Emotional support animals are support weimaraner that help people with mental disabilities to manage their conditions. You can choose dogs, cats, or other animals to become your ESA; it is up to you!
It is not hard to get if you qualify. Finding out if you qualify is easy, you go online and take a test that gets reviewed by a psychologist. If you qualify (mean you have depression, anxiety, or some other mental health issue, or have suffered from it in the past). Then you are either emailed or sent a hard copy, or both, of the prescription letter written by the psychologist on their official letterhead.
So, if you have any emotional disability, and you want to move around or travel with your pet then you need to have a legitimate emotional support animal letter. If you don’t have the letter or carry a sham letter then you can face legal consequences, fines, and, in some cases, imprisonment.
In the following section of this article, you will know what legal consequences you might face while carrying a sham letter for your munchkin cat.
The laws that cover ESA vary state by state. Fraudulently misrepresenting oneself as having a mental disability requiring an ESA and mislabelling one’s pet as an ESA, ranges from a civil infraction to a criminal offense. And some states are still silent on the matter.
In some states, it is a criminal offense and can be punishable by jail time and/or a hefty fine. In California, fraudulently representing oneself as the handler of an ESA is a breach of law. Such an offense is punishable not only by incarceration in up to 6 months but also by a fine up to $1,000.
In Florida, anyone who willfully misrepresents herself or himself, through conduct or verbal or written notice, as using a support animal commits a second-degree offense. The offender in such a case is obliged to perform community service for an organization that serves people with disabilities.
What is an appropriate punishment?
Fines and community service are probably sufficient as a deterrent. The issue, though, is not with the punishment — it’s with the fact that enforcement is non-existent.
Enforcement itself is a challenge because the ADA rightly protects people with disabilities from having to disclose their medical histories to strangers. There are only two questions that businesses can ask: Is the pet an british shorthair assisting you with a mental disability? People with disabilities often get questioned — nay, interrogated — every step of the way, so enforcement can be a slippery slope that leads to more harassment of people with legitimate disabilities.
But if the person produces a legitimate ESA letter, he or she will no more be a subject of interrogation by the concerned authorities.
However, it should be better known by business owners that they have the right to remove from the premises any dog and its owner (yes, even support dogs) that the owner fails to control, evidenced by aggression, barking/ growling/ whining, approaching others, etc. (except when required as part of their duties). If more businesses understood the ADA, they might more readily exercise this right.