It’s no surprise that research is beginning to reveal what pet owners have found obvious since the beginning of time – that pets improve our quality of life. I know, not a huge a huge surprise for those who have been in the know the entire time, but the scientific community has begun to recognize the fact that pets can help lower blood pressure and stress levels. This is fantastic news for people who suffer from mental illnesses such as PTSD and anxiety. With the scientific community on board, there are now laws in place that benefit and protect individuals who have need of an emotional support animal (ESA).
Emotional Support Animals vs. Service animals
It’s easy to confuse service animals with emotional support animals, but understand that they are not the same. Service animals help -people who have physical limitations. These services can range from helping people around their houses to picking up dropped items. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, simply provide emotional support by their mere presence. Simply petting or holding an ESA can provide the emotional support that someone may need in times of great stress. ESA’s don’t need any specialized training and can be quite exotic. In most cases, dogs and horses fill the roles of service animals. ESAs can be rodents, snakes, turtles, and so on.
Specific protection for Emotional Support Animals in Atlanta, GA
Due to the differences between ESAs and support animals, the law views and treats them differently. In many cases, service animals receive more favor from the law. For example, a dog leading a visually impaired individual will likely be allowed into a non-pet friendly restaurant as opposed to a pet snake that helps to alleviate anxiety. However, ESAs in Atlanta, GA (and many other cities and states) have a few laws that protect them.
Do you plan on flying with your ESA anytime soon? Then you’ll need to know about the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The ACAA has very stringent rules, but it ultimately protects your ESA during air travel. To allow your ESA to travel in the cabin with you, you must provide a letter from a mental health professional (such as a psychologist for example). The letter must have the mental health professional’s letterhead, can’t be more than one year old, and must indicate the practice (psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.).
If your employer has five or more employees, they must make reasonable accommodations for both you and your ESA. Ultimately, it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee who suffers from a mental or emotional condition. Keep in mind that your employer has the right to ask for documentation concerning your need for an ESA in the workplace.
Similar to employment laws, you cannot receive discrimination from your landlord due to your emotional support animal. ESA’s are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which states that you can legally live with your ESA. This is the case even if your landlord has a “no pets” policy in place. Keep a letter of proof on hand just in case your landlord asks for it.
Exception to Rules
There are a few exceptions to the rules. Emotional support animals in Atlanta, for example, don’t receive the same range of public freedom as service animals. It’s more likely that a “seeing eye dog” will be allowed into a restaurant as opposed to your pet rat that provides support to you when you’re feeling anxiety. In the workplace, an ESA must have proper house training and can’t pose a danger to anyone. Furthermore, when it comes to your living situation, your ESA can’t pose a danger to either the property or other tenants.
How to get an ESA in Atlanta, GA
If you’re a resident of Atlanta, the best way to get an ESA is to be approved by a certified mental health professional such as a clinical social worker, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Before you can be approved for an ESA, you must pass a confidential questionnaire that will determine whether or not you qualify. You can take that questionnaire here. It shouldn’t take you more than five minutes.
Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal in Atlanta, GA
Never leave your pet at home again! Check out these pet-friendly locations in Atlanta, GA!
Pet-friendly dog parks & trails
Piedmont Dog Park – take up to three of your furry friends down to this dog park. There’s plenty of running room!
Chattaholchee River National Recreational Area – if you’re a fan of rivers and trees this will be an excellent location to take your leashed dog for a walk.
Pet-friendly restaurants & bars
Brewhouse Cafe – a big hit with casual dog lovers who bring their pets with them as they dine and enjoy the casual setting.
Buckhead Saloon – not only does the Buckhead Saloon have a massive pet friendly patio area, but there’s live music Thursday through Sunday!
Pet friendly hotels
Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel – this hotel welcomes up two dogs of any size (pet fees apply).
Hotel Indigo Atlanta Midtown – you can bring two pets of any size (pet fees apply).
Werepups Halloween Bash – dress your pooch up this Halloween at this fun event! There will be dancing, prizes, and costume contests for both humans and dogs alike! This is a fun family/pet friendly event.
There are many more activities and events in the Atlanta area where you can take your ESA. Do your research and have fun!
Get tested for an ESA today
Know that you don’t have to suffer alone. If you deal with a mental disability, you should understand that the law is on your side in Atlanta, GA. It’s estimated that nearly 61.5 million Americans will suffer from a mental illness in 2017. If you feel that an emotional support animal can help you with your situation, take the test today (it only takes five minutes) and contact a mental health professional. An ESA can significantly increase your quality of life.