Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Riverside, CA

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 16, 2021

woman walking emotional support animal at riverside california sunsetIf you are wondering about getting an emotional support animal in Riverside, CA, read on! Here we cover what emotional support animals (ESAsc) are and your legal rights to have an ESA in some situations. People who qualify for an ESA do need to be aware of the legislation that protects their rights to have this type of support.

Emotional Support Animal in Riverside: Specific Protection

Federal law protects people with emotional support animals. These are currently the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACA). In California, there are also state laws that apply – the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the California Disabled Persons Act (CDPA).

Definition an Assistance Animal

In California, emotional support animals are considered assistance animals, but not service animals. What are the differences? There are three types of animals used to help or assist people, and they often get confused:

  • Therapy Animals are the animals you may see in a group or communal setting. They are not owned or assigned to an individual person. Nevertheless, they may be of benefit to a group of people in a program or a residential care environment. Therapy dogs or cats aren’t technically considered assistance animals.
  • Service Animals are individually trained and registered. Service animals do specific tasks and actions for a disability. For example, guide dogs or seeing-eye dogs for the visually impaired help with mobility or retrieve objects. The tasks service animals are trained to do are directly related to helping the person and their disability. Because service dogs are needed to perform specific tasks, they are allowed in more public places than other animals and pets. People with service animals have additional protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to do this.
  • Emotional Support Animals do not receive any specific training. However, they are considered to be of benefit to people with emotional and psychological conditions. Any type of pet animal can be an ESA, however, most commonly they are a dog or cat. To qualify for a dedicated emotional support animal, a person must be assessed by a qualified mental health professional in their State. The animal itself does not need any special certification.

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal in Riverside, CA: CertaPet’s Simple 5 Min Process

Ready to get started? Certapet has a simple pre-screening process, that will take around five minutes. It’s completely confidential, and it’s free. The pre-screening process determines whether you may have a condition or disability that qualifies for an ESA.

If your answers indicate you potentially do qualify for an ESA, we then give you the option of proceeding to be connected with a licensed health professional in your local area. The health professional will then undertake an assessment on your eligibility and sign off your ESA letter.

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

The Air Carrier Access Act makes provision for people with an emotional support animal in Riverside as well as in any city or state to travel with their animal on commercial flights. Anyone thinking about taking their ESA with them on a flight should however always check with their airline.

For the safety of all passengers, most airlines have policies and regulations restricting certain types of animals, and breeds. Airlines may also ask for advance notice, proof that an ESA is in good health, and how an ESA will be contained or managed while in flight.

They will also require a copy of an ESA letter signed by a health professional to verify the eligibility of the person wishing to bring it on their flight.

emotional support animal in riverside airport with owner

Employment Laws

In California, the provisions under the Fair Housing and Employers Act (FEHA) mean that an employee can ask an employer if they can have an ESA with them at their place of work. The employer can request a copy of an individual’s ESA documentation to confirm their eligibility.

Because employers also have to consider the health and safety of all employees in the workplace, they can also have requirements for cleanliness and training.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

People in rented accommodation with emotional support animals have protection under federal and state legislation. The Fair Housing Act and FEHA require a landlord, or housing provider to make “reasonable accommodation” for a prospective tenant wishing to have an emotional support animal in Riverside live with them.

A property manager or landlord can require copies of ESA documentation with your application.

ESA Campus Housing

The housing laws and reasonable accommodation requirement that is applicable to landlords and rental accommodation also cover students living in campus housing. Most universities and colleges have their own application process. They will also have their own rules and regulations around emotional support animals.

These may involve restrictions on the allowed areas for emotional support animals on campus. Students may also be required to confirm they will be responsible for their animal’s care.

Exceptions to the Rules

Yes, there is protection under legislation for people with a disability who have an emotional support animal in Riverside, but there are also exceptions to the rules!

  • Reasons for ESA refusals: Airlines, workplaces, and a landlord or residential property owners do have to consider any applications from people with an ESA. However, they are also able to refuse for certain reasons. These include if the ESA may pose a health and safety risk to others. Or, if allowing an ESA may result in an additional financial burden on their business.
  • Other Laws: The Acts mentioned also do not provide any immunity for people with ESAs from any other animal-related legislation! This includes any legislation protecting the animal from neglect or abuse.
  • Dog Licensing: Anyone with an emotional support dog in Riverside County should be aware that dog licensing is compulsory under State law for all dogs. Dog licenses are not just a bureaucratic exercise either, to obtain one you supply proof your dog has had a rabies vaccination. This vaccine protects yourself, your dog, and others from this fatal disease. Licensing dogs also reduces the risk of lost animals. In the event of a great escape from a backyard, it is easier to reunite dogs licensed with the local authority with their owners!
  • Dog Breeds: In Riverside County, the Code of Ordinances requires the mandatory spay and neuter of all pit bull breeds. This breed-specific legislation includes the American pit bull terrier and Stafford terrier breeds. If you are a fan of this breed, look for a reputable breeder for your pup.

emotional support dog in riverside apartment with owner

Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal

Under the Penal Code of the State of California, the misrepresentation of an assistance or service animal is fraud. The punishments include fines of up to $1,000, probation, or a prison sentence of up to six months.

Keep it honest! For people with a genuine disability, their support animal is like a lifeline. Those that try to pass their domestic pets off as assistance animals do make it harder for people who need their animals with them.

5 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

  1. Californian laws have provisions to allow ESAs in rental housing, air travel, and work environments. This does not include other public places like malls and restaurants.
  2. To have an ESA on a flight, in rental housing, or at work in California, you usually have to make an application to the relevant organization or company. Verified documentation is usually needed with applications.
  3. Only qualified health professionals can sign and approve ESA letters.
  4. The health professional must establish whether a person has an emotional or psychological condition that may benefit from an ESA.
  5. The choice of emotional support animal in Riverside is up to the person. The animal does not need certification or specific training.

What is an ESA Letter?

An ESA Letter provides proof that a person qualifies for an emotional support animal. The letter is signed by the licensed health professional. The contents of the letter verify that you live with a condition that affects your mental wellbeing helped by your particular ESA.

Certapet ESA letters are usually issued within 48 business hours and are valid for 12 months.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

There are many places for getting an emotional support animal in Riverside! To give a rescue animal a new home, check out an animal shelter, humane society, rescue group or a private non-profit organization. Many also facilitate low-cost vaccination and low-cost spay and neuter animal services. For specific breeds, always look for reputable breeders.

Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal

There are many places in Riverside you can take an emotional support dog.

emotional support animal playing at a riverside california park

Some to try that will welcome an ESA or a pet dog include:

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

  • Pat Merritt Dog Park
  • Carlson Dog Park
  • Riverwalk Dog Park

Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars

  • Smokey Canyon BBQ
  • Extreme Pita
  • Sam’s Ban Thai

Resorts, Fitness, and Spas

  • Hyatt Place Riverside Downtown
  • Aloft Ontario Rancho Cucamonga
  • Dynasty Suites Redlands

ESAs in Riverside: How to Get Connected with an LMHP in Your State Today!

Finding ways to ease the symptoms of conditions like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is important. Certapet’s ESA pre-screening helps to understand your emotional/mental disability and can possibly send you to engage with licensed mental health professionals.

We understand the therapeutic benefits of emotional support animals can offer to help manage these types of conditions. If you qualify for an ESA, we will connect you with an LMHP in Riverside to confirm eligibility today.

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