Emotional Support Animals in California

Emotional Support ANimals

Getting an emotional support animal in California is available to anyone with a mental or emotional disability.

California recognizes the challenges associated with mental and emotional disabilities and as a result supports and endorses the use of emotional support animals as a component of a person's mental health treatment.

California has friendly policies, laws, and approaches towards emotional support animals. The best way to find out if you qualify for an emotional support animal in California is to connect with a mental health professional licensed in the state of California.

California as a state recognizes the need for emotional support animals when it comes to those that have a disability or illness. Anyone in the state of California that is struggling with a mental health condition is eligible to receive an emotional support animal certification. An emotional support animal (ESA) is an animal that helps its owners cope with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Emotional support animals do not receive the same training as a service animal, or more specifically, as service dogs. Instead, an ESA is meant to help their owner's mental or emotional disabilities with their presence alone. Not requiring the animal to provide a specific crucial service for its owner makes it easier for a mental health professional to determine whether a legitimate ESA is necessary.

California Law AB-468 on Emotional Support Animals

In 2022, the Golden State adopted California Law AB-468, which affects anyone looking to add an ESA to their life. Under this law, an individual must have a 30-day minimum relationship with their licensed mental health professional (LMHP) before receiving an ESA letter. The law is meant to prevent scams throughout the support animal process, including from businesses who deceptively try to sell ESA certificates, registration, and ID cards — all of which are not necessary. It also aims to protect individuals who are sold ESA products under the impression that they are the same as service animals, which is a completely different classification with distinct requirements.

Under this law, LMHPs must be licensed to practice in California specifically to issue ESA letters in the state. The issued ESA letter must include their license number, the effective date, their jurisdiction, and the type of professional license. They must also establish a relationship with the patient applying for an ESA letter, for at least 30 days. They must conduct their clinical evaluation of the patient, whether in person or an online tele-health visit. The law only applies to emotional support animals, not service dogs, which have enhanced protections from the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

California ESA Housing & Employment Laws

California legislation has enacted in its own state the federal housing law (which is governed under the Fair Housing Act (FHA)).

This law gives individuals with an emotional support animal the right to live with that animal regardless of any rules or policies enacted by landlords. The reason this law exists is to help support people who suffer from a mental or emotional disability to live with their pet as they are a critical component of their mental health treatment.

The most a housing provider can do is ask to see the ESA letter, and under the Fair Housing Act, must allow the emotional support animal to be on the property with reasonable accommodation. The only way housing providers could refuse housing is if the animal proves to be a direct threat to other residents or other animals.

California has also adopted regulations that allow individuals to bring their pets to work if they qualify as an emotional support animal. California is unique in this respect compared to other states as most other places it is at the employer's discretion whether or not an ESA gets accepted. This state specific law that California has enacted prevents employers from discriminating against the employee based on the disability and must make reasonable efforts to acclimatize a person's emotional support animal in the workplace.



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