Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Emotional support animals (ESA) are generating both praise and protest across the country as they move into no-pets-allowed condo developments and gain free access aboard planes.
But one point is clear: They have the law on their side.
For people like Pat Picavet and Kay Valente, ESA designation has been a saving grace.
Picavet, of Ruskin, Fla., has stage IV breast cancer that's spread to her bones, and she recently won a battle to keep Marley, a 60-pound Labrador Retriever, in her condo at a development that has a 25-pound weight restriction on pets.
Valente, of Boca Raton, Fla., also won a lawsuit against her homeowners' association. She lives with Boots, a 47-pound Labrador Retriever-Shepherd mix, who tops the condo’s pet weight limit. Valente obtained a pet prescription from her neurologist, claiming Boots helps her with a seizure disorder.
“Boots is so sweet,” says Valente, who faced backlash from neighbors who yelled and even cursed at her. “I could be having the worst day, and Boots will come over, lean into me and I become relaxed.”
People like Carol Roquemore and Toni Eames are also barking in protest over the lack of standardized regulation in relation to ESA designation. Roquemore was diagnosed with polio as a child and is the founder of Canine Support Teams, a nonprofit group based in Menifee, Calif., that trains and provides service dogs to people with all kinds of disabilities. Eames is legally blind and serves as president of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners.
“These ESA dogs are untrained and some haven’t even had basic obedience training,” declares Roquemore. “They are hurting those of us who provide genuine service dogs. Unfortunately, people get confused and think these ESA dogs are service dogs. They are not.”
“The real problem is that three federal agencies — HUD, FAA and ADA — all have different regulations and that is just adding to the confusion," adds Eames, who relies on her service dog, Keebler, who was trained by Guide Dogs for the Blind. "Plus, there are websites where you can buy phony service-dog vests, ID cards and certificates. Owners of trained dogs are getting increasingly angry at pet owners who pass off their animals as service dogs by using phony credentials.”
Then there are folks like Maida Genser, founder of Citizens for Pets in Condos, a nonprofit group based in South Florida that educates landlords and condo association directors on the benefits of having responsible pet owners in their units.
“I don’t believe in size or breed discrimination,” says Genser, whose advisory board includes veterinarians. “With a lot of condo associations, it's simply an old way of thinking. Instead, it should be based on an animal’s temperament, how well trained he is and how responsible the pet parent is. It goes without saying that pets provide us with emotional support, and in today's stressful climate, having their emotional support is welcome.”
In the legal arena, attorney Cara Thomas, who's based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., represents condo associations in legal disputes with residents. Under the Florida and federal fair housing acts, Thomas says that a person is entitled to an ESA dog to “ameliorate a physical or mental impairment,” provided that the need is stated in writing by the individual’s physician.
“The difficulty we have is that we are not physicians and cannot diagnose any owner,” says Thomas. “If they can provide evidence to support that they do suffer from a disability and need that dog, we will work with the owner and the board. But a board will file a lawsuit if it feels that it is not a legitimate claim, that the resident is abusing the situation.”
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
After rescuers got a 150-pound stranded
sea lion into a carrier, kind beachgoers
volunteered to help them lift it.
Whether your dog is ball-obsessed or
strong and powerful, here’s how to match
him with the perfect kind of exercise.
We’re sharing tips for helping prevent
perils like heatstroke and drowning, plus
what to do if a disaster does…
People get goats for companionship,
milk or even keeping the weeds trimmed.
Here's how to best care for them.
The medium-size Mudi is a sheepdog
who tends to make an intelligent, active
and easy-to-groom companion.
Parasites are no fun for dogs. Learn how
to protect your canine from heartworms,
hookworms, whipworms and more.
A dog diagnosed with the dangerous parasite may have to take antibiotics, get drug injections and stop exercising.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
Visit HealthyPet magazine for interviews with pet-loving celebrities, health advice from our experts, training tips and…
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.