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Are Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals (ESA) The Same?
No. ESAs are often dogs or cats, but they can be just about any type of pet—and unlike assistance dogs, they are considered pets. They provide emotional support, but they receive no special training and perform no special tasks to help their disabled owners. Their owners must, however, be disabled. To have an emotional support animal, a person must have a confirmed diagnosis (usually of a mental illness) and be given a prescription for an ESA by an overseeing doctor who believes the pet will be of benefit to the patient’s mental health. The ADA does not make provisions for emotional support animals. A disabled individual with an ESA does not have the same legally protected rights to take their pet into any place the public is permitted access. ESA owners must receive permission from someone authorized to grant it at any property or facility prohibiting pets. However, under the US Fair Housing Amendments Act, ESAs cannot be barred from any housing, even if pets are otherwise not permitted. Owners cannot be charged a pet deposit for an ESA either. Emotional support animals are also allowed to ride uncrated and at no extra charge with their owners in airplane cabins under the Air Carrier Access Act. In both instances, the owner may be required to produce proper documentation from their doctor and up-to-date vaccination records. Be prepared and have all of your paperwork together.
Learn more About: Service Dogs | Companion Dogs | Emotional Support Dogs
So What IS the Difference between a Service/Assistance Animal and An Emotion Support Animal?
Can You Be Asked What Your Disability Is?
NO! When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
Can You Be Asked To Have Your Service Animal Demonstrate How She/He Assists You?
NO! You cannot be asked that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task. Under the ADA, it is training that distinguishes a service animal from other animals. Some service animals may be professionally trained; others may have been trained by their owners. However, the task that the service animal is trained to do must be directly related to the owner’s disability.
What Questions Can I Be Asked Regarding My Disability And My Service Animal?
Business owners and staff are only allowed to ask two questions regarding service dogs. They may ask if the dog is a service animal that is required due to a disability and what type of work or task the dog has been trained to do. The ADA prohibits them from asking about a person’s disability!
Does My Service Animal Have To Wear A Vest And Have An ID Card?
What Documentation Do I Need For My Emotional Support Animal?
For a person to legally qualify for an emotional support animal (ESA), he/she must be considered emotionally disabled by a licensed mental health professional (therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.), as evidenced by a properly formatted prescription letter. Some airlines and property managers will accept a verification form completed by a family doctor. An emotional support animal (ESA) is a person’s pet that has been prescribed by a person’s licensed therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist (any licensed mental health professional). The animal is part of the treatment program for this person and is designed to bring comfort and minimize the negative symptoms of the person’s emotional/psychological disability. Most Airlines currently require up-to-date vaccination records as well.