It is becoming more and more common in today’s society to see people using animals for emotional support in a formalist, legal manner. It’s honestly a necessary evolution of the law due to the fact that landlords, homeowner’s associations and condominiums become stricter and stricter about the pets that they will allow their tenants – and even property owners – to have.
First, what is the difference between a “service animal” and an “emotional support animal”?
A service animal is defined as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” However, it is interesting to note that it is now possible to utilize a miniature horse as a service animal as well.
Unlike service animals, emotional support animals can just be to comfort and accompany someone with anxiety or depression, for example. All someone needs to do is have a mental health professional make note of the diagnoses. Despite the difference between service animals and emotional support animals, they are both afforded the same protections pertaining to public accommodations and other Federal discrimination laws.
Now, there are a lot of different laws that intersect when it comes to emotional support animals. There is the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), which relates to whether you can have an emotional support animal in a home that otherwise would not allow for a pet or perhaps a dog of a certain size or breed.
So how does someone qualify for an emotional support animal? And will my animal qualify?
So you have some documented emotional or psychological condition and your animal provides comfort and support, then you can qualify for having an emotional support animal. As mentioned above, unlike with service animals, a very wide range of animals can qualify as emotional support animals. Dogs, cats, birds and the like.
Of course, another issue that comes up very often is the breed if it is a dog that is to serve as the emotional support animal. Pit bulls often come to mind. However, the Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) regulations that interpret the laws say that a particular breed cannot be a reason that the dog won’t be allowed to be an emotional support animal. Each emotional support animal has to be approved on an individual basis.
How about flying with my emotional support animal?
This can be an issue that comes up as well. The Air Carrier Access Act (“ACAA”) prohibits discrimination in air transportation by domestic and foreign air carriers against qualified individuals with physical or mental impairments. It applies only to air carriers that provide regularly scheduled services for hire to the public. As noted above, this law will allow you to bring along your emotional support animal on your next flight to wherever you may be destined.
If you are interested in getting either a service animal or emotional support animal, already have one, or have issues with your home or employment in St. Petersburg related to having one of these animals, our attorneys at Lopez Law Group would love to speak with you to protect your rights under the law.