The Governor signed new emotional support animal laws in California on September 16, 2021, and will kick in on January 1, 2022. These new California emotional support animal laws aim at curbing fraud in the selling and misrepresentation of emotional support dogs as service dogs. They are also targeting businesses selling misleading ESA-related certificates and other merchandise, which inaccurately and illegally imply that emotional support animals have the same rights as service dogs.
1. Difference between a Service Animal, Psychiatric Animal, and Emotional Support Animal
To fully understand California’s emotional support animal laws, you need to know the difference between emotional support animals, service animals, and psychiatric animals.
A service animal is an animal trained to help a specific individual with a disability in ways that directly relate to their disability.
Emotional support animal laws in California limit service animals to dogs. The dog has to be specifically trained to meet the disability needs of the individual, so not just any dog is accepted.
On the other hand, a psychiatric service animal is trained more specifically to aid people with mental problems. Same as other service animals, the emotional support animal laws in California require that the psychiatric animal be a dog and have training specific to the individual’s mental disability. Ways in which a psychiatric service dog can help include;
- Waking an individual, especially those with clinical depression, and getting them out of bed
- Responding to a panic attack by initiating comforting contact
- Alerting individuals like those with bipolar disorders when they are making dangerous decisions
- Reminding owners to take medication
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The two kinds of dogs above receive more protection from the law, especially California state law, than emotional support animals.
According to California’s federal and emotional support animal laws, an emotional support animal is a dog or animal that is not trained to do any specific action related to one’s disability. Instead, the owner derives therapeutic benefits simply through the animal’s companionship. An individual emanates calmness, safety, and an improved sense of well-being through the animal’s presence.
2. What Are the New Emotional Support Animal Laws California Requirements?
The emotional support animal laws California for 2022 have three main aspects. The first two are notices that businesses selling ESAs should give buyers. The third aspect sets new requirements for medical professionals who receive the ESA letter.
1. ESA sales notice
Businesses and people who provide or sell a dog as an emotional support animal will have to issue a written notice stating that the dog is not qualified for use as a service dog. They will also have to acknowledge that fraudulently and knowingly presenting anyone as a service dog owner is illegal.
2. Notice from businesses selling ESA paraphernalia
California’s new emotional support animal laws also require that people selling paraphernalia like certificates, vests, tags, leashes, and harnesses provide a similar written notice.
3. New emotional support animal laws California requirements for licensed healthcare professionals
California’s current emotional support animal laws require an ESA owner to provide an ESA letter from licensed healthcare to prove they have an ESA. California’s new emotional support animal laws still require this, but licensed healthcare providers have newer qualifications.
These qualifications are:
- They should have a valid license that’s still active. The license should have the license number, effective date, jurisdiction, and the type of professional license.
- They should be licensed to provide the services within the scope of their license and in the jurisdiction in which they provide the ESA documentation.
- Before giving them the ESA letter, they should have a client-provider relationship with the individual for at least 30 days.
- They should conduct a full clinical evaluation of the individual on whether they need an ESA.
- They should give the individual a written or verbal notice similar to one discussed in 1 and 2 on the consequences of fraudulent representation.
The new emotional support animal laws in California essentially create a 30-day wait period before you get an ESA. Thus, anyone interested in finding and using one should plan to acquire one before the new emotional support animal laws in California become effective.
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3. Emotional Support Animal Laws California for Housing
Emotional support animal rental laws California protects the rights of those with the need for ESAs when seeking housing. Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, the landlord cannot deny or evict a tenant because they own an emotional support animal.
The emotional support animal rental laws state the following;
- Landlords must allow ESAs and service animals for tenants with disabilities, even in housing with no pet policy.
- The landlords cannot charge fees, pet deposits, or raise the tenants’ rent because they have an emotional support animal.
- Landlords should provide reasonable accommodation to their tenants’ disabilities.
- The assistance animal can be of any type.
4. According to Emotional Support Animal Laws in California, when Is It Legal to Reject an ESA?
While emotional support animal laws in California give ESAs owners rights and protect them from housing discrimination, there are certain exceptions to the law.
According to emotional support animal laws California, a landlord can evict or reject an ESA in the following circumstances;
- If the animal carries a direct risk to other people’s safety
- If the animal can cause substantial damage to other people’s property
- If the animal creates excessive financial or administrative burdens
- If the animal fundamentally changes the kind of services the landlord or homeowners’ association offers.
The emotional support animal laws in California also give the landlord the right to request proof of a tenant’s disability if it is not obvious.
Under California’s emotional support animal laws, ESAs owners are also protected from workplace discrimination. In this regard, California’s emotional support animal laws are even more protective than the federal laws. The federal laws only encourage treating the need for ESAs as any other disability, leaving the decision to the employer on whether to allow an ESA or not.
In California’s emotional support animal laws, employers must take all reasonable steps and accommodate emotional support animals to avoid discriminating against any form of disability. The law protects both employees and applicants.
5. Emotional Support Animal Laws California for Transportation and Public Places
In California, emotional support animal laws do not apply for transportation and public areas. While service dogs enjoy the right to access public spaces, the same does not extend to emotional service animals.
For service and psychiatric dogs, they have the right of access to;
- Any public means of transport, whether private or public
- Any place open to the general public like restaurants, shops, government buildings, or hotels.
- Medical facilities like hotels.
Unfortunately, there are no similar emotional support animal hotel laws, and it is left to the hotel’s discretion to decide whether to allow your animal in or not. Fortunately, most hotels and transport modes, including planes, are more accommodating if you have a legitimate ESA letter and your animal does not compromise the safety of others and their property.
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Getting your ESA letter is what stands between you and the freedom to take your crucial animal companion wherever you go. It also ensures you do not break California’s emotional support animal laws.
If you want a faster, affordable, and convenient process, work with us at ESA Care. We will help you get your letter from certified and licensed therapists, and you can say bye to the fees and restrictions.