Employing an Emotional Service Animal as a holistic mode of a novel therapeutic treatment for mental health disorders has increased in popularity of late. For many, having an animal as companion can make a significant impact on their quality of life in the face of illness.
As with anything, there are laws that both, directly and indirectly, impact the ownership and utilization of an Emotional Service Animal. Here are some emotional support animal laws which one needs to be aware of, just to stay safe and informed.
One of the benefits of having an emotional support animal is that they are able to bypass no-pet policies put in place by housing authorities and landlords. That means that if you want to keep an emotional support animal in a no-pets apartment, you are allowed, so long as you follow the appropriate steps.
To adhere to the laws and regulations surrounding this issue, you must ask your landlord before bringing in the animal. You can’t get an animal then defend your rights when the landlord comes knocking. Following the proper steps will ensure that you are allowed to stay in your apartment with your animal.
Your landlord has the right to ask for documentation confirming your need for an Emotional Support Animal if your illness or disability is not obvious. Most people with mental health disorders can attest to the fact that they are rarely visible to the naked eye. Legally, your landlord is not allowed to ask questions about the nature of your illness or medical records; you just need a letter of proof.
You should also know that your landlord is not legally allowed to unreasonably delay the request. After you give them the required documentation, things should move along fairly quickly. It’s important to note that types of animals are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Do not expect to get a horse and be allowed to keep it in your rental.
There are currently no laws regulating the admittance of emotional support animals on commercial airplanes. What was once widely acceptable is now being looked at more closely due to a few negative incidents involving animals on board. Now, your best bet is to check the individual airline’s requirements.
If you appear with an Emotional Support Animal and no documentation, you can expect to be turned around at the gate. There have been incidents wherein some pet-loving or ESA dependent passengers were not allowed to fly even with proper documentation. Best practice is to call the airline in advance and have a frank discussion, as there is currently no legal recourse for airlines turning away passengers.
While all airlines have been requesting documentation proving that your animal is a prescribed form of treatment, others have also been requesting proof of vaccination and even proof of training before letting passengers aboard.
Admittance to Public Areas
Legally speaking, restaurants, shopping malls, and other public areas are not legally required to allow you entrance with an ESA. The only animals that are legally allowed entry are service animals, which are specially trained to help a specific person with a specific issue, such as blindness.
The good news is that more and more places are becoming pet-friendly, especially in the warm summer months where leaving dogs in hot cars is a headlining issue. Do some research and try to find a place where your pet is welcome.
Emotional Support Animals are effective in helping one improve their quality of life in the face of mental illness. Furthermore, pet ownership has been proven to have physical health benefits as well. The use of an ESA creates a positive cycle of caring and health, that will greatly improve one’s mental well-being.
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