Sunday, 20 January 2019 18:10

Porky & Buddy Column: What is an Emotional Support Animal? (Part 2)

Written by
Porky and Buddy Porky and Buddy

Dear Readers: Last week we talked about service animals, what they are, what federal laws have to say about them and where people with disabilities are allowed to take them. Emotional support animals are a whole different category.

An emotional support animal is an animal (usually a dog or cat, although other species are possible) that provides a therapeutic benefit to its owner through companionship. The owner has to have a diagnosed psychiatric disability or other mental impairment. The animal is not specifically trained to perform tasks for its owner. It just provides companionship.

Emotional support animals that meet this definition must be accommodated, but only in two specific areas.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) airline passengers who want to bring emotional support animals in the cabin are required to provide 48 hours’ advance notice and check in one hour before the check-in time for the general public.

They are also required to provide current documentation on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional. The documentation must verify that the passenger has a recognized mental or emotional disability; that the passenger needs the emotional support animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger's destination; that the individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional, and the passenger is under his or her professional care; and it must state the date and type of the mental health professional's license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.

Under the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), an emotional support animal is viewed as a "reasonable accommodation" in a housing unit that has a "no pets" rule for its residents. Landlords are allowed to inquire whether the person seeking to use and live with the animal has a mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, and whether the person making the request has a disability-related need for an emotional support animal. If the answers to these two questions are not readily apparent, the landlord may require similar documentation as that required by airlines.
Emotional support animals are not under the auspices of the ADA and are not required to be accommodated in places of public accommodation generally.

It seems pretty simple so far—but try this: Google “Emotional Support Animal.” What comes up? Dozens and dozens of sites that invite you to pay a fee and obtain a kit that “certifies” or “registers” your emotional support animal. It will probably include a cute little vest, an official looking laminated registration card; and a letter from a licensed mental health professional (but you have to pay an extra fee for the letter and submit to an online interview or questionnaire to establish your “disability”). Trust us on this—these are all scams. There is NO official registration for either service animals or emotional support animals, your letter obtained online is bogus and could subject you to criminal penalties. Don’t support these greedy companies. Let real service animals and emotional support animals do their important jobs and let your pets do their important job—which is mostly just to delight you and make you laugh!

### About Oswego County Humane Society

We provide services to promote and strengthen the human-animal bond through fostering-to-adoption programs, spay/neuter clinics, and humane education... Because people and pets are good for each other. The Oswego County Humane Society is designated under IRS code 501(c)3 as a charitable organization: 161586001 and registered with the New York State Charities Bureau: 06-70-81. Our registration number with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets is RR239.

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