Main Laws on Emotional Support Animals

Main Laws on Emotional Support Animals

In this article, we will provide a brief overview of the Fair Housing Act and the ACAA, discussing what protections these laws give to owners of emotional support animals and how landlords and airlines must comply.

Your emotional support animal or ESA is considered a medical tool and not a pet, that’s why there are certain laws to accommodate these animals. 

Emotional Support Animal Owners are Protected by Two Federal Laws

  • Fair Housing Act (FHA)?

Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords must reasonably accommodate tenants who own emotional support animals, even if the building has a policy that prohibits pets. The U.S. Department of Housing issues guidance on how the provisions of the FHA are implemented and enforces Fair Housing rules.

  • Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)?

Under the ACAA, airlines must allow passengers to fly with their ESA in the cabin free of charge. The U.S. Department of Transportation issues guidance relating to how airlines should comply with the ACAA.

ESA laws also protect the privacy of an ESA owner. Landlords and airlines are not allowed to request specific details regarding an ESA owner’s condition, and they cannot ask for medical records or a medical examination. ESA owners have a right to protect sensitive and confidential information regarding their disability.

Below we will outline the rights of ESA owners. 

Main Laws on Emotional Support Animals

Rights of Emotional Support Animal Owners under ESA Housing Rules

Landlords must follow Fair Housing rules and guidance from HUD when it comes to a tenant’s request to live with their ESA. So, when it comes to housing, even places that don’t allow pets need to allow ESA. Additionally, you can bring your ESA into public spaces if it is permitted. The people that own the store are allowed to ask if it is a service dog, but they are not permitted to ask intrusive questions, such as what kind it is. If your dog has a specific task that you need it to do for you, then you can bring it into any public space.

Emotional Support Animal Travel Law

Being aware of ESA laws is particularly important when it comes to travelling. Airlines cannot charge you a fee to fly with your Emotional Support Animal.You can travel with your ESA, but you need a letter from a licensed medical professional. Airlines also have their own policy outlining requirements for emotional support animals. It is strongly recommended that you check in advance with your airline to see what their rules are well ahead of your travel date.

Emotional Support Animal Qualification Requirements

Written by a licensed healthcare professional or licensed mental health professional, it states that you suffer from a mental or emotional disability (such as severe anxiety, depression, or phobia) and that the ESA is necessary to alleviate symptoms of your disability. If you have any of these conditions and are looking into getting an animal, make sure that it is trained and registered as a service dog. Otherwise, you might not qualify for it to go in all of the public spaces with you. However, if you have an animal that you consider an ESA, then you can still qualify for the travel and housing exemptions. Even though your animal does not need special training, you will have to qualify as having a mental or emotional difficulty. This must be something diagnosed by a mental health professional. It’s a disability that merits an ESA and all the special exceptions to the rules. You will not be able to see your disability though as it is classed as invisible. You have to have a serious impairment though and not simply be uncomfortable. This will allow you to qualify, rather than just a desire to have a pet.

There are specific states such as Delaware that require special training for ESA animals. It doesn’t hurt to look into your state’s regulations before you get a dog for your disability. You might not even know if you qualify. You have to find out from a health professional if your condition is serious enough to merit such an animal. It never hurts to ask as the bar might be lower than you realize. Sometimes when you’re grappling with a condition, you do not realize that there are aids out there that will benefit you.

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