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Emotional Support Animal Laws and Requirements- Federal Laws
It is extremely important to be aware of emotional support animal laws and requirements. There are two main federal laws applicable to pets and their owners, these include the Air Carrier Access Act, and the Fair Housing Act.
It is important that anyone considering obtaining an ESA letter be aware of the laws that apply to owners and what they should expect from business owners under the law.
The Air Carrier Access Act
The Air Carrier Access Act was passed in 1990 and works alongside Department of Transportation rules prohibiting discrimination of disabled individuals traveling by air. According to the Air Carrier Act provisions, airlines are not allowed to refuse transportation, limit, or require advanced notice before offering service to individuals who are disabled.
Airlines may require advanced notice for certain accommodations, such as medical equipment or electric wheelchairs, and may require notice for ESAs, depending on the individual airline guidelines.
The Air Carrier Act requires that airlines accommodate ESA owners who have verified identification. ESA owners are not required to sit in any particular location unless the animal is large enough to obstruct an aisle that must remain unobstructed.
The Air Carrier Act also restricts airlines from charging fees for accommodating disabled persons with an ESA.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA)
The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, commonly known as FHA, requires apartments and housing communities that ordinarily restrict pets to make “reasonable accommodation” for ESAs. In short, that means that verified ESA owners cannot be denied housing, just as individuals in a wheelchair or with a disability cannot be denied housing based on their condition.
In order to be protected by FHA laws, the ESA owner must have a diagnosed disability and provide documentation to the property owner or housing representative.
The benefits to FHA laws include the fact that property owners cannot charge an advance deposit or fees for ESAs. ESA owners should note, however, that if significant damage is done, or if it becomes apparent that the animal is being neglected, the property owner might be able to recoup fees later.
Property owners also cannot question the disability, require the animal to wear identification as an ESA, or refuse housing. In short, FHA laws protect verified ESA owners who properly care for the animal but may not protect owners who are negligent or destructive.