Portland is a large and fast-paced city, and many residents feel that they cannot cope with the stress of daily life. Due to this need, many have turned to Emotional Support Animals (ESA’s) to help with their anxiety and emotional issues. These animals have been proven to help with conditions such as depression and serious anxiety.
But What Exactly Is An Emotional Support Animal?
While we know all about ‘service animals’ that assist with disabilities such as blindness and deafness, the general public knows very little about emotional support animals. Service animals can be seen on the street with reflective jackets as they walk in front of visually impaired individuals. They are also traditionally used to rescue swimmers, detect seizures in individuals and sniff out drugs at airports.
These horses and dogs need specific training to meet these needs. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, need little to no training to offer natural emotional aid to people in need. Simply put, an ESA is a pet that offers an alleviation of emotional issues through companionship and affection. Because of this, the route to obtaining an ESA license is comparably simple to the same route for a service animal.
Owning An Emotional Support Animal In Portland: Specific Protections
The Department Of Housing And Urban Development says “animals necessary as a reasonable accommodation do not necessarily need to have specialized training. Some animals perform tasks that require training, and others provide assistance that does not require training.”
In order to receive an official license to call your pet an ESA, you simply need a letter from a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist. They need to verify that you are mentally ill, or would certainly benefit from an ESA.
When your pet has an ESA licence, you can legally take it to places where animals are not usually permitted. Because of this, those who need ESA pets are applying for this useful license in record numbers.
But let’s take a closer look at the law in place.
Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)
When you travel with an ESA, you will be able to receive free air travel for your pet in line with the ‘Air Carrier Access Act.’ To do so, the supporting letter from your mental health professional sponsor needs to be less than a year old, and it needs to include their own personal handwriting and contact details.
You also (importantly) need to give the air carrier 48 hours notice. This is crucial, as without this notice they may simply refuse your request. Many carriers will also allow you to keep your pet bedside you in the cabin. Although, this may not be possible on some aircraft due to other passengers’ allergies and space requirements.
When it comes to employment, employers are not allowed to discriminate in Portland based on any employees physical or mental disability. If the individual is suitable for the position, accommodations must be made if they are chosen for the role. Further, employers with 5 or more staff must make sure that the animal can accompany the employee to work. If their usual guidelines state that animals are not allowed in the office, then these rules must be changed for the ESA.
Employers may or may not request documentation from the employee. However, it is well within their rights to do so, so if you do have an ESA, you should inform the employer clearly when applying to the role.
Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)
Similarly, when we take a look at housing, it is clear that landlords have to make exceptions for renters with ESA’s. While landlords may choose to refuse tenancy in the first place for a variety of reasons, if a current tenant needs an ESA, the landlord cannot legally evict them.
Similarly, the landlord cannot charge a traditional pet deposit for the animal, as the ESA is deemed to be more than just a pet. Just like the employer situation, a landlord may require the individual to provide documentation to prove that they are eligible for an ESA, but there is no need to show the landlord that the ESA itself is trained.
Exception To The Rules
Compared to laws which allow service animals to be used widely in society, legal protection for ESA’s is currently limited. Federal law (at present) does not specify exactly where ESA’s can be taken in public, so there are no black and white rules to follow.
Employers can also legally request that animals that may pose a threat are not brought to work. If the animal is not properly house trained, then the employer may also ban it due to the mess and damage it can cause to company property.
Similarly, the potential for damage to rental property is enough for a landlord to refuse an ESA and their owner tenancy. If the home is a multiple occupancy building, the animal may also be a threat to other tenants. In practice though, the suspicion that a large breed may cause damage is not enough for a landlord. There must be actual evidence of damage for an eviction to take place.
Where To Take Your ESA in Portland?
There is no shortage of places in Portland to take your ESA. As a cosmopolitan city full of green spaces, pet owner groups and pet-friendly businesses, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Green Spaces And Parks
There are too many parks to mention in Portland; all of which cater for your fury friends! One particularly popular space is the Sellwood Riverfront Park – a 1.5 acre area which allows off-leash dogs to roam. Visitors have said that you will need to take your own water and dog poop bags, but this doesn’t diminish the fun they have there with their pet.
After you visit to the park, you could spend some time chowing down in one of the many Portland restaurants that cater for ESA’s. The Tin Shed Garden Café is a very popular choice here, and the outdoor space allows all pets to sit by the owners. The café even offers a dog menu so that your pet can eat beside you while you try the local delicacies!
There is very little that you and your ESA can’t do in Portland, and this extends to adventure activities. The Forest Park Wildwood trail is a very popular walk through the beautiful Oregon countryside, which you and your pet will love. The 30 miles of trails which you can explore will give you and your pet a good workout, which will help you both mentally!
Portland offers a great array of activities for owners and ESA’s and, as the law improves, you will be free to take your pet to places that only service animals could enter before. The restaurants and parks which exist in the city will make your time here comfortable, as well as fun!