Emotional support dogs were never intended to take the place of service animals. When the idea of emotional support dogs (and other pets) was first introduced, it was to provide people who suffered from anxiety and loneliness with a companion at home. The term was first coined to help people who needed a pet to improve their quality of life to work around housing restrictions.
Emotional support pets started out as a really good idea. The problem is that people have taken it too far. Rather than simply using them at home, they have started bringing them to stores, doctor’s appointments, and on airplanes. If anyone questions whether they can bring the dog into the facility, the person simply states that the animal is a service animal and allowed to go anywhere.
Things are changing in California.
The law went into effect at the start of January 2022. It’s designed to create a bigger distinction between service animals and emotional support animals. Not only will it impact pet owners who are trying to pass their emotional support pet off as a service animal, but it also takes a swipe at the business that fraudulently sells ESA-related certifications and merchandise.
One of the good things about the law is that it provides a specific definition of what an emotional support animal is. As of 2022, in California, an emotional support pet is:
“a dog or animal that is not trained to do any specific action related to one’s disability. Instead, the owner derives therapeutic benefits simply through the animal’s companionship. An individual emanates calmness, safety, and an improved sense of well-being through the animal’s presence.”