Emotional Support Animal Therapy
Emotional Support Animals can be a great benefit to you if you are struggling a disability related to mental health. I work with clients to find out if an emotional support animal is appropriate in the states I am licensed to provide care in.
If you are located in California, there are much more strict requirements for an emotional support animal. According to California state law, Emotional Support Animal is limited to a dog. An Emotional Support Dog (ESD) means a dog that provides emotional, cognitive, or other similar support to an individual with a disability, and that does not need to be trained or certified.
What to Expect
ESA assessment process and fees
Per California law, a professional relationship needs to be established prior to the letter being written. The evaluation along with other therapy tools and resources will be spread over the course of at least four appointments over the course of 31+ days. After the evaluation, if you meet criteria for a letter, a letter will be issued but is not guaranteed. There is an additional charge of $50 for the letter.
During the assessment, appointments will last 45-50 minutes and include evaluation of diagnostic criteria, the need for the animal, as well as additional resources and tools for you. Even if a letter is not issued, you will leave having tools and resources to manage the mental health concerns that are bringing you in.
All fees are due the day of service and a 24 hour cancellation policy is enforced.
Do you Think you Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal?
Who is eligible for an ESA?
In order to qualify for an Emotional Support Animal, the evaluation must present an emotional disorder that would be benefitted from a companion animal. Additionally, there must be functional impairment in at least one major area of functioning that would be improved by an ESA.
Not everyone qualifies for an ESA during the process. If you do not qualify for an ESA the outcome and conclusion will be explained to you at the end of the evaluation phase.
Are There Really Benefits to Having an ESA?
According to Federal Regulations under The Fair Housing Act, an Emotional Support Animal is considered an Assistance Animal, which is defined as “is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. An assistance animal is not a pet.” As such, under the FHA, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment which significantly limits a person’s major life activities. If a lease says "no pets" or restricts pets, landlords are required to make what is called a “reasonable accommodation” to allow pets who serve as assistance animals, which includes emotional support animals. Additionally, because an emotional support animal is an assistance animal for a disability, pet fees at housing are Not applicable. The exception is a security deposit or if an assistance animal causes destruction
State Laws Regarding ESAs
California: CA has one of the most stringent ESA laws in the country. As a patient, you must have an established professional relationship with your mental health/medical provider for at least 30 days to be issued an ESA letter, pending you meet the criteria.
For Iowa and Florida residents, the same steps will be applied as above per CA State Law, which meets and exceeds the state requirements in IA and FL.
CA Assembly Bill No. 468, CHAPTER 168
US Department of Housing and Urban Development