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When You Need an Emotional Support Animal

Emotional Support Animals

#512attorney #LynchLaw #LynchpinToSucess Dec. 31, 2022

Definition of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides its owner emotional support. Although the animal has not received any formal or specialized training, the primary function of an ESA is to bring a sense of calm to individuals suffering from emotional issues or mental illness. Those who benefit from and are comforted by ESAs often suffer from less restrictive problems such as anxiety, PTSD, or depression. 

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) Can Provide Comfort

Science confirms that animals often have a beneficial impact on people who are stressed or who are experiencing emotional conditions, mental illness, or mood disorders. For individuals with these issues, the presence of a comfort animal can help alleviate stress and increase their overall sense of well-being. The company can provide people suffering from emotional or mental issues with the calming support they need to cope with the challenges of everyday life. When individuals deal with chronic anxiety, ongoing depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, ESAs can help mitigate many associated symptoms.

 

Emotional Support Animal in Texas: Specific Protection

To be legally considered an (ESA) in Texas, the assistance animal must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional. According to Texas law, ESAs are animals that provide safety and comfort to individuals with a mental illness. Two federal laws protect ESAs:

  • The Air Carrier Access Act 

  • The Fair Housing Act. 

  1. The Air Carrier Access Act

The Air Carrier Access Act provides that airlines recognize a passenger's need to travel with an ESA. Most airlines can accommodate passengers by allowing their assistance animal to join them in the cabin. There are, however, specific rules that must be followed:

  • The owner will out all the mandatory documents required by the airline.

  • The owner will provide an ESA letter from your licensed mental health professional.

  • The owner will provide a 48-hour notice to the airline stating that you will be traveling with an emotional support animal.

  • Your ESA must be able to behave well while in a public setting.

  1. The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) states that people with disabilities must be provided with reasonable accommodations. This means a landlord cannot discriminate against someone who needs to reside with their emotional support animal (ESA), even if the landlord has a no-pet policy. 

Do I Need an ESA Letter?

An ESA letter is a legal document written by a mental health professional that provides proof that you suffer from an emotional and mental disability and require the support of an ESA. The ESA letter will distinguish your emotional assistance animal from a pet and state that your ESA is an integral component of your treatment plan. Only a licensed mental health professional can issue an ESA letter.

What Every ESA letter Should Include: 

o   The ESA should be dated and written on official letterhead

o   The letter will include the name of the licensed mental health professional,

o   The type of medical license and the date it was issued,

o   The name, address, and phone number of the practice,

o   The state of the therapist's jurisdiction,

o   The letter must identify the mental health professional as your therapist and indicate they are treating you for a disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

o   The type of support animal.

Employment Laws

An emotional support animal in Texas is not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This means employers are under no legal obligation to provide accommodations to owners of ESAs. However, if you are an employee who believes animal-assisted therapy will help you to improve your performance at work, then you can request that your employer make an exception. Many employers see the value of animal-assisted treatment, and some are willing to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Many animals may be allowed at work because the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to accommodate “reasonable” accommodations and, in some circumstances, assistance animals may be a reasonable thing for the employer to accommodate.

Housing Laws 

In Texas, people with disabilities can ask for reasonable accommodation. Assistance animals are generally protected under the Fair Housing Act, which states that persons with disabilities, either mental or physical impairment, will be allowed to bring their ESA or service animal into a home that otherwise has a "no-pets" policy.

Exceptions to Housing-Related Rules

While most landlords have no issue providing reasonable accommodation to those with mental illness, a landlord has the right to reject your emotional support animal under certain conditions. 

  1. The emotional support animal is a threat to the landlord and other tenants.

  2. The emotional support animal is causing physical damage to the landlord's property. According to the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, your landlord can reject an emotional support animal if:

ESA Campus Housing

ESAs are only permitted in university housing. According to the University of Texas, an emotional support animal will only be allowed access to on-campus housing. ESAs are prohibited in other campus buildings, lecture halls, or public settings.

Fines for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal

The misrepresentation of a service animal in Texas may result in fines of up to $300 and up to 30 hours of community service for a non-profit organization.

Finding a Suitable ESA

ESAs are companions who provide comfort for owners who are struggling with emotional or mental illness. Emotional support animals do not require specialized training. So, when you seek an animal to be a part of your comfort support system, you should begin by identifying the animal that makes you feel at ease.

Your next step is to check out pet shelters and animal rescue facilities in your area:

The Lynch Law Firm Supports Texas Unites for Animals

Natalie Lynch, one of Austin’s foremost labor and employment attorneys and the managing member of the Lynch Law Firm, recently shared her time and expertise at the Texas Unites for Animals Conference. The annual conference is the heart of Texas Unites’ mission. Every year, over five hundred animal welfare professionals from across the state of Texas and the surrounding region come together for quality professional development and networking opportunities.

Texas Unites is an animal welfare support organization serving Texas and its surrounding states. The organization was created by a merger of two well-respected organizations, the North Central Texas Animal Shelter Coalition and the Texas Federation of Humane Societies, both with a long history of supporting the animal welfare community. Founded in 2015, Texas Unite provides information, support, and guidance by enhancing professionalism in the animal welfare industry, strengthening the human-companion bond, and promoting respect and compassion for all life. 

The information in this article is primarily compiled by and inspired by Randy Turner with Natalie’s immense gratitude. 

As an attorney with a special place in her heart for animals of all shapes and sizes, Natalie Lynch was happy to donate her time to the conference last fall. Her presentation at the event focused on employment issues surrounding shelter professionals and volunteers. She covered various topics, including the distinctions between volunteers and employees, laws that get ignored, free speech and public space, wage structures, discrimination, culture, and whistleblowing. 

About Attorney Natalie Lynch

In addition to being the managing attorney of the Lynch Law Firm, Natalie is a credentialed investigator and dispute resolution mediator with many years of experience working with businesses to help minimize employment risk factors. She is the only consulting and credentialed investigator in Central Texas who conducts third-party investigations into allegations of harassment, discrimination, hostile work environment, and other issues. 

The Lynch Law Firm Team Will Navigate Your Legal Issue from Inception to Resolution 

If you have a labor and employment law matter, the team of attorneys at the Lynch Law Firm is equipped with the experience and expertise to help you find a resolution. In addition to working with clients on labor and employment matters, the Lynch Law Firm team can also assist you in developing the following:

o Workplace Investigations

o Employee Manuals

o Performance Evaluation Materials

o Employment Contracts

o Legal Agreements for non-disclosure, non-compete, and Severance

Call the Lynch Law Firm Now for a Free Consultation 

Call Natalie Lynch at the Lynch Law Firm now to schedule a free consultation. Together you can discuss problems that currently exist in the workplace and how to avoid issues before they happen. You can contact Natalie here or email her at nlynch@lynchlaw.com