Frequently Asked Questions
According to California Law, to legally be considered an emotional support animal (ESA), the pet needs to be recommended by a licensed mental health professional to a person living with a mental health concern, impacting one of their major life activities. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist must determine that the presence of the animal is needed for the mental health of the patient. For example, owning a pet might ease a person’s anxiety by helping them feel calmer when the pet is with them.
Dogs are the most common type of emotional support animal, and cats have become common as well. People living with a mental health concern find that their animal comforts them and makes it easier to function in life.
The ADA states “While Emotional Support Animals or Comfort Animals are often used as part of a medical treatment plan as therapy animals, they are not considered service animals under the ADA. These support animals provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.”
Psychiatric service dogs (recognized by the ADA as service dogs) have been trained to do certain jobs that help the handler cope with a mental illness. For example, the dog might remind a person to take prescribed medications, keep a disoriented person in a dissociative episode from wandering into a hazardous situation such as traffic or perform room searches for a person with post-traumatic stress disorder. If it is simply the dog’s presence that helps the person cope, then the dog does not qualify as a psychiatric service dog.
The owner of the animal must be considered to have a qualifying mental health or psychiatric disability by a licensed mental health professional (e.g., therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.). After determining the mental health diagnosis, the mental health professional will provide a prescription letter stating an ESA is recommended for treatment of the mental health disability.
You can get a certification letter for $143 and if you choose can get a housing accommodation and/or travel letter for an additional cost.
If you have a service animal, the law protects your right to access public spaces with it. Therefore, the only thing you need to do, is access the public space. Additionally, if the need for the animal is apparent or obvious, then you cannot be asked any questions. However, when an employee or representative of a public space is not certain that your animal is a service animal, they may ask you, the handler:
- Is the animal required because of the handler’s disability?; and
- What work or task the animal has been trained to perform?
NOTE: Under California law, misrepresenting that a dog is a trained service animal is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months imprisonment and/or up to a $1,000 fine (Penal Code Section 365.7(a)).
Public places are not required to allow access to service animals that:
- pose a direct threat to others,
- are not under the handler’s care and control, or
- would fundamentally alter the nature of the goods, services or programs provided by the business or government entity.
NO. A business or government entity cannot require a person with a disability to pay a deposit or surcharge in order to be accompanied by a service animal, even if that is their policy for pets. However, if a public accommodation or public entity ordinarily charges its guests for damage caused to the premises, such as with a hotel room, it may charge the owner of a service animal for similar damage.
NO, the ADA provides that service animals only and not emotional support animals are permitted to accompany their handler in public spaces, and there are no other state or
federal laws which allow for emotional support animals in public spaces.
What are my rights to access housing with a service dog or emotional support animal?
In the housing context of disability rights law, service animals, and emotional support animals, are collectively referred to as “assistance animals.”
Access to housing with service animals – including access to homeless shelters – is treated the same as access to public spaces.
Access to housing with emotional support animals – including access to homeless shelters – is allowed as a reasonable accommodation to a landlord, homeowner’s
association, or homeless shelter’s no-pets policy. The reasonable accommodation process involves a more thorough inquiry into the disability-related need than if accessing with a service animal.
Reasonable accommodations are exceptions to rules or policies that are necessary to allow people with disabilities an equal opportunity to use and enjoy their housing. The obligation to make reasonable accommodations includes a requirement that housing providers make exceptions to a “no-pets” policy to permit persons with disabilities to use and live with their emotional support animal.
Under California and federal law, emotional support animals must be allowed in housing as a reasonable accommodation for a tenant’s disability.
NO. A housing provider may not require an applicant or tenant to pay a fee or a security deposit or to buy insurance for the animal as a condition of allowing the person to keep an assistance animal. However, the housing provider can charge the individual for repairing any damage that the animal causes to the unit or common areas.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) completely overhauled their rules for assistance animals on planes. Due to the DOT’s latest rules, U.S. airlines no longer allow emotional support animals on planes.
The good news for service dog owners is that their canine companions remain protected. Service dogs are still allowed to accompany their handlers in the airplane cabin free of charge. The DOT, however, has radically changed the process of how airlines accept service dogs.
It’s important to check with your airline prior to flying about the requirements to travel with a service dog.
You may download the DOT form here.
Yes, it will expire one year from the date the letter was issued to you. The reason for this is because a licensed mental health professional will need to complete an assessment to determine if your mental health symptoms still require a support animal. At the time of your renewal, you will have an opportunity to receive a discounted rate if you renew it with Loving Life Service Pets.
Since we only serve the state of California, we have done extensive research to ensure our letters have what they need to be compliant with the ESA/SD California law that was passed in January, 2022. Our letters meet the California requirements and are approved by a qualified mental health professional. If you need to speak to our customer relationship coordinator, send an email to email@example.com with your name, phone number, and best time to give you a call. Our customer relationship coordinator will call you within 48 hours.
You will be prompted to select the package that is best suited for your needs; certification letter or certification and housing letter or certification, housing and travel. After you make your purchase your assigned licensed mental health professional will add you as a client in their HIPPA compliant system of record for clients. The system being used is called Healthie and you will receive an email within 48 hours to review new client documents, schedule your sessions and set up your client portal. Your mental health professional will work with you to determine if a support animal is recommended. If it is determined a support animal is needed, you will receive a letter from your assigned licensed mental health professional.
The licensed Mental Health Professional you will work with is certified by the Board of Behavioral Science, and legally qualified to approve support animal letters in the state of California.
If you want a general letter identifying your support animal as assisting you with your mental health, then get the basic package. If you need a letter for your landlord, then get the package that includes the housing accommodation letter and if you will be traveling with your support animal, then choose the package that includes all three letters.
If for any reason your support animal request is not approved by the Licensed Mental Health Professional, you will receive a refund of what you paid minus a $50 administration fee.