What Are the Rights of Emotional Support Animals?
Therapists prescribe emotional support animals to clients who have psychological disorders like anxiety and PTSD. Not to be confused with pets and service animals. Although pets cheer you up, an Emotional Support Animal provides comfort by relieving mental illness symptoms. On the other hand, service animals use their training for tasks like escorting disabled handlers, carrying medication, detecting allergies, and responding to seizures. Though they’re mostly companions, ESAs have the following rights.
The FHA bars landlords from discriminating against tenants owning an Emotional Support Animal. In the event of a no-pets rule, the landlord should organize reasonable housing for your ESA. That’s because ESAs aren’t considered normal animals, hence, excluding them from pet policies. For example, the landlord cannot impose deposits, weight, and breed restrictions like regular pets.
The FHA also prohibits landlords from asking for delicate disability information. This means landlords cannot direct medical professionals to use particular forms or demand a tenant’s diagnosis and notarized documents. Seeing ESAs don’t require extra conditioning, property owners cannot deny you accommodation because your animal isn’t trained. Even so, they can demand an ESA letter with the following elements:
- Pet details and owner’s name
- Confirmation that ESAs are necessary components of your life and wellbeing
- Issuing a therapist’s stamp and letterhead
- Explanation of how ESAs supports your treatment
- ESA arrangement
- Your therapist’s consent, permit name, number, and the ESA letter’s country of issuance.
While the FHA safeguards tenants, landlords can bar ESAs if owner-occupied establishments have a maximum of four units. The same applies to single-family houses under owner instead of agent management. Landlords could also reject an Emotional Support Animal if it can damage property or poses direct health and safety threats. The good news is that you can report to the FHEO when the landlord denies ESA accommodation unreasonably. However, ensure the property owner understands FHA regulations and penalties beforehand.
College Dorm Access
Per a 2018 CDC report, suicide is the second major cause of college student deaths, with youngster suicide rates tripling since the 1950s. Family, assignments, dating, finances, you name it, college students face numerous stressors. That’s why they resort to ESAs to boost their mental and emotional wellbeing. Besides allowing them in dorms, colleges use ESAs to alleviate students’ stress during tense periods like exams. While they’re mainly cats and dogs, ESAs can be birds, hamsters, rabbits, even miniature horses.
In 2013, GVSU paid a student $40,000 student after stopping her from living with a guinea pig on campus. The UNK also paid two students $140,000 two years later after barring them from keeping a dog in their apartment complex. Furthermore, the institution amended its housing policy to accommodate emotional support animals for students with mental afflictions. Another instance was KSU paying $100,000 to a couple after denying their Emotional Support Animal reasonable accommodation. The university also paid $30,000 to the fair housing organization representing the students and $15,000 to the U.S. Likewise, the university changed its accommodation policy, allowing students with psychological problems to keep therapy animals.
The HUD doesn’t exempt universities from ESA housing regulations. However, federal laws don’t require an Emotional Support Animal to accompany students to class or areas like libraries and cafeterias. Such is not the case for service animals, seeing they help their owners with crucial tasks such as movement. Note that students are answerable for their ESA’s behavior, making them liable for the pet’s damages. The university can also ban the animal if it’s a danger to other students.
ESAs Aren’t Allowed Everywhere
Although the ACAA initially accepted ESAs on flights, the USDOT has since limited this privilege to service animals. ESAs are also unwelcome in hotels since they’re temporary accommodation units. The same applies to Airbnb establishments. Owners may allow pets in their houses, but they’re not mandated by law. This goes hand in hand with restaurants and stores. Managers can still bar entry even if you produce an ESA letter.
When it comes to ESAs at the workplace, employers have different views. Some believe an Emotional Support Animal increases the owner’s productivity while others maintain pets distract coworkers. That notwithstanding, you can persuade your boss by providing an ESA letter or training your animal to ensure it doesn’t harm others or damage property. You can also request access for a limited duration. Your employer may allow your ESA at the workplace if it doesn’t misbehave. That notwithstanding, your employer has the final say.
Understanding ESA Benefits
There are many reasons why health professionals advocate for an Emotional Support Animal. For starters, the pets activate neurotransmitters like dopamine to increase your sense of safety. By providing company, ESAs also cure loneliness, a major depression symptom. Unlike pills with side effects like nausea and weight gain, ESAs are a natural solution to your anxiety. ESAs also give you purpose by distracting you from daily worries.