Archive for the ‘Emotional Support Animal’ Category

The terms “service dog” and “emotional support animal” are often incorrectly used interchangeably. While they fall under the same umbrella of assistance animals, these two types of dogs provide different services to their handlers. In order to find the most fitting, beneficial support, it’s important for handlers to know the difference between the two types of dogs.

In short, a service dog is a trained dog to help an individual with specific tasks and often accompanies their owner at all times. An emotional support animal (ESA) provides comfort in times of distress and does not need any specific training. While ESA’s do need an official ESA letter issued by a licensed medical professional, service dogs do not need any documentation. However, some service dog owners find it easier to communicate the dog’s purpose when they obtain a registration or id card.

Show everyone that the rights of your service dog should be respected. Get your service dog registered below.

What is a Service Dog?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is a dog that performs tasks specifically related to a person’s disability. Examples of disabilities are:

Visual impairment. The service dog would be trained to guide their handler. Physical disability. A service dog could help retrieve items for a person in a wheelchair. Chronic health problems. The service dog could alert its handler with diabetes when the blood sugar is low.

These tasks relate directly to the individual’s disability and help improve their quality of life. 

Difference between service dog, emotional support dogs, and therapy dogs. What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal (ESA) provides support to an individual solely through companionship. Specialized training is not required.

Anyone suffering from one or more of the mental illnesses listed below may qualify for an ESA:

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) Learning Disorders Autism General Anxiety Disorder Gender Identity Bipolar Cognitive disorders Depression Severe anxiety Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

The emotional support animal doesn’t need to meet any specific requirements regarding training or registration and doesn’t have to be a certain type of animal. The owner of an ESA benefits from having the animal nearby, rather than having them complete certain tasks.

An Emotional Support Animal can be any type of animal. Qualifications for a Service Dog 

A person qualifies for a service dog if they have an official diagnosis of a disability from a medical professional. While the ADA doesn’t require a prescription or documentation to obtain a service dog, there are certain requirements that the dog must meet in order to qualify.

The dog must be under control at all times. A service dog cannot display any aggressive behaviors, The service dog must perform one or more tasks that directly related to their handler’s disability.

If the dog is highly trained and can meet these standards, the handler will be allowed to bring them to most public places.

Qualifications for an Emotional Support Animal

Similar to service dogs, there is no official registry for emotional support animals. However, there are more limitations to where an ESA can be brought. Under the current ADA and Fair Housing law ESAs are allowed only in

Housing with no pets policies  College dorms Places you can adopt an ESA, such as animal shelters

In order to legally own an emotional support animal, the handler is required to hold an ESA letter issued from a licensed medical professional. The therapist must agree that the handler’s pet is part of the treatment for their mental or emotional disability.

How to get an ESA Letter Online Which One is Right For Me?

Whether a person chooses a service dog or emotional support animal depends on their individual needs. A person who is diagnosed with a debilitating disability may prefer a service dog, as they’ll be able to help them with their day to day tasks.

On the other hand, somebody with a mental illness may prefer an ESA to support them during certain anxiety-provoking situations. No matter what, the dog is there as a support for their handler in times of need.

California expanded the definition of support animal in 2016 and removed training requirements.

California law is more expansive than federal law when it comes to the rights that disabled employees have to bring ESAs into the workplace. That protection increased when the Department of Fair Employment and Housing regulations were amended effective April 1, 2016 to make two key changes to the legal treatment of emotional support animals in the workplace in California, which include:

• Expanding the definition of “support animal”

• Removing the requirement that assistance animals must be trained.

California did not recognize support animals as a type of reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities until 2012, when the law was changed to specifically include ESAs within the definition of assistive animal. The definition of what constitutes an emotional support animal under California law was expanded with the 2016 amendments. An emotional support animal “provides emotional, cognitive, or other similar support to a person with a disability, including, but not limited to, traumatic brain injuries or mental disabilities, such as major depression.” 

California law also previously required that assistive animals be “trained to provide assistance for the employee’s disability.” That requirement was eliminated with the 2016 amendments and now assistive animals, which includes support animals, no longer need special training.

Required ESA Documents For the Workplace

California law requiring reasonable accommodation for ESAs applies to employers who have five or more employees. According to the CalChamber, employers may require the following documents for people in need of an ESA in the workplace:

• Documentation from the employee’s health care provider of the need for the animal (an example would be why the animal is necessary as an accommodation to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job).

• Confirmation that the animal will behave appropriately in the workplace and meet the minimum standards for assistive animals. (California Code of Regulations, Title 2, Sections 11065(a), 11069(e).)

Your animal must have an ESA letter to be in the workplace.

How to Get an ESA Letter

In order to get your ESA letter, you must contact a licensed therapist that can provide documentation on your need for having an emotional support animal. The ESA letter must be written on the letterhead of the licensed therapist. We have a great in depth resource on how to get an ESA letter here.

Restrictions on ESA’s in the Workplace

Employers can impose some requirements on emotional support animals, including requiring that the ESA be free from offensive odors, display habits appropriate for the workplace, and not endanger the health or safety of the disabled employee or others. 

ESA Letter for the Workplace

An employee should be prepared to present a letter from a licensed mental health professional which documents the employee’s restrictions and need for accommodation. It is critical to note that a legitimate ESA letter will come from a licensed mental health professional – we work with ESA Doctors since they always match clients with mental health professionals licensed to practice in their state. Some providers of ESA letters may provide letters that are not from LMHPs licensed to assist you. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing has taken the position that these types of fake letters are not sufficient.  Employees should also keep in mind that it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for requesting a reasonable accommodation of a disability, regardless of whether the employer ultimately grants the request. 

For those wondering what disabilities qualify for individual assistance animals, it can be hard to determine which kind would offer the best in terms of service and companionship. Service animals and emotional support animals can get confusing from time to time. Here is a basic outline of what the similarities and differences are between service dogs and emotional support animals to help you determine what kind of animal you qualify for:

Service Animals: Service animals can be dogs or miniature horses and must be trained to provide a task for their disabled owners. Dogs (and miniature horses) only – Under the American Disabilities Act, only dogs can be eligible as service animals. These animals are legally recognized under government policies as having specific rights and qualifications in comparison to other animals due to their ability to be trained in particular tasks and handle a person’s disability. Miniature horses also have recognition under the ADA but have other provisions regarding them. Have advanced levels of training specific to a person’s disability – Service dogs are trained in tasks related to a person’s disability, as well as house training and other jobs. For instance, guide dogs, a type of service dog, must be trained to help assist a disabled person who is blind or visually impaired. Have nationally recognized certification programs – Organizations such as Assistance Dogs International have certification and training programs for service animals. The ADA requires that service animals be trained to help serve their disabled owners. Have access to public spaces – The ADA allows service animals to have access to public spaces. Business owners, managers, and staff have limited access to the questions they can ask in regards to service animals and their disabled owners. Emotional Support Animals: Can range in a wide variety of animals – Animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, and guinea pigs can all qualify as emotional support animals. ESAs are considered to be “owned pets,” unlike service animals. While there are no limits to what an ESA can be, it’s essential to take into account the state legislature and their definitions of what ESAs are. ESAs are not specially trained to perform tasks – As of current, there is no national legislation regulating the training that qualifies ESAs. Although numerous organizations can help train ESAs, ESAs are not federally recognized as a kind of service animal. Although coined under the terms assistance animals or companion animals, training ESAs are considered optional, but recommended. Do not have access to public spaces – ESAs operate under different legislation and are protected under the Fair Housing Act. Hence, ESAs have limited access to public spaces. Require a licensed professional to be considered an ESA – Pets/animals can only be considered ESAs if they have an ESA letter written and approved by a mental health licensed professional, including therapists, counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists. By having an ESA letter, ESAs can gain access to housing despite no-pets policies and at no extra cost.

Both provide assistance related to a person’s disability, but how they perform those services differ from another. They both are not required to be trained professionally, as each owner can self-train their animals to serve specific tasks.

Is an emotional support animal for you? See if you qualify. Get your ESA in three easy steps. Legal protections for a service dog Service dogs are protected under the ADA and can go wherever their owners go.

The Department of Justice published the Americans with Disabilities Act to show the requirements related to service dogs. By providing regulations about service dogs, the ADA can help clarify issues related to service dogs. The ADA has legal protections outlined for public awareness, aiming at educating people the regulations involved with service animals, which include:

Staff may ask only two specific questions in regards to service dogs: Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? And what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff is thus not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require demonstrations of the dog’s abilities, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability. For businesses that serve the public goods and services, the ADA does not require those entities to modify policies if it would “fundamentally alter” the nature of those services provided to the public. This would be considered an exception for staff to prohibit a service animal if the animal alters those services. Service dogs may be excluded if the handler cannot control the animal. Controlling the animal refers to the service dog being under the handler’s control at all times. The animal must be leashed, harnessed or tethered while in public places unless it interferes with the service animal’s ability to perform its tasks. If those methods of control interfere, the handler must use voice, signal or other means to control the animal.

These are a few examples of the protections that service dogs have for the public. These service animals have legal protections as long as the handler has control and adequate training in place for the animal so it can perform its duties for the disabled owner.

Legal protections for Emotional Support Animals Emotional support animals are protected by the Fair Housing Act.

While ESAs don’t have specific protections under the ADA, there are other federal legislations that help clarify the definitions of ESAs and their rights within those limited spaces.

Emotional support animals have specifical protections and protocols, according to the Department of Housing’s Fair Housing Act of 1988. Under the Fair Housing Act, ESAs are categorized under the term assistance animals, which the FHA defines them as animals that work, provide assistance and perform tasks for a person with a disability, or provides emotional support alleviating one or more symptoms of a person’s disability. Landlords must modify their policies to permit a person with a disability to live with a service animal or emotional support animal. For those with ESAs, the applicant for housing may need to submit medical documentation, such as an ESA letter, showing the animal provides support and mitigates one symptom of that person’s disability.  

Which disabilities qualify for a service dog?

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a person with a disability as individuals with a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more major life activities. These disabilities can range from physical to psychological, but the person must be regarded as an impairment and have a record of that impairment. Physical or mental disabilities can include diseases, visual, speech, and hearing impairments, psychological conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, mental retardation, and health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, drug addiction, and alcoholism. If the impairment limits activities central to everyday life, such as eating, speaking, walking, and performing manual tasks, then the person can qualify as disabled under the ADA and thus qualify for a service dog.

Which disabilities qualify for an ESA?

Emotional support animals perform disability-related functions focusing on providing emotional support, aiding in mental disabilities such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. ESA’s focus more on mental and emotional disabilities than physical. While the Fair Housing Act combines emotional support animals under the term assistance animals, a person with a disability who has an ESA must be able to show a tenant that they have a mental impairment, show a record of that mental impairment, and be regarded as disabled due to this impairment. (HUD).

Depending on the type of disability you have, both service dogs and emotional support animals offer benefits and different areas of specialties. If you desire a service animal or emotional support animal, speak with your health professional about your options and discuss with them what opportunities will serve you best.