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ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ESA DOGS

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ESA REGISTRATION AND CERTIFICATE SCAMS

DO EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS NEED TO BE REGISTERED?

DO EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS NEED TO HAVE CERTIFICATES?

FACT: ESA'S AND SERVICE DOGS ARE FREELY PROTECTED UNDER FEDERAL OR LEGAL REGULATIONS AND REQUIRE NO REGISTRATION OR CERTIFICATION.

FACT: THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DOES NOT RECOGNIZE OR SUPPORT ANY PUBLIC REGISTRIES OR CERTIFICATIONS.

FACT: ESA AND SERVICE DOG REGISTRIES ARE PUBLIC COMPANIES THAT STORE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION ON THEIR PRIVATE SERVERS. THEY OFFER NO VALUE TO THE PUBLIC OR YOU.

FACT: ESA AND SERVICE DOG CERTIFICATES ARE PIECES OF PAPER, NOT RECOGNIZED BY ANY GOVERNMENT AGENCY, AND THEY AWARD YOU NO RIGHTS OR PRIVILEGES.

READ THE TERMS OF USE ON THE REGISTRY OR CERTIFICATE PROVIDERS WEBSITE.

Here is an example of Terms of Use from an actual ESA/Service Dog Registry:

"Our services provide no protection above or beyond the law. We are a tool, similar to an online resume or other online profile service."
TAKEN FROM:
usserviceanimals.org

ESA LETTER SCAMS

ARE ESA LETTERS ASSIGNED FROM ONLINE SURVEYS LEGAL?

Summary: ESA'S AND SERVICE DOGS "Letters"

ESA and Service Dog Letters are being issued under false pretense. Un-witting consumers are sold a "therapist" document on the basis of only a simple survey and no prior doctor-patient relationship. "As a result, there now exist a plethora of shady companies (referred to hereinafter as “ESA Letter Mills”) who partner with unethical mental healthcare providers to sell ESA Letters to literally any applicant without regard to whether the purchaser actually has the requisite mental or emotional disability."

Widespread ESA Business Complacency:

Numerous companies are directly referenced in the Georgia Senate Memorandum and happen to be some of the largest agencies perpetuating the ESA scam. Many, many companies have arisen since the issuance of the initial document date of August, 2018.

Criminal Conduct:

Some states have already enacted laws that may give additional teeth in the fight against both the issuers and the recipients of bogus ESA Letters.


Consumer Criminal Conduct: Florida, as an example, has criminalized conduct, specifically making false representation of a service animal punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.


Practitioner Criminal Conduct: In May 2018, on behalf of the State of California, the Board of Behavioral Sciences – Department of Consumer Affairs (the “Board”) filed an action (the “Accusation”) against Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Carla Jean Black (“Black”) arising from her issuance of fraudulent ESA Letters, including such letters ordered by customers of “The Dogtor. Dishonest, Corrupt, or Fraudulent Acts, for Black’s issuance of ESA Letters without having made a true and proper assessment of the recipient’s mental health."

Public Safety:

The issues presented by the fraudulent ESA Letters touch upon both individual mental health and the well-being and safety of the general public. This is especially true in light of the increased likelihood of incidents involving attacks on third-party passengers by an untrained emotional support animal and the above-discussed possibility of an erroneous under-diagnosis of an applicant – i.e., a patient who mistakenly believes that the emotional support animal is complete and sufficient treatment for his/her true mental disorder. These issues also affect millions of air travelers each year, who may be inconvenienced (or worse) as a result of bogus emotional support animals in the passenger cabin of the aircraft.

From early June to early August 2018, Delta had at least six incidents involving bites by traveling animals. (S. McCartney, “On U.S. Planes, the Dogs are Winning, “ Wall Street Journal (August 8, 2018) at https://www.wsj.com/articles/on-u-s-planes-the-dogs-arewinning-1533734133

Summary:

In short, the sale of bogus ESA Letters by ESA Letter Mills and the certification/execution of those letters by the involved mental healthcare professionals necessarily give rise to a plethora of fraud, malpractice, consumer protection, and theft related criminal and civil violations. Given the breadth and nature of the underlying fraud and other misconduct, the ESA Letter scam might also give rise to charges and civil claims pursuant to federal RICO and state RICO statutes against the ESA Letter Mills and the involved mental healthcare professionals.

ESA Rights

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL LAWS ALLOW YOU TO HAVE YOUR ESA AT YOUR RESIDENCE.

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL LAWS ALLOW YOU TO FLY WITH YOUR ESA.

ESA's DO NOT HAVE PUBLIC ACCESS RIGHTS.

PUBLIC ACCESS RIGHTS ARE ONLY AFFORDED TO DOGS WHO COMPLY WITH THE STANDARDS OF FEDERAL ADA LAWS.

ESA TRAINING REQUIREMENTS

FACT: FHA RULES ARE THE ONLY RULES THAT ALLOW ESA PROTECTIONS (REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS) WITHOUT ANY TRAINING CRITERIA.

DO EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS NEED TO BE TRAINED?

DO EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS NEED TO BE TRAINED BY A PROFESSIONAL?

FACT: ESA'S NEED TO BE TRAINED IN BASIC OBEDIENCE AND HAVE SOME PUBLIC ACCESS BEHAVIOR TRAINING TO ACCESS MOST FLIGHTS.

FACT: REGULATIONS ARE CURRENTLY BEING CHANGED AND ESA'S WILL SOON BE CLASSIFIED SERVICE DOGS. “as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.” (fyi; this is the current definition already under ADA Law for Service Dogs)
PROPOSED NEW LAW:
“a psychiatric service animal to be a service animal and require the same training and treatment of psychiatric service animals as other service animals.”

FACT: THE MAJORITY OF AIRLINES ALREADY REQUIRE A LETTER OF TRAINING CONFIRMATION TO BE FILLED WITH YOUR AIRLINE FORMS.

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ESA 101: What Is An ESA?

An ESA is like a “slang” term used commonly for emotional support animal. In most cases, any domesticated animal such as mice, rabbits, dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, can be registered as an ESA. But, mostly cats and dogs are the most preferred choices.

An emotional support animal is like a therapy for people suffering from mental or emotional disorders like anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, or panic attacks. They provide support and comfort through companionship and help alleviate the mental disability. They do not require special training like service dogs who help disabled individuals with their day to day work. An emotional support animal doesn’t have to be necessarily a dog. They can be a cat, bird, or other animals. A pet is legally considered as an emotional support animal when he is prescribed by a licensed health professional to a person with mental illness.

These animals are a source of emotional support, that is why the name. Unlike service dogs, these animals do not require any special training, however, airlines often require that you ESA has been trained to behave properly in public settings. Also, ESA’s have limited protections as described in the examples above.

There is completely no doubt regarding their therapeutic benefits, Even various studies and surveys have confirmed to the facts that pets are a source of positivity and happiness in the lives of almost everyone. Because they inspire their owners both mentally and physically.

Various pre-clinical research and studies have revealed that contributing to different activities that involve a pet significantly improves the endorphin levels in the body. These hormones are primarily responsible for managing and balancing the mental health of a person.

Also, some studies have shown that just by petting an animal, there has been a tremendous improvement in the BP levels which is usually the cause of the rise in anxieties. Plus, a pet makes its owners socially more accepting than otherwise.

In short, they are helpful in providing a sense of calmness, comfort, happiness, and safety among the patients dealing with one or the other form of emotional or mental health disturbances.

ESA Letters

It’s well recognized that dogs and other domesticated animals provide comfort for those dealing with grief, loneliness and fear. As the rates of mental health disorders like depression and anxiety steadily climb in the United States, emotional support animals are becoming increasingly popular as therapy aides. In fact, the number of travelers using emotional support animals (ESAs) has increased 56 percent the last year, according to a legal document filed by major airlines and the Air Transport Association. 

Under federal law, individuals who have letters validating their need for an ESA my be granted two very important rights: They typically cannot be denied access on a flight with their ESA, and landlords typically cannot refuse to rent to a person with an ESA due to a no-pets policy.

As the demand for ESAs and, therefore, ESA letters increases, so has the emergence of ESA letter companies with less than noble intentions. Though some of these companies may be negligent, others are more likely to be intentionally fraudulent. Below we tell you how to tell the legitimate ones from the scams.

Beware of sites that:

  1. Approve you for an ESA letter after only asking a few questions online.
  2. Have you message or talk with a mental healthcare professional that is not located in your state (often overseas).
  3. Offer ESA letters that are suspiciously cheap. Anything less than $120 should arouse suspicion.
  4.  Register your emotional support animal and tell you registration is sufficient for protecting your rights. Registration is NOT the same as getting an ESA letter.

How to get a valid ESA letter

Talking to a mental health professional or doctor licensed to practice in your state is the ONLY way to obtain a valid ESA letter. You can talk to them in person, on the phone or over video chat.

In addition to the ESA letter, many airlines require an extra form in order to bring your emotional support animal on a plane for free. Form links are freely available on this page.

Also note that not all ESA letters are the same. Your ESA letter should be written on a licensed mental health professional’s official letterhead with their license number and direct contact information. 

Double-check that the mental health professional’s license is in good standing and up to date by searching your state’s professional licensing database online.

If you are interested in getting a legitimate ESA letter, use the livechat to speak with an Open Range coach. They can help you source a legitimate online company or find a local healthcare provider for your needs.

ESA's vs Service Dogs

Simply put: An ESA does NOT meet the standards of the ADA law and is not have the protections awarded by the ADA. A Service Dog DOES meet the standards of the ADA law and is awarded protections under the ADA.

Protection Differences

ESA Protections

Service Dog Protections

General Guideline Differences

ESA Guidelines

Service Dog Guidelines

Can My ESA Become ADA Compliant?

If You Are Eligible For An ESA Letter. . .

than often YES, you can train your dog to become ADA compliant and have the additional protections awarded to you under the ADA law. Keep in mind that you MUST train your dog in public access work and train your dog to perform a specific task for your needs.

Connect with an Open Range Coach to get help with your training or other ESA and Service Dog needs.

Simply use the live help icon in the right hand corner of your screen to get in touch anytime!

ESA Housing Guide: Protections Awarded by the Fair Housing Act Emotional Support Animal: Section 504

Emotional support animals (ESAs) are animals that are specially designated for people suffering from mental or emotional disorders like anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, or panic attacks. They differ from trained service animals whose task is to help a disabled person with his or her day to day activities. Emotional support animals are not trained and are there just to provide a close, emotional, and supportive bond with their owner and to alleviate their mental and emotional disorders with sheer love and affection. Fair Housing Act for emotional support animals allows you to live with your pet hassle-free.

 

General ESA Housing Guideline

Under the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 for the Emotional Support Animals, if the landlord has a ‘No Pet’ policy and a prospective tenant asks for accommodation with his or her emotional support animal, the landlord can ask a few questions.

 

Landlord Rights To Question Along These General Guidelines:​

If the answer is “yes”, then the prospective tenant or the tenant may have to show proof in the form of valid documents. They are;

  • Emotional support animal letter from a licensed mental health professional.
  • Their medical records or mental health documentation, if the disability isn’t apparent.

If the answer is "no"

If the answer is “no” for either 2(a) or 2(b), then under the Fair Housing Act for Emotional Support Animals and Section 504 for Emotional Support Animals, the request for accommodation with an emotional support animal may be denied.

ESA Housing "Pet" Deposit Fees

If You Qualify To Keep Your ESA In Your Housing, Your "Pet Deposit Fee" Should Be Waived By The Landlord.

According to the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 for Emotional Support Animals, a landlord cannot ask a tenant for a pet deposit. However, if the animal does any damage to the property of the landowner, the landlord may ask money for the repair.

Read Our ESA Housing FAQ's

ESA Flying Guide: Protections Awarded by the Air Carrier Access Act

If you’re wondering if you can fly with a dog in cabin, the answer depends on whether or not your dog is an emotional support dog or qualified service dog, i.e. NOT just a “pet”. Federal regulations protect pet owners suffering from mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression or PTSD. These laws allow you to bring a dog on a plane, provided it is a legitimate emotional support animal. If you want to fly with your dog in the cabin, outside of a carrier and without extra fees, all of this is possible and legal with an emotional support letter for your pet. If you wish to fly with your dog, your dog must be well-behaved and some airlines require conformation of public behavior training. Generally speaking, airlines can ask patients for their recommendation ESA letters. Along with the ESA letter, they also may ask you to fill in some forms. So, choose the best airline to fly with a dog accordingly.

The law that affords Emotional Support Dogs and their owners this special access is the Air Carrier Access Act. American carriers carriers flying into and out of the US cannot discriminate and must accommodate a mental or physical need for an assistance animal for those with respective disabilities.

NOTE: International Carriers Do NOT Have To Allow ESA's. However, International Carriers DO allow Service Dog's.

General ESA Flying Guidelines

  • If your dog is a legal emotional Support Dog, you can bring a dog on a plane for all domestic flights and all flights flying into and out of the US.
  • If you are flying with your dog, you cannot be seated in the exit row.
  • Your ESA cannot pose any harm or disturbance to your fellow passengers.
  • You need to contact your airline at least 48 hours prior to your flight to inform them that you are traveling with an emotional support dog.
  • You need to make sure that your dog is at its best behavior when you are at the airport and onboard the aircraft. Your ESA should not endanger or cause any discomfort to your fellow passengers or airline staff.

ESA Flying Fees

If You Qualify To Fly With Your ESA Your "In-Cabin Pet Fees" Will Be Waived.

Read Our ESA Flying FAQ's

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ESA and Service Dog Coaching Concierge Services

Your coach can help answer some basic questions; however, if you purchase a Coaching Paw Pack your coach will also assist with these items:

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Here are some highlight of our Premier Paw Home Training Program:

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ESA

FAQs

Here are some common questions about ESA's.

ESA Scams

There are no applicable government or public registries which would GRANT or EXTEND any rights to you, the consumer, that are not already awarded to you freely under the protection of the FHA or Air Association Act.

Short answer, NO.

Public “registries” simply store your personal information on their private servers and in return they offer no benefit to you, the consumer, or to the public.

This is a sensitive subject for those of us that work in the Service Dog world full-time.

ESA Registries are completely useless websites that keep your personal information on their private servers.

Are ESA registries regulated, validated, monitored, censored, or do they in any way provide any use to the public?

No, no, no, no, and generally not.

The government does NOT recognize or issues certifications for ESA’s or Service Dogs. Any company that states otherwise is lying.

Since the government does NOT issue certificates that also means there is no validation of ESA’s or Service Dogs.

Your certification and registration on a public “registry” domain offers no value as it does NOT certify, validate, or guarantee you, the consumer, any rights or privileges. 

A “registry” does not offer public or government entities any value because the registry/certifier can grant you no certificate of validation (because the government does not acknowledge or validate any service dogs or ESA’s).

You are granted rights and protections, freely and with simple compliance, by the governing agency of purpose.

 

Our Opinion, YES!

ESA registries clearly mean to mislead the public into believing that “registration” may GRANT or EXTEND some right or added value to the consumer not already FREELY afforded to you by the government or applicable law.

NO!

The federal government does not issue or recognize ANY certification which would GRANT or EXTEND any rights to you, the consumer.

The government offers you rights and protections freely and without certification. You MUST simply comply with the regulation governing your ESA goals and purpose.

If a company offers you a “certification” it would be like getting a Burger King Crown and assuming you are now the King. You may believe whatever you want but it offers no value to anyone around you.

Likewise, certificates issued by a public, for-profit entity, entitles you to a piece of paper for your personal gratification. It does NOT GRANT or EXTEND any rights to you, the consumer.

Your can dog can receive any certificate from any public entity. That certificate is of ZERO value to the public and grants you NO rights or protections.

YES!

If your goal is to fly with your ESA or live with your ESA in a complex or housing development protected by the FHA.

You can simply COMPLY with their requirements and you are than protected under the relevant law.

There is nothing you can PAY for to become compliant – EXCEPT – for having an ESA Letter from a certified psychiatry (or similar) professional.

Our Opinion, YES!

ESA certifiers clearly mean to mislead the public into believing that “certificates” GRANT or EXTEND some right to the consumer not already FREELY afforded to you by the government or applicable law.

ESA Basics

An emotional support dog is a dog that provides comfort and support in forms of affection and companionship for an individual suffering from various mental and emotional conditions. An emotional support dog is not required to perform any specific tasks for disability like service dogs are. There are meant solely for emotional stability and unconditional love.

Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder/mood disorder, panic attacks, fear/phobias and other psychological and emotional conditions. 

Legal protections for ESA’s are limited. Take our ESA course to learn what protections are available to ESA’s.

 

Yes, of course. Anyone can have an emotional support dog. Does that mean you are protected by federal or private regulations? 

That depends.

There are a few regulations that support ESA’s. They include FHA regulations, Air Carrier Access Act, and some college dorm policies.

These protections often require a therapist or doctor’s letter for validation of need.

Click here to get connect with an ESA psychology expert for a risk free evaluation.

Federal law requires individuals with an Emotional Support Dog to provide a valid letter (dated within the past 12 months) from a doctor or mental health professional recommending the use of their animal. This letter may be requested from your building manager/landlord or airline personnel.

If you do not have a letter use this link to connect with an evaluator in your state.

You can often have your ESA Letter issued in less than 24 hours.

Airline personnel and/or building manager/landlords may ask for a note, written by a doctor or mental health professional, recommending the use of an Emotional Support Animal. It may be from your physician, psychiatrist, therapist, or licensed clinical social worker (LCSW). To be valid, the letter must be current (dated within the past 12 months) and updated annually.

Click here to get an ESA Letter Evaluation.

Click here to work with a coach to help you get your Airline or FHA paperwork in order.

Please do note that while emotional support animals do not require specific training for one’s disability, they must have basic obedience training and not misbehave in public.

Emotional Support Animals are protected under federal law by the Fair Housing Amendment Act (FHAA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which protects the handler’s rights in housing and air travel, respectively.

ESA’s are NOT protected under federal law to have access to public places; including but not limited to, restaurants, public and taxi transport, schools, and most common public access areas.

To get the most protection afforded by the Federal Government your dog must comply with ADA guidelines to access public spaces.

ESA’s do NOT have the same protections as Service Dogs under the ADA guidelines.

Click here to learn more.

There are no regulations regarding training that your “ESA”dog needs to go through in order to be considered an emotional support dog. 

Keep in mind that your dog needs to be trained to behave properly in public settings to meet Airline and FHA guidelines.

Work with Open Range to get task training for your ESA dog and you can increase your protections to those afforded by the Federal ADA guidelines.

  • Comforting the handler with their presence
  • Providing a sense of focus and purpose in its handler
  • Improving the handler’s self-esteem
  • Reducing stress
  • Flies with handler in cabin for free (with proper qualifications)
  • Lives with handler in housing for free (with proper qualifications)

ESA Letters

An ESA Letter MAY be requested from your building manager/landlord and is often required for airline travel.

If you do not have a letter use this link to connect with an evaluator in your state.

You can often have your ESA Letter issued in less than 24 hours.

No, and we urge extreme caution when using an online programs to retrieve an ESA Letter.

Click here to connect with a certified psychologist and get your ESA Letter Evaluation risk Free.

Flying with ESA's

Are there any limitation when flying with an ESA?

Yes, as of 2019 many airlines have increased their requirements and reduced overall access to ESA’s.

Here are some updates:

 

  • ESA’s must be acknowledged as having the proper training to behave in public.
  • Many airlines have imposed a 50lb weight limitation on ESA’s.
Airlines have the final say as to whether or not your dog is allowed on a plane.
 
ESA’s are NOT protected by ADA guidelines.

Click here to learn how you can lift any limitations for your ESA dog.

 

Common requests from airlines:

  • ESA Letter
  • Personal erification of Behavior and Obedience Training
  • Veterinary Health Certificate

Click here for a list of airline specific PDF’s.

Click here for a risk free ESA Letter Evaluation.

Click here to learn how you can lift any limitations for your ESA dog.

Yes. We easy access copies provided by the airlines available here. 

Click here for airline PDF’s.

Housing with ESA's

Your landlord must give reasonable accommodations to an ESA.

This translates:

  • Yes, you can have your ESA.
  • The landlord may wave some fees associated with “pets” in the complex or housing.

The landlord may ask for certain documentation:

  • Verification of “need” in the form of an ESA Letter.
Click here to get your ESA Letter Evaluation risk free.

Yes!

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