Emotional support animals (ESAs) are animals that provide emotional support to individuals with mental health or emotional disabilities. These animals can be any type of domesticated animal, such as dogs, cats, rabbits, or birds, and are not required to have any specific training.
ESAs are typically prescribed by mental health professionals as part of a treatment plan for individuals with conditions such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. The animal’s presence is intended to provide comfort and emotional support to the person and can help reduce symptoms of their condition.
ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which allows individuals with emotional or mental disabilities to live with their ESAs in housing that may otherwise prohibit pets, and to travel with their ESAs in the cabin of an airplane, respectively. However, to qualify for these protections, the individual must have a verified disability and a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating that they require an ESA as part of their treatment plan.
It’s important to note that ESAs are not the same as service animals, which are specifically trained to perform tasks for individuals with disabilities and have greater legal protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
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