotional support animals

ESA Protections

The federal government enacted several measures designed to protect individuals who use service dogs or support animals. As well as adherence to the federal measures, California and San Diego have supported additional rules to govern ESAs.

 

Travel

Traveling can be an anxiety-producing task for anyone. For those who have severe emotional or mental illnesses, it can be debilitating. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) under the Department of Transportation (DOT) protects the rights of individuals using emotional support animals. Guidelines mandate that the animal is allowed to travel in the cabin along with their disabled handler for free. DOT rules for air travel allow for stricter regulations than compared to other accommodations. “Unusual” animals such as snakes, reptiles, rodents, spiders and ferrets are not allowed due to safety concerns. In addition to these limitations, many air carriers have decided to require additional information before allowing travel with emotional support animals. Widespread abuse and the issues associated with them have necessitated that air carriers require proof from a licensed healthcare professional stating your mental health disability and the need for a service animal. This letter must be dated less than one year prior to traveling and follow a specific format. Contact should be made with the carrier well in advance of travel so that travelers have an adequate amount of time to gather all pertinent information. It is also recommended 48 hours prior to air travel; additional contact is made to ensure that there are no last-minute complications that would hinder your travel plans.

While the DOT has a separate policy for air travel, other forms of transportation (mass transit buses, commuter rails, ferries, etc.) is only required to make accommodations for individuals who use service animals and do not make a distinction between them and ESAs. The local provider is allowed to treat ESAs as pets under the same pricing policy, or they are allowed to ban them entirely. Additionally, neither the ACAA nor Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protections cover ESAs in any type of transient lodging. Those wishing to travel with ESAs must be prepared to seek pet-friendly accommodations while traveling. Locations can also legally charge a pet-fee for emotional support animals, limit the types of animals and place additional requirements as they see fit.

Employment

Working With An ESA San Diego

As in all fifty states, employers in California are required to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. While the federal government has created a gray area when it comes to including those who use emotional support animals, California has decided to include support animals in the workplace an appropriate accommodation. Although the federal government only requires employers to have fifteen or more employees before they are subject to this law, California and San Diego make the law a requirement once the employer has a minimum of five employees.

Employers also have some protections under California law. If the accommodations would cause “undue hardship” exemption from the law might be warranted. Examples of “undue hardships” could be exuberant cost or the nature of the accommodation, the size and number of employees of the facility and the employer, the type of operation or how providing the accommodation would affect the facility and the employer. In addition to protections against undue hardships, employers have a right to expect any support animal to be free from offensive odors, has been housebroken, well behaved and not endanger the health or safety of anyone in the workplace including the handler.

Housing

The Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) has mandated that tenants or potential tenants have rights regarding emotional support animals. Reasonable accommodations designed to ensure that people with disabilities have equal protection to use and enjoy an apartment or house are strictly enforced.

Reasonable accommodations, as in employment laws would be a change or exception to a policy that would prevent a disabled individual from performing one or more functions related to life such as working or living independently. Tenants who live in San Diego and require an emotional support animal cannot be denied the right to live with their ESA unless the animal poses a threat to the safety of others or would cause significant damage to the property of others. While some landlords may believe that speculation or fear of an animal is justification for not adhering to this law, the decision must be based on factual evidence of a specific animal’s conduct.

Because the laws regarding emotional support animals are fairly new, many property owners do not know or understand the guidelines set forth by the federal or state government. If you have received your first ESA letter and are unsure of what to do next, there are few basic rules that you should remember. Additional requirements for individuals with ESAs is prohibited. For example, property owners are only entitled to the ESA letter from a qualified healthcare professional and are not entitled to any additional information or demands. Contact with the professional is limited to verifying that the letter is valid and does not include any specific medical information including but not limited to medications or course of treatment. In fact, directly contacting the healthcare professional is not advised. If a property owner or landlord suspects the information provided is fraudulent, such verification should be handled by legal representation.

ESAs cannot be required to wear identifying tags or garments nor can owners be assessed fees or deposits normally required for individuals with pets no matter what species or breed.

Property owners do have certain protections under the laws just as employers do. Though they cannot demand deposits or fees for emotional support animals, they can legally charge the tenant for repairs if the property has been damaged by the animal.

Unfortunately, public places are not required to admit emotional support animals regardless of the requirement to admit service animals. Many places in San Diego are friendly to emotional support animals however, there are just as many who do not understand their purpose. Being prepared to discuss the benefits of ESAs with misinformed businesses and individuals could help you advocate for yourself and others. Please keep in mind that although emotional support animals have numerous protections, it is imperative that ESA owners respect laws that are designed to protect others as well.

How to obtain an Emotional Support Animal in San Diego

If you feel you would benefit from an emotional support animal and live or work in San Diego, the first step would be to consult your licensed mental health professional. To legally qualify you must be certified as emotionally disabled by a licensed psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist or other properly licensed or certified mental health professional. Once diagnosed and it is determined that you would benefit from an ESA in California, a letter from that provider can be issued that outlines your specific mental or emotional disability and your need for that animal can be issued. It can take some time for this process but once completed you the benefits you will receive from your animal is worth the wait.

Give us a call at EZCare Clinic at (415) 966-0848; we’re open 7 days a week, from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm PST. Or you can click here to schedule an appointment online to get your ESA today.


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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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Those who own pets have a fairly clear understanding of the advantages that come with them. The companionship, the support, playfulness, and everything in between having emotional support animal can be immensely beneficial. However, at times, owning such pets can become a challenge, especially if you want to travel with them. Luckily for those who qualify for an Emotional Support Animal, and the benefits that come with them, it can make traveling a much easier venture.

Having a legitimate ESA certification letter from a medical professional not only gives you new opportunities to bring your pet with you when you are traveling, but it also grants various advantages that those who do not have one can enjoy. Regardless of which advantages that may apply to you, here are a few ways in which having an ESA certification can make the travel much easier and more efficient.

 

ESA Can Travel with You

Travelling by air with Emotional Support Animal

One of the difficulties when it comes to transporting an animal is that airlines have a strict animal policy on their commercial flights. At times, pet owners may be forced to check-in their pets the same way they do with their luggage, leading to a great deal of anxiety both for the individual, as well as the animal in question.

If you have an Emotional Support Animal letter that is legitimate and credible, distributed to you from an actual mental health professional or licensed MD, nearly all airlines are required by law to allow the animal on board the airplane with you. However, as mentioned, this letter must be legitimate in the eyes of the airline company, as many online services that give you an ESA provide illegitimate ones that are not certifiable and justifiable by mental health professionals or any doctor. As such, airlines can determine whether the letter is real or not by simply looking at a few indicators.

These include things such as the specific mental or emotional disability you may be suffering from, the legitimacy of the mental health professional or Medical Doctor through their license numbers, as well as the date and type of health professional that is listed on their license, and ensuring that they are certified to practice within the USA. If all of these components check out, and you have gotten a legit ESA letter, the airline is legally bound to abide by the claims that are made on the ESA letter and allow you to bring your pet on board the airliner with you.

 

No Pet Travel Fee with ESA Letter

When it comes to traveling with an animal, many airlines not only make it difficult for the requirements to do so to be met, but they simultaneously tend to tack on outrageous fees to justify the travel. However, these can be avoided when such travel emotional support companions have the proper and legitimate ESA documentation to do so, specifically in the form of a credible ESA clinic. Traveling with a pet can be a difficult experience unless your Emotional Support Pet letter is up to date and can be certified by the airlines.

The benefit of having a proper emotional pet certification is that, under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), the airline is required by law to not only allow the animal to board the airplane with their owner but that they simultaneously are forbidden to charge a travel fee to the passenger. In doing so, these fees can range from $90 to $300 for a single one-way flight, making it a financial struggle for many to bring their pets on board. However, with a legitimate ESA letter, the airline may not charge owners any fee, and this can be avoided on all of the legs of the trip which you may be taking.

 

Boarding Benefits with ESA Letter

 

Tips for traveling with Emotional Support Animal
Have you ever been sitting, waiting at the gate, for your section for the plane to be allowed to board? Often times, given the number of people trying to travel, you can find yourself waiting quite some time until you are finally allowed to board the plane. For those who have a legitimate ESA letter that has been certified by the airline, these hassles can be forgone, as the requirement to board among the first people on the plane is another thing that is required by the law.

 

Given the difficulties of managing a pet when you are traveling, those who own emotional support animals will be given the privilege and opportunity to board the plane at the same time as some of the first people. These people include those who are traveling first class, elite flying members that are signed up with the frequent flyer program, and others who are sitting towards the front of the plane. This helps you ensure that you and your emotional support animal get a spot that works best for you, as well as ensuring that no space-related issues arise while you are attempting to bring the animal on board. These benefits are crucial for pet owners, especially considering the extra baggage that the pet may represent, leaving more room and advantages to finding a place to put your pet on the trip.

 

Emotional Support Pet Policy by Airline

 Southwest pet policysouthwest pet policy

Southwest Airlines will charge you $95 per pet fare each way via southwest pet policy. That’s $190 round trip that will be added on to your expenses just to get your pet to travel with you. Receiving an E.S.A letter will help avoid these extra expenses and bypass southwest pet policy rules and charges. Should you have any questions regarding southwest pet policy, please feel free to contact us at (415) 966-0848. At Ezcare Medical Clinic, our staff will help you to complete all needed Emotional Support Animal documentation in accordance with Southwest Airlines pet policy.

JetBlue pet policy  Jetblue pet policy

JetBlue airlines will charge you a pet fee of $125 each way via JetBlue pet policy. If you add that up, we are looking at roughly $250 round trip that you will be paying out of pocket to get your pet to travel with you. To avoid these extra costs via JetBlue pet policy rules, you can get evaluated for an emotional support animal letter here at EzCare Clinic. Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at (415)-966-0848 or via email team@ezcareclinic.com.

Alaska airlines pet policyAlaska air pet policy

For travel on Alaska Airlines, PenAir, and Ravn Alaska, expenses are listed for $125 for one way and $250 for a round trip. Just like any other major domestic airline, Alaska airlines pet policy not only charges a fee but requires the pet to be present while going through security officers at the checkpoint. If you provide a verified ESA letter present and shown, not only will the cost will off-set but provide the opportunity for your pet to fly wherever you sit in the cabin. Should you have any further questions regarding Alaska airlines pet policy, please feel free to contact us at (415)-966-0848 or via email team@ezcareclinic.com

Lufthansa pet policyLufthansa pet policy

Lufthansa has a slight, different approach when it comes to fees and charges that are added for bringing your pet along. The good thing is that each passenger may bring 2 pets on board instead of one. According to Lufthansa pet policy, traveling domestic routes within Europe is a charge of 60 euros or $69 for one way flight per pet. If you are traveling to North Africa, Central Asia, and Eastern Mediterranean coastal countries, we are looking at roughly 80 euros or $92 one way per pet. Routes to/from Japan are 70 euros or $100 one way per pet. Short international flights are 90 euros or $103, medium international flights are 100 euros or $115, and long international flights are 110 euros or $126 per pet. Lufthansa is one of the largest Alpha German airlines in the entire world, so fees for Lufthansa pet policy will be fluctuated depending on the flight itinerary and situation. To avoid these costs, you can receive an ESA letter to counter Lufthansa pet policy fees. Should you have any further questions regarding Lufthansa pet policy, please feel free to contact us for more help.

 

Get your Emotional Support Animal Letter

Overall, when looking at the ways that an Emotional Support Animal letter can make traveling on an airplane much easier and more efficient, it is clear that the benefits are plenty. If one is in possession of an ESA letter that is legitimate and certified by a credible Doctor licensed to practice medicine in the USA, it affords them with an array of advantages that make flying with their pet much easier.

Whether this is the exemption from pet travel fees, allowing the animal to fly in the main cabin with the owner, or the benefits of being able to board the plane with the first group of passengers, having an ESA letter can provide a wide array of advantages that may otherwise not be able to be provided to animal owners. Before flying, make sure you have a legitimate ESA letter, and that you’ve contacted the airline before your flight so that everything goes smoothly and according to plan.

We are conveniently located in Noe Valley/Castro district and open for walk-ins 7 days a week 11 am to 7 pm. Apply for your ESA letter today.

Star Your ESA Application NOW

 


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