Animals and humans have been cohabitating and depending on each other since evolution. We humans depend on animals and have petted a variety of them mostly for food, leisure, agriculture, livestock, and even industrial development. But, there’s one extremely interesting use case of animals that is coming to the forefront in recent times—providing emotional support to humans.
What are emotional support animals?
Emotional support animals or ESAs are those types of animals that are used to comfort people who suffer from some sort of disability. It’s a kind of assistance animal that the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) recognizes as “reasonable accommodation” for people with disabilities.
It is important to note that the Department of Housing and Urban Development of the United States, the agency that investigates housing discrimination claims and complies with the FHA, does not consider emotional support animals as pets.
Also, these types of animals are not restricted by the family of origin, meaning these animals need not necessarily be only dogs, cats, or any other animal that can be domesticated.
How are emotional support animals different from service animals?
Most people often confuse between emotional support animals and service animals, thinking they serve the same purpose. However, in reality, both types of animals are quite different. Service animals undergo training from professional trainers to be able to perform certain tasks.
These can even be simple gestures, such as helping a blind person cross the road.
On the other hand, emotional support animals do not undergo any such training. In fact, they don’t undergo any training to perform the tasks they are meant to.
It’s mostly people with any kind of disability, for example, a mental illness, who requires emotional support animals to get through their tough times. These animals play the role of a comforter for such individuals by being their companion and aid.
What does the law have to say?
There are many federal housing rules that govern the ownership of emotional support animals. In the United States, people suffering from any kind of mental disability can seek exemption from some of these rules if they have an emotional support animal. However, to get this exemption, they have to meet several criteria.
Here’s a quick rundown on these:
They have to conform to the definition of “disabled” under federal law.
The emotional support animal they choose should be able to alleviate some effect or symptom of the person’s disability.
The person must get a written letter from a medical professional that the emotional support animal will alleviate some effect or symptom of the person’s disability.
Some landlords follow a strict “no pets allowed” policy—something that can pose a challenge before people who require emotional support animals. Even if landlords do allow animals, they tend to have restrictions on the size and type of pets that their tenants bring to their rental property.
This is because they often believe that noise and odor of pets can prevent other tenants from taking the property on rent, and thereby lower the value of the property in the market.
Since the FHA considers emotional support animals as “reasonable accommodation” for people who require housing in the United States, the “no pets allowed” policy of landlords is often waived off. However, this is possible only when the individual renting the house furnishes the written letter from a medical professional, stating that their need for an emotional support animal is genuine.
When it comes to pet deposits charged by landlords, individuals requiring emotional support animals can find some relief under the Department of Housing and Urban Development of the United States. In 1990, it was ruled by an administrative judge of the agency that owners of a rental property must not charge a pet deposit from people with disabilities.
It was held in the ruling that such an animal could act as an auxiliary aid to such individuals and are necessary for the individual to be able to utilize and enjoy the residential unit properly.
However, an owner of a rental property can charge the tenant for any damage caused to the property by the emotional support animal. They can deduct the repairing expenses from the security deposit of the tenant.
They may even choose to increase the security amount depending on the ownership of an emotional support animal by the tenant.
Emotional support animals act as travel companions of their owners too. So, the Air Carrier Access Act permits owners to carry these animals in the airplane’s cabin while traveling.
What are the exceptions?
Certain exceptions may apply to a property owner’s obligation to permit their tenant to own an emotional support animal. Take, for instance, owner-occupied apartments with maybe four units fall outside the purview of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA).
The FHA also exempts owners of single-family housing units that are either sold or rented without a broker. However, the owner should not own more than three units. Also, they should not own any housing managed by organizations or private clubs that limit member occupancy.
These exemptions will differ as per state law and may sometimes be more limiting compared to federal exemptions.
Benefits of Emotional Support Animals
Benefits of emotional support animals?
Having an emotional support animal is seen to do wonders in the lives of people suffering from disabilities. These animals are seen to offer an extremely comforting presence to individuals with mental health problems. This is the reason why mental health experts are recommending the use of emotional support animals by people with any of the following issue:
Mild to severe anxiety
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
General anxiety disorder
Whenever a person suffering from these issues gets the aid of emotional support animals, there’s a noticeable improvement in their condition. They become more social and happy and enjoy greater self-esteem. They are more motivated to carry on with their daily lives and feel safe in stressful situations.
Given these emotional benefits of owning these animals, individuals can also see a significant change in their physical condition. They mostly brim with oxytocin, which keeps their heart rate normal by alleviating stress and unhappiness. Hence, emotional support animals can aptly be seen as a boon to people who are grappling with debilitating mental health issues on.