Emotional support animals are widely known for their important role in improving people’s mental health and physical life by providing companionship, psychological support, connection, and motivation. More and more people are experiencing the therapeutic benefits of ESAs and willingly cuddle with an emotional helper against the cold in the long-lasting Canada winters.
In order to get a qualified emotional support animal, one needs to review the guidelines and requirements for ESA, as these differ from country to country. The assistance animals (classified as service animals and emotional support animals) in the United States are regulated by the federal government under the Americans with Disability Act. What are the laws about getting an ESA in Canada? Read on to learn about the laws, qualifications and certifications of ESAs!
In this article
What is an ESA in Canada?
Emotional support animals are defined as any animal that brings comfort and support to people who suffer from mental disabilities or emotional illnesses. They are not like any other companion pets as their presence may alleviate stress and restore mental well-being without having to receive special training. The definition of emotional support animals is roughly similar worldwide, but the relevant laws protecting the rights of emotional support animals vary in the country or province in which you live.
Canadian laws on Emotional Support Animals
You should be aware that service animals and emotional support animals are not the same, and you should separate their rights and laws before considering an ESA. In both the US and Canada, the laws for emotional support animals are limited to two main areas: traveling and living with their owners. Canadian ESA owners are required to abide by the laws when taking advantage of the benefits of an ESA.
1. Traveling with your ESA
The Canadian Transportation Agency protects disabled individuals against discrimination during air travel by establishing the Air Transportation Regulations and Aircraft Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities. In other words, flying with your emotional support animal is something that is achievable and respected.
In general, passengers with disabilities are legally allowed to carry their assistance animals in the cabin without incurring additional charges. The animals should have a direct positive impact on your health and be well trained or obedient in public areas. If your ESA behaves rudely and puts other people in danger, this law will not apply to it. There are a few things to keep in mind if you are planning to travel with an ESA.
• You must read the ESA regulations of the airline you wish to book so that you can review everything that is specifically requested, such as papers, ESA breed restrictions and pet carriers.
• Keep in mind that every airline has its rules on the size of space that can accommodate your ESA comfortably and safely. According to the WestJet airline, this may be the space under your seat or in your lap if the animal is smaller than a two-year-old kid.
• If your ESA meets all breeds or size requirements, contact the airline and confirm all the things you should prepare. Submit your application forms and documents at least 48 hours prior to the flight.
• Please note that if you are going to take an international flight, you must inform yourself about the local laws of your destination country and observe their specific restrictions. Reconfirm with your airline whether the country accepts foreign/imported emotional support animals in the cabin and if quarantine rules apply to these animal travelers.
2. Living with your ESA
When it comes to living with your emotional support animal in Canada, it does not work the same way as in the United States. The US government claims that housing proprietors or landlords must provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities and their emotional support animals without charging additional fees.
Canadian accessibility laws vary from province to province, and the housing laws that apply specifically to all ESAs are still being created. There is no specific law that applies throughout Canada. However, there are some laws that relate to people with disabilities in almost all regions and that can in principle guarantee every disabled individual the right to live with their emotional support animal. Take a look at the laws in your province:
• New Brunswick, Brunswick, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan or Yukon
The Human Rights Act protects people with mental illnesses from discrimination when renting a home (commercial and residential units).
The Accessibilities for Ontarians with Disabilities Act and the Human Rights Code contain certain information for disabled residents. However, there are some legal details that you need to keep in mind.
• British Columbia
The Guide Dog and Service Dog Act applies only to service dogs and not to emotional support animals. No one is legally required to approve ESA housing requests, but most landlords are willing to offer tenants this opportunity merely out of compassion.
Only service animals are considered to have a legal right to housing under the Service Animal Acts, similar to British Columbia. ESAs are not subject to any specific restrictions in this area.
The Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms enables disabled people to strive for their freedom, including accommodation with their emotional helpers.
Both the Human Rights Code and the Service Animals Protection Act contain legal information to fight for housing with your ESA.
If you are looking at housing or fostering an ESA, the first thing is to look up the local laws and community policies to see if the species and breeds of your ESA are allowed. If your animal gets approved, you can bring your pet into your own home.
If you rent your house from agencies or owners and the rules for “No Pets” apply, it is advisable to communicate with them politely. Of course, you need to make sure that your pet is well behaved and obedient. Plus, submitting documents may convince the landlord and simplify the process. These include an ESA letter, a certificate of vaccination, a training proof and an ESA certificate.
However, ESAs might be prohibited to enter employment, vocational associations, business districts and other public areas, because, unlike service dogs, they are unable to cope with noisy and crowded environments.
Emotional Support Animal Qualification
Many people still do not know what the requirements are for getting an emotional support animal. Do you have these questions too? For example, “Does my anxiety qualify to have an ESA?” or “Can I certify my pet as my ESA?”
It is necessary to clarify two terms: “Emotional Support Animal requirements” and “Emotional illnesses/disabilities that deserve to be given an animal companion”.
1. Emotional Support Animal requirements
• Since ESAs do not have to perform heavy tasks to support their owner, they do not have to undergo long-term and rigorous training that is indispensable for service dogs.
• The laws do not put any restrictions on the species and breed of emotional support animals, which means that you have the freedom to decide which animal and breed you want. Frequently dogs, cats, rabbits, pigs, hamsters and birds are both household pets and adorable emotional support animals.
• Since emotional support animals can travel in the aircraft cabin or live in “No pets” housing, they may encounter different groups of people and situations. We recommended that your ESA is basically trained and obedient enough to handle most situations under your guidance. However, most airlines and landlords allow access only to ESA cats and ESA dogs, because these animals are easy to control and train, which poses less danger to other people.
2. The emotional illnesses that deserve to get an ESA
Any unhappy experience (such as warfare and accidents) may impair one’s mental health and lead to chronic psychological problems. A qualified doctor will, after several visits, evaluate your health condition and diagnose a mental illness.
The presence of an emotional support animal will encourage you to overcome fear by giving you companionship, confidence, courage, affection and dependability. That is why ESAs have been recognized as one of the most effective natural therapies in psychological treatment.
Both discomfort and severe mental disabilities can benefit from emotional helpers. Here is a list of the most common mental health issues that have been resolved by ESAs.
• Anxiety disorder: ESAs can help anxiety sufferers to face their fears and correct some deeply rooted habits of thought.
• Depression: The contagious energetic ESA is a great option for depressed patients, as their constant companionship and enthusiasm can be invaluable in restoring the sense of “winning” and rebuilding trust in life.
• PTSD: People who have experienced or witnessed terrible events can immediately experience severe anxiety and flashbacks, leading to more frequent insomnia. Building a close bond with an emotional pet can effectively reduce stress and relieve anxiety.
• Attention Deficit Disorder: Patients with ADD who find it difficult to focus attention on important tasks can calm down, cope with hyperactivity, and recover from a regulating lifestyle with the help of emotional support animals.
• Intellectual or learning disabilities: This issue may impact the mental growth of children as it hinders reading or understanding of knowledge, causing an ostracized or lonely feeling in school. ESAs can act as a dependable friend and kind instructor to make them build happiness and self-confidence.
How to get an Emotional Support Animal
If your condition meets the requirements for an ESA and your region is not ESA-prohibited, then it is time to select a perfect emotional pet for yourself.
If you currently do not have a pet, there are many ways to get one, such as rescuing from a local shelter, buying from breeders or agencies, fostering from your friends, and so on.
If you already have a pet at home and intend to let it become your ESA, the primary step is to establish a deep relationship with your pet. It is recommended that you guide your pet to comfort you by performing tasks, such as hugging you, cuddling with you, and lying in your lap.
Once you enjoy the advantages of your emotional helper, there are two important documents you should know:
• ESA letter: A licensed mental health professional will assess your condition and write a letter describing that your ESA is not just your pet, but also a real ESA who can improve your mental health.
• ESA Certification: There is no law that requires owners to register the emotional support animal, but it is an additional proof if you plan to fly with your ESA or seek accommodation together. Most airlines require travelers with an ESA to submit the image of their pet, and an ESA card that records their relationship will simplify the process. The situation is similar when you rent a house.
Getting an emotional support animal in Canada is not difficult as long as you comply with local laws and regulations of airlines and accommodation. Keep in mind that an uncontrolled and non-certified pet is not nearly as popular as an obedient and calm registered Emotional Support Animal.