Does California Allow Emotional Support Animals?
Yes and no, emotional support animal California laws do not protect the ESAs the same way as it protects service animals and psychiatric service dogs in public settings. However, they do ensure housing and workplace rights.
There are sets of state laws in California that lay out the protections of people who require assistance animals such as the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the California Disabled Persons Act (CDPA), and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) but none of them expressly state an ESA is to be allowed in public settings.
However, California’s laws fall in line with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in that they require landlords to allow ESA owners to live in their buildings, employers must make accommodations to allow the employee to work with their ESA, and provide anti-discriminating laws for those who need ESAs.
What are the Emotional Support Animal California Laws?
There are a few laws in place addressing ESAs and their owners. The CDPA, FEHA, and Unruh Civil Rights Act are a few of the common laws that ESA owners should be aware of, and below we will go more in-depth about these to better explain the laws around emotional support animals in California.
There has also been a new law set in 2022 that takes particular aim at ensuring ESA owners do not try to pass their ESA off as service dogs as ESAs are not trained like signal dogs, guide dogs, or psychiatric service dogs.
This new law makes it a misdemeanor to falsely represent an ESA as a service dog and is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and a $1,000 fine. It also makes sure owners of emotional support animals have the proper documentation and do not fall for a scam ESA letter-writing service.
This is done by requiring the medical professional to write the letter to hold a valid license, establish a client-provider relationship with the individual for at least 30 days prior to providing the documentation, and to complete a clinical evaluation of the individual regarding the need for an emotional support dog.
What are California ESA Housing Laws?
Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act a landlord is required to allow ESA owners to live in their building and cannot evict or restrict a tenant because of the presence of the animal.
Documentation may be required to assert the animal is, in fact, an ESA but the owner will not have to provide proof of certification as there is no certification for ESAs. However, they may have to produce an ESA letter written by a licensed mental health professional.
California also follows federal laws like the Federal Fair Housing Act and the ADA which requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for ESA owners.
These accommodations are the same as California laws in that they define a reasonable accommodation as “a change, exception, adaptation, or modification to a policy, program, or service that allows a person with a disability to use and enjoy a dwelling.”
This can mean the waiver of a pet fee in pet-friendly housing or changing a pet policy to allow an ESA in housing that does not normally allow pets.
What are California ESA Employment Laws?
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act state that, like landlords, employers must make reasonable accommodations for ESA owners and make exceptions to allow ESAs in the workplace.
They are allowed to require documentation in the form of an ESA letter that states the owner’s need for the animal as without the letter the ESA is just a pet and is not protected under state or federal law.
The employer is also allowed to require confirmation that the animal will behave appropriately in the workplace and meet the minimum standards for assistive animals but does not specify what the confirmation should entail.
The employer has rights under this law as well. Employers can require the animal to be well-groomed, display habits appropriate to the workplace, and not be a threat to the health, safety, and well-being of those around it.
What are California ESA Travel Laws?
California has adopted the federal laws set forth in the Air Carrier Access Act that no longer require airlines to allow ESAs on airplanes. Each airline now has the opportunity to choose whether or not to allow ESAs on flights and all major airlines have chosen to update their pet policies to not allow them special treatment.
What are California ESA Public Transportation Laws?
California law states ESAs are not required to be allowed on public transportation. Unlike service dogs that have protection under state and federal law and are allowed in public areas, ESAs are not permitted in such places and because of this, they will not be permitted on public transportation.
How do You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal in California?
If wondering how to get an emotional support animal, you need to start with an ESA letter.
To obtain the emotional support animal letter, you need to see a licensed healthcare provider and get a referral for a mental health professional like a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.
A medical healthcare professional may be able to write an emotional support animal letter. Still, they are not likely to know your mental health history and, therefore, may not be qualified to write the letter. If you do not have a medical provider or are uncomfortable discussing mental health with them you may use an online source to be matched with a therapist who can write the letter.
Once you have established a relationship with the therapist for at least 30 days, they are legally allowed to write the letter. You will need to be diagnosed with an emotional or mental disability like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or a phobia. Once this diagnosis has been reached the letter may be written.
Do I Have to Tell My Landlord I Have an Emotional Support Animal in California?
Yes, you have to inform your landlord you own an emotional support animal. This will protect you from legal liability and your right to reasonable accommodation even in no-pet housing. This will also prevent you from having to pay pet fees or deposits associated with pet-friendly housing.
It is recommended that you inform your landlord of the animal if you do live in pet-friendly housing as this may prevent any altercations if there are breed restrictions or pet deposits your landlord requires for regular pets.
Can a Landlord Deny an Emotional Support Animal in California?
Yes, a landlord can deny an ESA owner from renting from them, however, every reasonable accommodation must have been met and the pet must pose a threat to the well-being of those around it or causes substantial damage to property. A landlord cannot reject a renter based on the animal’s breed, size, or weight.
Can You Have Multiple Emotional Support Animals in California?
Yes, there is no limit to the number of emotional support animals a person can have in California but each support animal must be there to assist with an individual’s disability.