Emotional Support Animals have become more common over the past decade. This is largely due to the many studies that have been done which show the great benefit these animals can have for their partners. From nursing homes for the elderly to apartments in Washington, D.C., Emotional Support Animals have been gaining a solid presence in everyday life for a great number of people. In fact, these animals have gained so much recognition that the laws governing animals that aid people have been amended to include this section of animals.
What are the laws that govern Emotional Support Animals?
There are several laws that deal with these animals and, while it may seem inconvenient in some cases, these laws are in place to protect you and your support animal and your rights. From Airports to Restaurants, you need to know where you can (and cannot) take your Emotional Support Animal. Although some of these instances may have restrictions that keep you from bringing an Emotional Support Animal inside an establishment, most of the regulations are support animal friendly.
One thing to bear in mind when considering Emotional Support Animals is how they are classified in your city. This article focuses on the Emotional Support Animal regulations for Washington, D.C. and, while some regulations are at a Federal level, others may be localized and differ from the regulations in your own region. Please be sure to check your own local and state regulations regarding Emotional Support Animals as opposed to Service Animals, as they do differ in many areas.
Airports and Flights
There are Federal Regulations regarding Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals that cover Airports and Flights. These include the following:
- 48 hours’ notice should be given to the airline
- A letter of confirmation may be required from a licensed Mental Health Professional
- This letter must state that the passenger has a mental health-related disability that substantially limits one of more major life activities and that the disability is listed in the DSM-IV. It must also state that the presence of the Emotional Support Animal is necessary for the passenger’s health or treatment.
- Some airlines may require documentation that shows the date of the license of the Mental Health Professional, so it is best to include this as a precaution.
- In addition to these regulations, please remember that airlines are not required to permit unusual animals. The common acceptable animals are dogs, cats, pigs, and miniature horses. It is best to contact the carrier 48 hours in advance to ensure that the Emotional Support Animal is one that the carrier is willing to accept.
Housing and the Fair Housing Act
In terms of Housing, there is a clear distinction between Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals, as the FHA does not necessarily cover ESAs specifically. However, this does not mean that your ESA can be disallowed. It simply means that you will need to speak to your landlord, explain to them that the animal is an ESA, and likely a certification from CertaPet stating such as well.
Much like Service Animals, the FHA allows that these animals are not pets, thus “should” be treated in the same manner as a Service Animal. However, if the landlord suspects that abuse of the policy limitations is present, they do have the right to dispute the issue, generally done in court.
Employment Specific Regulations
Employment regulations are Federal, but still a bit complicated where ESAs are concerned. While Service Animals are covered under the ADA, ESAs are still in debate and employers may argue the point, especially where unusual ESA species are concerned. However, in general, ESAs are not covered under the ADA and may not be accepted by your employer. You can dispute this through the proper channels, but the outcome is not guaranteed, due to the lack of ADA coverage for ESAs.
Where can I take my ESA in Washington, D.C.?
While ESAs are not covered by the ADA, many establishments have policies in place that do not allow them to ask specifically whether the animal is a Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal. In cases of grocery stores and other food establishments, the question may be raised, so you will need to be prepared to show necessary documentation if asked.
In most cases, ESAs are accepted much like Service Animals, even without the ADA coverage and this is true of a wide variety of venues including:
- Public Transportation
- Retail Establishments
- Convention Centers
- Public Recreation Centers
- Learning Institutions
There are also a number of dog friendly places in Washington, D.C. including:
- The National Mall
- Rock Creek Park
- Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
- Us National Arboretum
- Mount Vernon Trail
- S Street Dog Park
- Lincoln Memorial
- Key Bridge Boathouse
- DC By Foot
For more information on dog-friendly places to take your Service Animal or ESA in Washington, D.C., you are encouraged to check out BringFido, where they have a long list of Hotels, Restaurants, Activities, Events, and Services that are very welcoming to these animals. Although not all of these places will be welcoming for the more unusual ESA species, you can easily call ahead to check the status of your specific ESA as per their regulations.
How can I obtain an ESA in Washington, D.C.?
If you do not already have an ESA, but are considering obtaining one for your Emotional Support needs, be sure to speak to CertaPet or fill out their online form about the issue. Once it has been determined that this is a necessary step for you, you can apply for your ESA status.
This application can be done at CertaPet and takes about five minutes online. However, you may need to provide a letter from your counselor for CertaPet’s records stating that the animal is necessary for treatment or support of your mental health.
The difference between most certification companies and CertaPet is that they are fully compliant with not only the ADA, but also with ESA laws and HIPAA, which are two very important factors that offer additional coverage you may need in the future.
Your Mental Health is Important; Make the Right Decision and Apply for your ESA Status
There is absolutely no reason for you to hesitate in applying for your ESA status in Washington, D.C. if you have the verification from a counselor and need your animal for your mental health and safety. Many people in the United States have found beneficial effects from having an ESA and have taken the time to certify their ESAs throughout the country using CertaPet’s easy form. This is a step that can provide you with a feeling of security and safety that is worth more than anything else, so be sure to take it seriously and follow the regulations applicable to your ESA for a great future for both of you.