What Types of Businesses Honor Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letters?
Rabbits and pigs in college dorms. Turkeys on planes. Dogs at work.
If it seems as if animals are roaming fresh territory nowadays, they are.
As more folks with mental and physical disabilities become alert to their rights, they are trying to bring emotional support and service animals wherever they roam. However, a confusing patchwork of state and federal laws governs where they have to be permitted. Various rules and definitions apply to such animals in employment, housing, public places, and aircraft.
Property and business owners who ask the incorrect questions or unlawfully deny accessibility to a service or support animal risk discrimination suits. Confused or unaware about the regulations, some landlords, employers, businesses, and airlines simply will say “yes” to any requests when they could state “no” — or even vice versa.
Fair Housing Act: Federal FHA applies to pretty much all private and public housing providers, which include landlords, property owners, and condominium associations. It’ll prohibit discrimination upon the basis of different protected classes, which include disability. HUD enforces this act.
HUD requires housing providers to appropriately accommodate someone who has a mental or physical impairment which significantly restricts one or more life activities, unless doing that might cause an undue administrative or financial burden upon the providers or fundamentally would alter their service. The department has a summary of its rules here.
Put plainly, if the landlord has a policy about no pets, and the prospective or existing tenant requests to have an assistance pet, the landlord may ask a couple of questions: Does he or she have a disability which significantly restricts a life activity, and will the animal offer emotional support or assistance for the disability?
If the answer to either question is no, the landlord doesn’t have to permit the pet.
If the answer is yes to both questions, the landlord has to permit the pet — unless that pet might pose a threat to the safety of other people or cause significant damage to other people’s property.
If the individual’s disability isn’t obvious, the landlord cannot demand specifics, yet may request evidence of the disability and necessity for the animal that could derive from a social worker, psychiatrist, physician, or additional mental health expert. The landlord cannot demand a diagnosis or ask what the disability is.
According to Ken Carroll, HUD’S director, if there’s a connection between the animal and the disability, they must allow it.
The landlord can’t charge a deposit for the assistance pet. HUD doesn’t make any distinction between physical or mental disabilities or various kinds of animals. The animal does not need to be trained or licensed.
Kish’s department never has issued rules that interpret the housing section of the act. However, recently it proposed regulations which addressed the usage of assistance animals, which include support animals, in housing.
Realtors recently spearheaded an Assembly bill which clarified underneath what conditions landlords have to accept ESAs. However, the bill, AB2760, was pulled amid harsh opposition from disability and animal rights groups, who stated that it conflicted with federal law and discriminated against those who have mental illnesses.
Carroll stated that around 40% of the complaints the department receives are concerning disability discrimination, the majority from tenants saying their landlord does not accommodate them reasonably.
Americans with Disabilities Act in public places: ADA applies to employers, local and state governments as well as public places — yet not in the same way.
The regulations narrowly define service animals as any canine which is trained to perform work or do activities for someone who has a mental or physical disability. According to Alden Parker, a lawyer with Fisher and Phillips who represents employers, under the ADA, ESAs don’t qualify as service animals.
Local and state governments, nonprofits, and businesses usually have to permit service canines to accompany those who have disabilities in any area of a facility that is open to the public, unless doing it interferes with any legitimate safety requirements, or the canine is out of control. A different provision provides trained miniature horses the exact same privileges. The act doesn’t say which services the horse or dog has to perform, that “leaves a ton of leeway,” according to Parker.
If the individual’s disability isn’t obvious, a business owner may request whether the pet is required due to a disability, and which task or work it was trained to do. The owner can’t require any evidence that the pet has been trained or ask what the disability is.
Parker added that they pretty much have to take the individual at face value. Unless the individual trips up and states that ‘it’s a comfort pet’, or ‘it’s just my dog,’ a business cannot exclude them.
Americans with Disabilities Act at work: It is different in the workplace. Employers have an obligation underneath state and federal law to accommodate physical and mental disabilities. Thereby, an ESA — of almost any kind — might be a “reasonable accommodation,” according to Parker. But, an employer has more latitude to decide if it’s legitimately a service or support animal.
Unless the necessity is obvious, the employer might request verification from a medical provider that an employee possesses a disability and the pet may assist with that condition, according to Ann Menasche, senior lawyer with Disability Rights. She says that she doesn’t believe you have a right to go into details (about your condition) unless there’s a good reason.
Airplanes: Underneath the Americans with Disabilities Act, airports are considered a public place. However, on an airplane, the Air Carriers Access Act is going to apply. It states that airlines have to permit individuals who have physical disabilities to board with their service dog. If the passenger that has a mental disability requests to bring a support animal, that airline has to permit it if the person offers a note — under a year old — from a professional who verifies the disability and need for the pet.
If you have an emotional/mental disability and a pet who is an aid, and want to stop facing discrimination, make an appointment at our San Francisco or San Jose clinic today. We are open 7 days a week from 11:00am to 7:00pm and are prepared to help.