In Part II of this American perspective series on Emotional Support Animals, we will explore two laws that are currently in place in the United States to help support the implementation of Emotional Support Animals into people’s lives. These laws are certainly a start, but there is still much more to be done in the States to further this worthy campaign.
“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.”Dean Koontz
As any animal lover knows, we don’t need statistics to tell us about the benefits of having our animal friends around. They are such a consistent part of life that you just naturally always feel safe when they are with you.
As discussed in Part I, Americans definition and expectation of Emotional Support Animals is very different than Service Animals. Service Animals have very specific expectations while Emotional Support Animals are a bit looser in their expectations.
There are two Acts in place currently, The Air Carrier Access Act and The Fair Housing Act, that do acknowledge the impact of the Emotional Support Animals.
“When I needed a hand, I found your paw.”
The Air Carrier Access Act
Undoubtedly, many people have a fear of flying. The anxiety and panic that comes with taking off and landing can be insurmountable. In those times when you feel your anxiety or panic level rise to off the chart levels, how often does your furry friend help you return to a more calming, safe state?
As a result of understanding the stress that flying can cause to people, Emotional Support Animals were supported under the Air Carrier Access Act.
The Act was passed in 1990 and essentially states that airlines are not allowed to refuse transportation, limit, or require advanced notice before offering service to individuals who are disabled.
In order for you to bring your ESA on the plane, you must ensure that you have:
- an ESA letter
- veterinary health form
- current vaccination record
- a signed testament to the animal’s behaviour.
Most people should check with their individual airlines to see if all of the above are required.
One of the issues, which will be explored later in the series, deals with the legitimacy of the letter and intent of the passenger. Since there is a fee to fly an animal, that fee is waived if the animal is on board for emotional support reasons. People may be taking advantage of the situation.
People may also be putting their therapists in compromising positions by having them sign off on a letter that may not contain legitimate reasons for the need of the animal to fly with the passenger. Lackadaisical airline policies in the past have led to people abusing the system.
In order to try to get a hold on the legitimacy of the animals on board, Delta and United Airlines adopted new policies requiring medical and mental health providers to sign a standardized form when requesting the use of Emotional Support Animals.
Providers must certify that:
- the passenger has an emotional or mental disability
- state that they are providing ongoing treatment
- provide a license number, contact information, and a signature.
But, if you are truly in need of an ESA, then obtaining all of the above should not be a problem to have your buddy right by your side in the air!
“How to handle stress like a dog. If you can’t eat it or play with it, pee on it and walk away.”
The Fair Housing Act
Established in 1988, it states that housing that normally restricts animals make reasonable accommodations for Emotional Support Animals. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was instrumental in making sure both Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals had “reasonable accommodations” made for them to help their owners.
As a result of this law, owners who have a letter written by a licensed Mental Health Professional cannot be denied housing. The owner must have a diagnosed disability and have documentation to provide to the property owner.
Additional fees cannot be charged as a result of the animal living at the housing unit, but the owner is responsible for making sure the animal is not neglected and property is not damaged as a result of the animal. Property owners cannot question the disability or require the animal to wear any form of identification.
In the event that the property owner violates any of the conditions set forth by the FHA, pet owners can file a complaint and it could get settled in court. Multiple websites with exact “do’s and don’ts” when it comes to housing can be found on the Internet.
It’s always best to do your research and know your rights before applying for any type of housing. But, with the laws set forth by the Fair Housing Act, no one can stop you from having your friend by your side.
There is still much to be done to make all people understand the importance of Emotional Support Animals, but this is a step in the right direction. People will spend more time in their houses than not, so having something in place, by law, is a tremendous recognition of animals importance.
As long as people can adequately prove, based on the expectations above, that their disability substantially affects their daily lives, any animal should be welcome to be a comfort for their owner. This is something that the United Kingdom needs to take a good, hard look at and help those who need an animal but can’t get access to one. It just could save their lives.