What are Emotional Support Animals?
Emotional Support Animals (ESA) are animals that provide emotional support and comfort to those with a mental or physical disability. Emotional Support Animals are sometimes referred to as “assist animals” or “therapy animals.”
There is no formal certification process for these animals, but there are many organizations that provide guidelines for what types of animals can be used as emotional support animals.
Emotional Support Animals have been recognized in the United States by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) since 1990. Emotional Support Animals may be a service animal, working animal, or therapy animal under the ADA.
While there is no certification process for Emotional Support Animals, some states require special identification cards or licenses for these animals in order to protect the rights of all individuals with disabilities who rely on them.
In Georgia, Emotional Support Animals are not protected under the ADA because they do not qualify as service animals under the law. However, they may be protected under state law if they meet certain criteria established by each state that allows them to be legally classified as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). The requirements vary from state to state and depend on whether your ESA qualifies as a service animal or working animal under state law.
Emotional Support Animals Vs. Service Animals
Emotional Support Animals are sometimes confused with service animals. However, they are different. Service animals assist people with disabilities by performing tasks that the person cannot perform for him or herself. Service animals include guide dogs, hearing dogs, seizure alert dogs, and psychiatric service animals. The ADA defines a service animal as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.”
Laws Regarding Emotional Support Animal in Georgia
The process of acquiring an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) certification in Georgia can be very frustrating and confusing.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides some general guidelines for Emotional Support Animals, but there are no specific laws for the certification process. There is no government agency that is responsible for this process.
Instead, the regulation of Emotional Support Animals comes from individual states and local municipalities. In order to acquire an Emotional Support Animal certification in Georgia, a person must first have a physical or mental disability and then prove that their emotional support animal helps them to perform everyday tasks that are restricted by their physical or mental disability.
Some general rules about Emotional Support Animals in Georgia:
- An Emotional Support Animal must be certified by a licensed professional (such as a physician or psychologist).
- The individual must have a written diagnosis from their physician regarding their disabilities.
- The letter of diagnosis includes affirmation that the emotional support animal provides support and assistance in alleviating the patients’ symptoms.
- The physician must have a practice license in Georgia.