Fair Housing Act Section 504: Emotional Support Animal
All too often, people confuse the Fair Housing Act Section 504: Emotional Support Animals with the American Disability Act. When landlords get it wrong, it can cause terrible stress on those who keep ESAs. But when those who have been prescribed emotional support animals are well-informed, they can confidently fight illegal evictions, pet fees, and harassment.
Let's go over the main differences between the FHA and the ADA's attitudes towards emotional support animals, and with DoNotPay, give you the resources to protect your rights.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal?
An ESA is an animal, usually, a dog, that serves as a calming, reassuring companion to a person with one or more of the following mental health challenges:
- Agoraphobia and other phobias
- Bipolar disorder
- General anxiety disorder
- Major depressive disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Panic attacks
- PTSD and CPTSD
- Stress disorders
This is only a partial list of mental illnesses that might qualify a person's right to an emotional support animal. The pet itself may be trained to perform a specific function, such as actively responding when a person experiences an anxiety attack or PTSD episode, or act, by its presence alone, as a source of comfort and grounding for its person.
What’s the Difference Between an ESA and a Psychiatric Service Dog?
The latter animal is a dog that has specific training, done either by the owner or a special organization, to perform specific tasks for a person with a mental disability. Emotional support animals can be of varying species and do not require training. The former falls under the term "service dog" and has access to more public places and transportation systems than do emotional support animals as directed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Emotional support animals do not have as many privileges.
Here’s a table that outlines the differences between an emotional support animal vs a service animal:
|Definition||A pet, whose presence is determined to be needed for the mental health of a patient. The pet is prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness.||According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are dogs that are trained to perform tasks or do work for people with disabilities.|
|Does the assistance animal have access to public areas?||No||Yes|
|Can the assistance animal be banned or restricted when the owner is obtaining housing?||No||No|
|Will the owner of the assistance animal be charged a pet deposit for living with one?||No||No|
|Is the assistance animal allowed on flights free of charge?||No||Yes|
What’s the Main Difference Between the ADA and the FHA?
The ADA focuses on protecting the rights of service dogs and gives little deference to emotional assistance animals. It does not prohibit landlords from rejecting emotional support animals but grants service dogs access to businesses and public spaces.
The FHA ensures the right of both animal classifications to live with their owners regardless of a residence's existing pet policies, and the FHA also prohibits landlords and homeowner's associations from levying pet fees or deposits. The FHA has no jurisdiction over businesses or public spaces.
How Do I Get Authorization for an ESA?
To qualify for housing pet policy exemptions, you must have a recommendation from a doctor. Here are the steps required to be prescribed an emotional support animal, or to have your own pet become one.
1. Seek evaluation from a mental health provider.
2. Ask your mental health provider for an ESA letter that includes the following:
- A brief diagnosis of the patient's disorder.
- The reason why an emotional support animal will specifically benefit the patient.
- The healthcare provider's licensing information.
If you do not already have a mental health provider, the waiting list to see a new one is too long, or your own provider declines to issue an ESA letter, there are several reputable "letter services" available online. These services will take your information, have one of their affiliated mental health professionals call and evaluate you, and then issue you the letter required to prove your animal's ESA status.
Let DoNotPay Help You Solve Your ESA Issues
While DoNotPay cannot provide you with an ESA letter, we can help you get one. More importantly, we can advocate on your behalf should your landlord or homeowner's association push back against your having an ESA on the premises, or an airline prohibit you from bringing your ESA into the cabin with you when you fly.
Here's how you can get DoNotPay to help:
- Search "service animal" on DoNotPay.
- Select the type of issue you need help with, including contacting your landlord about your ESA/service animal, asking your airline about ESA options, or requesting ESA/service accommodations at other venues.
- Answer a series of questions about your current situation and the details of your ESA/service animal, so we can generate the best results for you.
And that's it! Depending on your issue, DoNotPay will generate a letter to your landlord and mail it on your behalf, contact the airline agency and get back to you with an answer, or send a letter to your mental health professional requesting an ESA letter.
More DoNotPay Assistance for You and Your ESA
While we have hundreds of products in our app to help you navigate bureaucracy and consumer issues, we've picked a few that might interest you as someone considering an emotional support animal—or someone who is trying to advocate for themselves and the ESA they already have and love:
- Flying with emotional support animals
- United Airlines and emotional support animals
- Southwest Airlines and emotional support animals
- American Airlines and emotional support animals
- Example ESA letter
- What to do if your pet is lost
- Report animal abuse
- License your pet online
- Get hotel pet fees waived
- Draft a pet agreement for your tenants
Learn more about how we can help you and your ESA today! We think you'll be convinced you want DoNotPay on your side to help you tackle life's many day-to-day (or once-in-a-lifetime) challenges.