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How to Get Your Emotional Support Animal Certification
in California

emotional support animal in California

Many Americans use an Emotional Support Animal to get through their day. The benefits to well-being are immeasurable, but that doesn’t mean your landlord is on board. Tenants can still face eviction and fees without the proper documentation for their animals.

People with an Emotional Support Animal in California have specific rights and responsibilities granted by state and federal law that govern housing and travel. Landlords and airlines must adhere to the same federal laws governing these animals or face the consequences.

American Service Pets helps those in need get certification for their Emotional Support Animals. Learn more about certification letters, how to qualify for an ESA in California, the benefits of Emotional Support Animals, the laws governing Emotional Support Animals in California, and your rights and responsibilities as an owner today.

3 Benefits of Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals are often dogs, but not always. They are certified therapeutic animals that help their owners maneuver through symptoms of various mental health disorders and offer many benefits, including:

Naturopathic Treatment

Anxiety, panic, and other symptoms of mental health disorders are treated with various prescription medicines. They can also be treated naturally with an Emotional Support Animal, which avoids the side effects and risks of medications.

Combat Loneliness

Emotional support animals are wonderful companions. According to the National Institutes of Health, they decrease feelings of loneliness and boost the owner’s mood. Emotional Support Animals are also excellent conversation starters and a way to meet new friends.

Authentic Support

Anxiety, depression, and specific phobias can cause panic attacks at the most inconvenient moments. Emotional Support Animals provide the calming comfort needed to cope. Snuggling with a loved animal can alleviate the overpowering stress that many feel regularly.

The benefits are so plentiful that many people cannot function fully without their Emotional Support Animals. American Service Pets helps pet owners in need register their animals as Emotional Support Animals in California.

Find out if you qualify for a California ESA certification letter. 

California Emotional Support Animal Laws

Emotional Support Animals are not officially trained to perform life saving tasks or function to help a disabled person as service animals are. They provide companionship, comfort, and emotional support. Emotional Support Animals are not service animals, and the laws governing them are different. 

Federal laws protect Emotional Support Animals, provided the owner possesses the required certification letter from a licensed California health professional. Official letters are accepted nationwide, but specific rules vary from state to state. Here is an overview of some key California ESA laws:

Housing Laws

A landlord in California may not evict or charge additional fees against any tenant with a certified Emotional Support Animal, even if they have a policy prohibiting pets, under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. Landlords have the right to view documentation in the form of an official Emotional Support Animal certification letter as proof of necessity. Pet owners need only one letter per pet, but if you move to another state, you’ll need to check their state laws and provisions for Emotional Support Animals to ensure you comply.

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Public Places

Public places are not required to allow Emotional Support Animals by California state or federal law. Grocery stores, restaurants, and other public places are under no obligation to let them into their establishment. These laws are different for Psychiatric Service Animals (PSAs), however. 

Workplace Laws

California law varies slightly from most states regarding Emotional Support Animals in the workplace. Most states allow the employer to make the decision, but in California, state law requires employers to accommodate them to the best of their ability. Employers are entitled to view documentation in the form of a certification letter.

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Travel Laws

The Department of Transportation (DOT) updated its travel laws policy, disallowing Emotional Support Animals to fly in airplane cabins as of 2020. ESA certified animals are also no longer allowed on public transportation such as buses, trains, and uber cars. Pet owners should still check with the airline, or transportation service,  prior to purchasing a ticket to learn their policies. Pet owners can, however, travel with a certified Psychiatric Service Animal if they meet state criteria. To find out if you qualify for a PSA certification in California, complete our three-step pet owner survey!

Emotional Support Animals enjoy more protection in California than in many other states. American Service Pets is proud to offer an easy three-step process to provide Emotional Support Animal certification and Psychiatric Service Animal certification letters to California residents. 

The Basics

Does the state have its own laws in addition to federal legislature?

Yes, California abides by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) but also has its own laws, including the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the California Disabled Persons Act (CDPA), and the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Which law applies depends on 3 factors: what kind of animal it is, how the animal helps the disabled individual, and the setting or place involved.

Definition of a "Service Animal"

Under California law, a service animal is a dog trained to help a specific individual with a disability with services such as fetching dropped items, minimal protection work, rescue work, or pulling a wheelchair. California does not have a separate definition for “psychiatric service dog,” but a dog that is individually trained to help a person with a mental disability with specific requirements is considered a service dog, and the individual that uses the dog is entitled to the same rights under the law as someone with a physical disability that uses a service dog.

What is considered a disability in the state?

California’s definition of disability is broader than that of the ADA. California defines “disability” as a mental or physical impairment that limits a major life activity. A major life activity in this case refers to physical, mental, and social activities and working. California does not, however, consider compulsive gambling, kleptomania, or unlawful substance use disorders to be mental disabilities.

What animals qualify as a service animal?

This law is limited to dogs (in very limited circumstances miniature horses may be accepted). It is also further limited to dogs that are trained to help individuals with their specific requirements.

Are there penalties for falsly claiming or implying (such as with a service animal harness), that one's animal is a service animal?

Yes. Pretending to be an owner of a service dog is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1000 and/or up to 6 months imprisonment.

Do state laws provide coverage for service animals in training?

The California Disabled Persons Act covers service animals in training. The dog must be on a leash and must wear a county-issued tag that identifies it as a service or assistance animal in training.

Do state laws provide coverage for Emotional Support Animals?

State laws surrounding public places specifically relate to animals that are task-trained to aid individuals with disabilities (ESAs are not trained), but there are certain laws that extend coverage to those with ESAs in other areas.

Public Accommodations & Travel with a Service Animal

What counts as a "public accommodation" in the state? Ie. Where are service dogs allowed?

California law creates an even broader range of public places than the ADA: any place to which the general public is invited (including restaurants, hotels, theaters, shops, concert halls, and government buildings); medical facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, and physicians’ offices; any public conveyance or mode of transportation (motor vehicles, trains, buses, streetcars, boats), whether private, public, franchised, licensed, or contracted. These public places must allow persons with disabilities to bring in their service dogs and modify their practices to accommodate the dogs if necessary.

Can a public establishment question a service animal?

A public place can only ask two questions to determine if the individual’s dog is a service dog: whether the dog is required because of a disability and what work the dog is trained to perform.

Are there any exceptions to public accommodations allowances?

Yes, California has specific rules regarding the use of service dogs at zoos or wild animal parks. These places are not required to allow service dogs into areas where animals are not separated from the public by a physical barrier. However, a zoo or park that doesn’t allow service dogs into such areas must provide free, clean, and safe kennel facilities, and potentially additional accommodation such as free transportation and sighted escorts to patrons who rely on their service dog for mobility.

What are the rules regarding service animals on public transportation?

Transportation is covered under California’s definition of public places that service animals are allowed in.

Are there any special measures you must take to have a service animal assisting you in public?

A service dog is not required to be registered, certified, or identified as a service dog.

Are there laws about service animals in the workplace?

California law allows for persons with disabilities to bring service dogs or emotional support animals to work. This law applies to any business with five or more employees. Employers can request reasonable medical documentation from a healthcare provider that confirms the existence of the disability and the need for a reasonable accommodation. Documentation does not have to be from a doctor, but can instead by another provider such as a clinical psychologist, social worker, marriage, or family therapist, or even an acupuncuturist.

Are service animals allowed access to healthcare facilities?

Hospitals and other healthcare facilities must allow service animals to go anywhere that healthcare personnel, patients, and visitors are allowed to go, including locked mental health facilities. Patients must be able to care for the animal or employ someone else to care for it if necessary. Service animals may be excluded from limited access areas like operating rooms or burn units.

Are there penalties for public places that refuse service animals?

Individuals who are unlawfully barred from entering a public place with their service animal can file a suit for relief under federal or state law within two years of the incident occurring.

California folllows the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which defines a service animal as a dog (regardless of breed or size) trained to do work or perform tasks to assist a qualified individual with a diability, and may include psychiatric service dogs. Minature horses are excluded in this definition.

How do airlines determine what qualifies as a service animal?

Airlines can require a passenger to provide a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) form attesting to the animal’s health, behavior, and training and a U.S. DOT form attesting that the animal can either not relieve itself or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner (if the animal will be on a flight that is 8 or more hours).

Are service animals in-training covered by this law?

The ACAA does not address service animals in training, so airlines are not required to carry them as they do not meet the requirements of an ACAA-defined service animal. However, airlines can make their own individual policies.

Housing Law

What are the state's laws regarding housing and service animals?

California law requires landlords to allow assistance animals in housing. Landlords may not require pet fees or additional rent, including an additional security deposit or liability insurance. Landlords also cannot reject an animal based on breed, size, or weight. They can, however, ask for documentation of the need for reasonable accommodation from a healthcare provider or other reliable source who has personal knowledge of the need for a support or service animal.

Are there any exceptions to housing allowances?

A landlord may deny a request to keep a service or support animal if granting the request would create an undue financial and administrative burden, create a fundamental altercation of the landlord’s business, constitute a direct threat to the health and safety of others, or cause substantial physical damage to the property of others. However, if the threat or damage can be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, the landlord must allow the animal.

Am I liable for damage caused by my service animal?

While a public place cannot charge any fees in advance due to the service animal, the owner may be liable for any damages caused by the dog to the premises or facilities.

Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal in California?

California’s housing laws cover “assistance animals,” which can be service or support animals. The only potential exceptions to California’s tenant laws on assistance animals would be if the request for a support animal would cause a financial or administrative burden, create a fundamental alteration of the landlord’s business, constitute a direct threat to the health and safety of others, or cause substantial physical damage to the property of others.

Discrimination Complaints

How can I file a complaint for not being allowed in a public accommodation with my service dog?

Title III of the ADA covers discrimination in public accommodations, transportation, and commercial facilities. You can file a complaint through the Department of Justice within 180 days of the alleged discrimination by submitting an online form, letter, or via a phone call.

How can I file a complaint for not being allowed to have my service dog in housing (or for being forced to pay a fee to a landlord)?

The California Department of Social Services is committed to ensuring that ADA and state regulations are followed when it comes to housing. In order to file a claim, you will need to print out this form and mail it to the CDSS. You can also file directly through the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. According to Disability Rights California, you can also file with small claims court over housing discrimination.

How to Obtain an ESA Certification for
Your Emotional Support Animal in California

If you’re wondering how to get an ESA letter in California, you’re at the right place. American Service Pets provides an easy and efficient process to get your Emotional Support Animal letter California. It entails only three simple steps:

Fill Out the Questionnaire

It takes a few minutes to answer the American Service Pets questionnaire to determine if you’re eligible for a California ESA certification letter.

Get a Doctor’s Approval

American Service Pets allows you to choose to submit your file to a licensed doctor for approval and authorization. Doctors are always available, but are required to oversee the patient for at least 30 days before approval. Once approved, the letter will be sent to your email address.

Add Your Pet to the International Directory

It’s essential to add your pet to the international directory. American Service Pets will add your pet to the directory, which gets you an online pet profile that shows your pet’s status and certification letter. 

American Service Pets will help you get your pet certified as an Emotional Support Animal in California. As many as 95% of applicants qualify for certifications. Take a quick test to see if you do, too. 

Benefits of American Service Pets

The mission of American Service Pets is to help people suffering from mental or emotional issues to get the therapeutic benefits of an Emotional Support Animal. Here’s what makes our CA ESA letter service exceptional:

Emotional Support Dog in California

Take the simple questionnaire to get your pet certified as an Emotional Support Animal today with American Service Pets. That will put you on the fast track to enjoying the love and support your pet has to offer. If you have questions before applying for certification, and would like to speak to a real person, call us at (916) 209-0815.

Disclaimer: We would like to emphasize that while the terms “certification” or “registration” may be used in relation to Emotional Support Animals, there is no official certification process for ESAs or any form of ESA registry as of this date. As such, the use of these terms should not be interpreted as legally recognized designations by government or regulatory authorities. Remember, ESAs can provide a valuable source of comfort and support, but their recognition relies on proper documentation from a healthcare professional and adherence to relevant laws and guidelines.

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