Areas of Protection
Federal protection for people with psychiatric disabilities requiring ESAs is limited to housing and commercial air travel. There are two federal statutes that provide federal protection against housing discrimination and one federal statute that provides protection on commercial airlines. For housing, there is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA), and for commercial air travel there is the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (ACAA). “Emotional support animal” is legal terminology and defines rights to owners by the FHAA and the ACAA.
California law provides similar housing protection as the federal statutes in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). FEHA is enforced by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) entitles individuals with disabilities to take their service animals with them into public places. ESAs are not considered service animals under the ADA, however, and therefore not afforded that right unless it’s a place where pets are allowed or local laws offer that protection. Contrary to popular belief, there are no legal protections for disabled people to bring their ESA’s inside commercial establishments.
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