If you are a pet lover, you can agree with me that the amount of unconditional love offered by pets is unmatched. Some people hold their pets so dearly because their presence gives them emotional and mental relief. Sadly, some areas have house-related pet restrictions that make it difficult for people to live with pets. Even so, the good thing is that the law offers protection for emotional support animals.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) exempts your pet from your housing provider’s restrictions and policies. All you have to do is to get an ESA letter for housing from your mental health professional to prove that you have an emotional disability and the emotional support animal you intend to live with is an important part of your treatment plan.
So, what are your legal rights and responsibilities as an ESA owner? Here is what you need to know.
Legal rights of ESA owners
As an ESA owner, you need to take note of the following legal rights:
Individuals with disabilities have a right to request reasonable accommodation from their private housing providers under the Fair Housing Act. This also applies to individuals with psychiatric disabilities who need therapeutic support from emotional support animals. So, if the landlord has a no pets policy on their private property, they should exempt the ESAs provided the tenant has met the required criteria.
As a tenant, you should not pay any deposits or additional fees to the landlords because of living with an ESA. However, you should be ready to pay for the damages caused by your ESA, provided the amount is consistent with what tenants without pets pay for damages.
Air Travel Rights
According to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) in the United States, ESA owners can tag their emotional support animal along in the cabin of the aircraft when travelling in U.S airlines. However, ESA owners must meet particular requirements and adhere to the airline’s policies.
As an ESA owner, you must present specific documentation to the airlines, for example, a letter from a licensed psychiatrist or therapist as proof that you need an ESA. It is important to note that the letter should be dated within the past year. Also, you will need to give an advance notice to the airlines for logistic purposes.
Emotional Support in Public Housing
The Fair Housing Act also requires public housing authorities to offer ESA owners reasonable accommodation. As an ESA owner with a disability, you have the right to request your housing agency to allow you to live with your emotional support provider as part of your family. The law protects you even if the housing has a no pets policy. Just like in private housing, you are not supposed to pay pet fees or deposits for staying with your ESA.
Responsibilities of ESA owners
Here is what the law requires from you as an ESA owner:
You must have proper documentation from a licensed psychologist, therapist or psychiatrist. It is a certificate with a statement from the professional’s office letterhead, a confirmation that you have a mental or emotional disability and an explanation of how the ESA alleviates the disability symptoms.
It should also have the licensing credentials of the professional. The documentation should also be up-to-date, precisely within the past year. However, different housing providers and airlines have specific requirements regarding the timing.
Behaviour and Control
As an ESA owner, you must ensure your pet is controlled and well-behaved. Behaviour and control are crucial, as they create a safe travel experience and a positive living environment. Keep well-trained and socialized ESAs that obey simple commands like stay, sit and heel. They should not be calm pets that can threaten others or disrupt them.
Ensure they have also acquired proper house training to prevent accidents and so that they don’t damage property. Also, you always have to clean after your pets. In housing situations, you should ensure that your ESA doesn’t whine, bark excessively, or create other uncomfortable noises that could disrupt the peace of your neighbours.
Proper Care and Maintenance
To ensure your pets live in a healthy environment, you have to ensure they have enough food and water. You must be able to follow the right dietary requirements and feeding schedules to keep them properly nourished. Take them for regular vaccinations and vet checkups. Preventive care and vaccinations will ensure your ESA stays healthy. Other practices like bathing, regular grooming and nail trimming are essential and should take place as needed to make your ESA comfortable and clean.