EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is a devoted companion that offers therapeutic benefits, assisting individuals with mental or psychiatric disabilities by alleviating or mitigating certain symptoms. ESAs typically include dogs and cats, but other animals may also qualify. To be prescribed an emotional support animal, the individual seeking one must have a verifiable disability. As per US law, an ESA is considered a pet that provides therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship and affection. ESAs do not require specialized training; they only need the same amount of training as an ordinary pet to live peacefully among humans without causing any nuisance or posing a risk to others.
WHAT IS AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL AND HOW TO OBTAIN ONE?
An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) can encompass a wide range of domesticated animals, including cats, dogs, mice, rabbits, birds, snakes, hedgehogs, rats, mini pigs, ferrets, and more. It's important to note that an emotional support animal is not merely a pet; it serves as a valued companion providing therapeutic benefits to individuals with mental or psychiatric disabilities. To qualify for an ESA, the person seeking one must have a verifiable disability, and the emotional support animal helps alleviate or mitigate some of the symptoms related to the disability. No specific training of the animal is required to qualify as an emotional support animal.
CAN A PERSON HAVE MORE THAN ONE EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL?
Although there are no specific cases addressing the issue of multiple emotional support animals, the fundamental requirements for this accommodation remain unchanged. If an individual seeks the necessity for multiple emotional support animals, they must provide documentation from their physician or medical professional supporting this need. The practitioner should furnish documentation demonstrating that each support animal alleviates some symptom of the disability, meeting the necessary criteria for multiple emotional support animals.
WHAT DOCUMENTATION DO I NEED TO PROVIDE FOR AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL?
To request an emotional support animal as a reasonable accommodation for alleviating symptoms of a disability, individuals must initiate the request with their landlord. It is generally recommended to submit the request in writing, outlining how the emotional support animal serves to help or mitigate symptoms related to the disability. While disclosure of the specific disability is not required, documentation from a doctor, therapist, or psychologist is necessary to support the request for an emotional support animal.
CAN A LANDLORD BE REQUIRED TO MODIFY A "NO PETS" POLICY FOR AN ESA?
In the majority of cases, yes, but there are certain exceptions. Housing cases involving individuals with disabilities are typically governed by the Fair Housing Amendments Act, while others fall under section 504 of the Rehab Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act. To determine the applicable law in your specific situation, seek advice from a qualified attorney, your state's Attorney General, your state's Human Rights Commission, or the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Consulting these resources will help you understand your rights and obligations concerning an Emotional Support Animal under the relevant legal framework.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SERVICE DOG AND AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL?
A service dog undergoes individualized training to perform specific tasks that mitigate the disability of its owner. This comprehensive training typically spans 18-24 months. Due to its advanced training, a service dog is considered a form of medical equipment, granting it access to various places where pets are typically not allowed. In contrast, an emotional support animal belongs to a person with a disability. A qualified medical professional has determined that the presence of the animal is necessary for the individual's mental health, and a prescription stating its necessity has been provided for the person's home, regardless of any "no pets" regulation set by the landlord, in consideration of the person's health. Unlike service dogs, emotional support animals typically require minimal or no specific training. The owner of an emotional support animal enjoys no more rights than any other pet owner, except for the ability to keep the animal in a home where pets are not permitted or to fly with it in a cabin when pets are not allowed.