Getting an Emotional Support Animal in California

Getting an Emotional Support Animal in California

Pretty much nowadays, just about everywhere you look, you’re likely to find an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) offering comfort and companionship to someone suffering from an emotional disability (maybe more than one, in fact).

Around here, we strongly believe that “dogs are the best medicine” and offer a great alternative to helping mitigate the symptoms associated with PTSD, General Anxiety Disorder, and depression.

Maybe the “ESA idea” is new to you, and if that’s the case, then you have come to the right place because we’re going to talk soup to nuts about these California Assistance Animals.

Let’s start by defining what is an Emotional Support Animal.

Recently, I was at the local convenience store and noticed an older fellow accompanied by a yellow Labrador. Judging by the vest, the Lab was a service animal.

And no sooner than two minutes later, an ambulance comes blaring out of the fire station located across the street. Loud noise, flashing lights, all sorts of ruckus — which was quite problematic for the older fellow.

Sensing his hander’s discomfort, the Lab springs into action, lovingly and patiently brushing up against the fellow’s leg, in an apparent attempt to draw attention away from the ambulance.

Amazed at the effort, I am here to report the Lab’s efforts paid off, as the handler was able to push through his discomfort.

And that right there is a Service Animal. Either a dog or horse, typically Service Animals undergo rigorous specialized training, given situational instruction to offer aid to their handler.

Now, that you understand in principle the role of a Service Animal, let’s discuss Emotional Support Animals.

Types of California Emotional Support Animals

Pretty much any domesticated animal can be qualified as an ESA. From cats to dogs, horses to ducks, you’ve got a broad berth to choose your ESA, pretty much up to your personal preference.

Take Fido, for instance, that lovable 130# Rottweiler. Is he well-behaved, doesn’t pull on the leash in public, won’t chew off your neighbor’s face? Does Fido provide you with a sense of calm and well-being?

When the day gets tough, do you go home and give Fido a big hug?

I know I do.

The primary purpose of an emotional support animal is to provide its handler with companionship and comfort.

If you’re thinking, but that doesn’t require any specialized training, then I say, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

Unlike a Service Animal, Emotional Support Animals do not require any specialized instruction.

ESA Laws in California

Once again, let’s begin by discussing trained service and psychiatric animals. Here, under the auspices of the Americans With Disability Act (ADA), these animals are granted nearly complete access in the public space; hotels, restaurants, and shops are game.

On the other hand, an Emotional Support Animal in California has limited rights (by Federal and State law). Under the state Fair Employment and Housing Act, housing providers are required to offer reasonable accommodations for people with emotional support animals. Federal Law (Fair Housing Act) provides ESAs access to fee-free no-pets-allowed housing.

It’s important to keep in mind the differences between the various Assistance Animals so that you can avoid unintentionally breaking the law.

California residents also enjoy expanded rights under state retainment law. I am referring to the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the California Disabled Persons Act (CDPA), and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). A dig deep into those laws reveals much more protection for service animals, but ESAs also enjoy some extended protection.

Here, a business owner cannot discriminate by an retainee’s disability, whether it be physical or mental.

There are guidelines, of course, which include your accompanying animal helps you in the execution of your job and daily tasks, and must not endanger the safety and well-being of your colleagues.

This exception applies to Service and Emotional Support Animals!

Yeah, team!

Having familiarity with the various Federal and state laws will help you to optimize your rights, thereby enjoying your ESA to the max.

You’ll be more informed about where you can take them, you’ll avoid pet fees, and you can keep them with you in the workplace.

Flying with your ESA in California

Another set of Federal guidelines, the Air Carrier Access Act, allows you to travel with your ESA animal uncaged at your feet in the main cabin.

It’s critical to call your airlines 48 hours before departure, allowing them enough time to provide you with a reasonable accommodation.

Also, you’ll need to have the proper documentation — a letter, not more than a year old, from a licensed mental health care provider prescribing you an Emotional Support Animal.

ESA Letters: What you need to read


Here's what you need to know to secure a legitimate emotional support animal letter.

How this works: In three easy steps, you'll place an order, take an online exam, and chat with a local licensed therapist. Here's a guide to how that works.

How to qualify: An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that is recognized as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act. Two different federal laws regulate emotional support animal letters. Here's how we go about qualifying clients.

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