It is important that anyone considering an Emotional Support Animal letter be aware of the laws that apply to owners and what they should expect from airlines and landlords.
There are two main federal laws applicable to ESAs and their owners, these include the Air Carrier Access Act and the Fair Housing Act.
If you are wanting to live with your emotional support animal, you must have the right documentation or you can be denied housing.
Verified ESA owners (owners who have an ESA Housing letter written by a Licensed Mental Health Professional) are allowed by law to live with their ESA free of charge, thanks to the Fair Housing Act.
The Fair Housing Act, commonly known as FHA, requires apartments and housing communities that ordinarily restrict pets to make “reasonable accommodation” for assistance animals.
In order to be protected by FHA law, the ESA owner must have a diagnosed disability and provide documentation (your ESA housing letter) to the property owner or housing representative.
With your letter, a landlord has no right to require you to pay extra for your ESA or deny you housing even if it has a no pets allowed policy. They also cannot question the disability or require the animal to wear identification as an Emotional Support Animal.
They can, however, charge and/or evict you if the animal damages the property or harms others.
Thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act, you can fly hassle-free with your animal — without charge — so long as you qualify and have obtained an emotional support animal travel letter from a licensed mental health professional.
Your ESA travel letter will need to be written by a licensed mental health professional in your state and will explain that your animal is a part of your treatment plan and needs to accompany you to provide relief from your symptoms.
The Air Carrier Access Act states that airlines are not allowed to refuse transportation, limit, or require advanced notice before offering service to individuals who are disabled.
You might need additional documentation to fly with your ESA, such as a Veterinary Health Form, a signed testament to your animal's behavior, etc., but it all depends on the airline.
So before you fly, make sure you are up to date with the airline’s esa policy.
You can also utilize an emotional support animal vest or patch and a photo ID of your animal; however, all that is legally required is the letter from your mental health professional and the possible custom forms for each airline.
To be clear, emotional support animal registration or emotional support animal certification is not real. You do not need to register your ESA in any database to be a legal emotional support animal owner.
What you need to be a legal ESA owner is simple - an ESA letter provided by your licensed mental health professional.
The letter should include:
The type of license carried by your licensed mental health professional
The license numbers
The issue date of the license
The state in which the license was issued
The date on which the letter was written
The ESA letter should confirm the following information:
That you are currently a patient of this LMHP
You are being treated for a disability
That you are significantly inhibited in performing a major life activity
That the prescription of an ESA is an integral part of your treatment plan
Dedicated to connecting qualified individuals to licensed mental health professionals in their state, CertaPet’s main goal is to spread the knowledge on emotional support animals and help those in need get the care they deserve.
An ESA Letter from CertaPet provides:
Recognition that you are a patient on a case-by-case basis under a licensed mental health professional’s care for mental or emotional disabilities.
Verification that you are significantly limited by an individual disability, such as depression or a similar condition, affecting your mental well-being.
Prescription for an emotional support dog (also known as a companion dog), or other support animal, as a necessary reinforcement for your mental health within 48 business hour.
Therapetic works with CertaPet.com, the #1 Emotional Support Letter Service, to get you connected with a licensed LMHP in your state and receive an emotional support letter that is 100% compliant with state and federal regulations.
ESA owners are protected by the FHA and ACAA and afforded travel and housing benefits in all 50 states.
However, some states have more restrictions when it comes to emotional support/assistance animals.
Indiana differs from the other 49 states in a very specific law regarding a patient’s therapy sessions.
The law dictates that you need to have additional services, meaning at least 1 therapy session before you get your ESA letter.
To ensure that you comply with this, CertaPet added 1 therapy session before your ESA consultation and 2 after.
To reduce the number of people misrepresenting their pets as assistance animals, it is a “misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s.108 775.082 or s. 775.083, and must perform 30 hours of community, service for an organization that serves individuals with disabilities, or for another entity or organization at the discretion of the court, to be completed in not more than 6 months” - stated by the Florida Senate.
Under state law, a person caught lying to their LMHPs about needing an ESA or misrepresenting a pet as an ESA to landlords or airlines could be charged with a class c misdemeanor.
This law is much like the Utah service animal law where it is also a crime to misrepresent a pet as a service dog.
As you may know, landlords can request an additional reasonable accommodation form in addition to an ESA letter. And now in Tennessee, a tenant can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor if they misrepresent their pet as an ESA or service animal.
CertaPet LMHPs are readily able to supply your landlord with the necessary support documentation should they require it.
Those with certain psychiatric disabilities (anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.) may be afforded protection for an emotional support animal in New York, even in housing or travel situations that might otherwise prohibit animals.
Flying with an emotional support animal in New York requires an ESA travel letter from a licensed mental health professional, which must explain that a mental health disability exists and there is a need for the animal. The letter should clearly indicate the type of practice (ie license type) in which the health care professional specializes.
The letter should also be under the health care professional’s letterhead and cannot be more than one year old. Finally, you may be required to give 48 hours advanced notice to the carrier.
For housing, a landlord may require a renter with an emotional support animal to show documentation (ESA housing letter) supporting the fact that the renter has a disability and that reasonable accommodation for the support animal is necessary.
Like service animals, emotional support animals are protected by California law and federal law in housing and travel. However, support animals do not receive the same protections in public places as service animals do.
Landlords are required to allow renters to live with their emotional support animals or service dog in California. This means that a landlord may not evict a renter or even charge a pet deposit for emotional support animals, excluding certain rare exceptions such as harming others or the property.
Employers are not legally obligated to allow your ESA in the workplace. It is entirely up to the discretion of the employer whether or not you may bring your ESA to work with you.
To fly with an emotional support animal, you will need a letter from a licensed health care professional declaring the mental health disability and the need for the animal. The letter must contain the health care professional’s letterhead and must be less than one year old.
Under the Texas state law, emotional support animals are companion animals that provide safety and comfort to those suffering from an array of mental illness.
Like in many other states, an emotional support animal in Texas will be protected under the Air Carrier Access Act so airlines must make reasonable accommodation to passengers by allowing their comfort animals to join them in the cabin, free of charge.
However, as a responsible owner and handler, it is your job to ensure:
You fill all the appropriate documents made mandatory by the airline of your choice
That you provide an ESA letter from your licensed mental health professional
Provide a 48-hour notice to the airlines, dictating that you’ll be traveling with an emotional support animal
Your ESA is able to behave well while in a public setting
An emotional support animal in Texas is not protected under the ADA. Therefore, employers do not need to provide accommodation to owners of ESAs.
For college students, ESAs are allowed on campus but strictly only permitted in university housing.
An ESA in Ohio is protected by the FHA and ACAA, just as all states are; therefore, you are able to fly and live with your emotional support animal with no added fees.
According to Ohio employment law, an ESA is not automatically entitled to attend a workplace, in the way a service animal for a physical disability is.
However, when the owner is in possession of an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional, some employers may be lenient. Many employers work on a case-by-case basis.
Unlike service animals, HUD does not require any special training for ESAs. However, we strongly encourage you to make sure your pet understands basic commands, behaves well in a public setting and is trained for traveling if you chose to take it on a flight.
Airlines will revoke the privilege to travel with your ESA if your pet has shown aggression to flight staff, yourself or other passengers on a previous occasion.
And landlord’s can deny the accommodation or ultimately file for an eviction if the emotional assistance animal is particularly disruptive, or the tenant fails to take proper measures to ensure that the animal does not bother other tenants.
You will want to enjoy the privileges of being able to take your ESA with you wherever you go. Both you and your furry friend are going to have a much easier time of it if your doggo is well socialized and well-behaved in public.