Qualifying for an emotional support animal

The right of an individual with a disability to an emotional support animal depends the setting in which the right is asserted. Different state and/or federal laws will apply to different situations.

Under federal law, emotional support animals are covered by the FHAct and the ACAA.

Purpose

These are the major life activities included within an Assistance Animal letter prescribed to verify a disability and their disability-related need for a client whose disability “is not readily apparent.”

If the disability [major life activity which is substantially limited] and disability-related need is not properly verified and/or captured in a letter from a reliable source, the disabled person may be denied a housing accommodation, or be required to provide those additional details. [see FHEO-2013-01].

Under the Fair Housing Act, depression is considered a “mental impairment” when it substantially limits a major life activity.

Most Common Assistance Animals

  • Dog
  • Cat

Major Life Activities

Listed below are the fourteen most common major life activities likely encountered during an Assistance Animal assessment.

1. Take Care of Oneself

Showering, toileting, brushing teeth, general body/health maintenance, etc.

The ability to care for oneself is a major life activity that “encompasses normal activities of daily living; including feeding oneself, driving, grooming, and cleaning home.” Ryan v. Grae and Rybicki, P.C., 135 F.3d 867 (2d Cir. 1998) (citing ADA regulations and quoting Dutcher v. Ingalls Shipbuilding).
Examples:

  • Encouraging one to get up and address basic hygiene for the day [makes them get up]
  • Creating a sense of purpose and daily responsibility
  • Improving motivation through emotional bonding
  • Increasing daily activity and creating purpose
  • Providing a healthy distraction from negative habits

2. Perform Manual Tasks

Literally means using the hands – any daily tasks which would require manual dexterity, especially those around the house

3. Walk

  • Fetching necessary out-of-reach items
  • Carry items [mobility assistance animal]
  • Move items and open doors

Also: stand, ascend stairs, stand in the shower, balance, etc.

4. See

  • Offering balance and assisting with walking/standing
  • Increasing cardiovascular activity
  • Creating more opportunities for exercise and increased activity
  • Legally blind, as well as 100% blind

Examples:

  • Offering visual guidance

5. Hear

Examples:

  • Acting as an alert to sounds and danger
  • Providing visual cues in response to sounds

6. Interact & Communicate with Others

Communicating with others outside the home to accomplish daily tasks/chores etc.; social interactions. This is often hampered by PTSD sufferers who cannot be in large crowds, those who are agoraphobic or have difficulty controlling anger with other people.

7. Speak

  • Drastically reducing anxiety through emotional bonding
  • Serve as a buffer to calm handler and reduce feelings of emotional distress in crowded places
  • Offering more opportunities for social interaction outside the home
  • Offering daily emotional support to increase confidence and mitigate severe depression
  • Provide companionship while in stores and other environments can reduce stress associated with daily activities
  • Drastically reducing the effects of depression through emotional bonding
  • Offering a social conduit to provoke human interaction
  • Offering a healthy distraction from severe depression
  • Increasing positive social behavior patterns associated with Autism
  • Offering emotional support to combat loneliness and depression
  • Creating a sense of responsibility and daily schedule
  • Creating a sense of purpose and daily responsibility
  • Lessen perception of physical pain

Not related to above.

8. Breathe

Respiratory illness/disease; pace of breathing influenced by anxiety.

Examples:

  • Drastically reducing anxiety through emotional bonding

9. Learn

  • Creating more opportunities for exercise and increased activity
  • Increasing cardiovascular activity
  • Carrying an oxygen tank
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate

Cognitive/learning ability, autism, etc.

10. Sleep

  • Drastically reducing anxiety through emotional bonding
  • Works as a calming aid
  • Offering more opportunities for social interaction outside the home
  • Offering a social conduit to provoke human interaction
  • Offering a social conduit to provoke human interaction & critical thinking skills
  • Increasing positive social behavior patterns associated with autism
  • Increasing positive social behavior patterns
  • Lessen perception of physical pain

Inability to sleep as well as sleep interrupted by nightmares due to PTSD, etc.

11. Work

  • Drastically reducing anxiety through emotional bonding
  • Awaking the patient from nightmares
  • Offering a healthy distraction from severe depression
  • Providing a sensory cover [for someone who twitches/restless leg syndrome]
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • Lessen perception of physical pain
  • Wake the handler to prevent him or her from sleeping too much (hypersomnia).
  • Provide tactile stimulation

12. Eat

  • Drastically reducing anxiety through emotional bonding
  • Offering a healthy distraction from severe depression
  • Improving motivation through emotional bonding

Remind to eat, motivate etc.

13. Concentrate

Loss of focus and concentration due to anxiety/trauma

Examples:

  • Drastically reducing anxiety through emotional bonding
  • Offering a healthy distraction from severe depression
  • Improving motivation through emotional bonding
  • Providing a healthy distraction from negative behavior
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • Lessen perception of physical pain
  • Provide tactile stimulation

14. Sexual Relations

Courts have recognized that “engaging in sexual relations, just like procreation, is a major life activity.” Sussle v. Sirina Prot. Sys. Corp., 269 F. Supp. 2d 285 at 298 (citing McAlindin v. County of San Diego, 192 F.3d 1226 (9th Cir. 1999)).

A Major Depressive Disorder can be found to substantially limit one’s ability to engage in sexual activity by significantly restricting the condition, manner or duration under which one engages in sexual activity as compared to the condition, manner or duration under which the average person in the general population engages in a sexual activity.