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What is California’s Emotional Support Animal Law AB 468?

California law AB 468, adopted in 2022, requires state residents to have a 30-day relationship with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) before they can be provided with an ESA letter. Pettable can help you navigate this challenge and make getting an ESA simple.

Susana Bradford
May 29, 2024
May 18, 2023
8 minute read
Updated By
Matt Fleming
February 16, 2024
Expert Reviewed By:
May 18, 2023
August 18, 2021
8 minute read
February 16, 2024
In 2022, California implemented a new ESA law. Stay up-to-date with the policy changes so you can know your rights and protections as an ESA owner.

As the owner of an emotional support animal, you have rights that are protected by federal laws that take effect in every state throughout the country. If you live in California, you have even more protection than most other states, as California has additional laws that are quite accommodating toward owners of emotional support animals and other assistance animals. 

With some recent developments, a new California emotional support animal law will go into effect at the start of the new year that may change some processes for ESA animals and their owners. Let’s break down the new law and all that it entails.

California Emotional Support Animal Laws

California emotional support animal laws require landlords to allow tenants to keep an emotional support animal if they have a disability. However, it is important to note that emotional support animals are not considered service animals and therefore, are not granted the same rights under the law.

What is California’s Emotional Support Animal Law AB-468?

In 2022, the Golden State enacted California Law AB-468, which is aimed at clarifying emotional support animal requirements and preventing common scams perpetrated by businesses selling bogus ESA credentials. It establishes more requirements than those associated with federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA) and provides clarity over the difference between an emotional support animal and a service dog. Any individual trying to pass an ESA off as a service animal or businesses trying to sell an ESA with fraudulent credentials are subject to fines of up to $2,500 for multiple offenses.

Here's a quick explanation of how California's AB 468 affects the ESA letter process:

What does the AB-468 ESA law in California require?

California Law AB-468 establishes new requirements for the issuance of ESA letters, covering the mental health professionals writing them, patients receiving them, and companies purporting to sell them. For mental health professionals, they must be certified in California and have an established relationship with the patient. Also, any business selling dogs as ESAs must specify that the canine is not considered a service animal, just a support animal, which is not subject to as many federal or state protections.

Additional Requirements for Writing ESA Letters in California

The law requires disabled persons to have a minimum 30-day relationship with their licensed mental health professional (LMHP), who must be certified to practice in California. This ensures individuals are properly diagnosed before receiving an official ESA letter and prevents them from falling for illegitimate ESA product providers. The LMHP must have an active license to provide professional medical services in the state of California, and their ESA letter must come on their professional letterhead with their license number. They must also provide the patient with written clarification that an ESA is not legally considered a service animal and is not protected by the ADA.

Here's a point-by-point breakdown of what California's AB-468 ESA law stipulates for LMHPs.

  • They must hold a legitimate and active license. In the ESA letter, they must include their license number, the effective date, their jurisdiction, and the type of professional license. 
  • They must be licensed to provide professional services within the scope of the license in the jurisdiction in which the documentation is provided. 
  • They must establish a professional relationship with the client at least 30 days before providing the ESA letter. 
  • They must conduct a clinical evaluation of the client to assess their need for an emotional support pet.
  • They must provide a verbal or written notice to the individual similar to the sales notices explained above – stating that an emotional support animal does not qualify as a service animal, and that misrepresenting the support animal as a service animal is against the law.

The change here that affects emotional support pet owners the most is the new requirement to establish a client-provider relationship 30 days before obtaining an ESA letter. This may make it difficult for anyone in a hurry to legitimize their emotional support animal with an ESA letter.

Sales Notice Requirements in the New California ESA Law

Also, any business purporting to provide dogs as ESAs must also provide a written statement clarifying that the canine is not a service animal and thus isn’t protected by the ADA or the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The latter law protects service dogs in air travel; ESAs are not covered by this regulation. Also, registration or certification (outside of an ESA letter) is not required for ESAs, so any company selling ID cards, certificates, vests, or harnesses for “support animals” must provide written clarification that the animal is not a service dog.

woman with a dog looks into the distance

What are the current California ESA laws?

Federal and state laws can sometimes have significant differences, but California state law only has a few significant differences from federal law in regards to support animals. Many California laws regarding emotional support animals match those that are set at the federal law level, so they tend to be similar to those throughout the country. Let’s go into detail about each California law so you know your current protections and rights when you possess a valid ESA letter for California.

California ESA Housing Laws

California laws for emotional support animals for housing are much the same as federal regulations put in place by the Fair Housing Act and HUD, so for California federal and state law are in line in many ways. This law states that landlords cannot discriminate against those with disabilities, and therefore cannot deny a potential tenant who is the owner of an emotional support pet. And, of course, you must have an emotional or mental health disability, as verified by an LMHP – such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, or bipolar disorder – to qualify for a support pet. Essentially, California's state law aligns with the federal Fair Housing Act.

According to the federal and state law in California regarding housing providers for emotional support animals, tenants only need their ESA letter for housing. As long as you have a valid ESA letter for housing, your landlord must make reasonable accommodations for your support animal, regardless of the property’s current pet policies or restrictions. They cannot charge you any extra fees for possessing an emotional support pet (even if other pet owners are typically charged a deposit or fee). Your housing provider can only refuse if your animal poses a direct, demonstrated threat to the safety or health of others.

California ESA Laws for Employment

California’s employment laws regarding emotional support animals are unique from most other states – they tend to have more friendly policies in this area. In California, individuals are, in most cases, allowed to bring an emotional support animal to work. An employer must make reasonable accommodations for support animals in the workplace. As long as the employee has a valid ESA letter, they are protected under California’s Fair Housing and Employment Act. 

California ESA Laws for Travel

When it comes to traveling with support pets, California has adopted the federal Air Carrier Access Act, which, as of some updates in early 2021, no longer requires airlines to accept emotional support animals. It now states that each airline can determine whether or not it will accommodate emotional support animals on board their flights. To find out if you can fly with your companion animal, contact your airlines ahead of time. 

In California, support animals are also not required to be admitted on public transportation. Unlike service dogs that have protected access to public establishments and transportation, most ESAs will not be admitted on public transportation.

How to Get an ESA Letter in California in 2024

To get an official ESA letter in California, all you need to do is verify that you have a qualifying mental health disorder and get diagnosed by a state-certified mental health professional. You must first establish a medical relationship with your LMHP for at least 30 days before your ESA letter can be issued. To make the process easier, let Pettable guide the way; take our easy online questionnaire to get started and we’ll take it from there!

Does this new law apply to Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs)?

No – the new law applies only to emotional support animals. This is because psychiatric service dogs are already allowed access to most public places. PSDs, while they help people with mental or emotional conditions like support animals, are generally considered service dogs because they need specific training to help their owners. The current problem the new law seeks to resolve is the fact that people too often misrepresent their emotional support animals as being service animals when they are not. 

If you think your support animal could better serve you as a psychiatric service dog, and you’d like to pursue this, click the button below:

How do you qualify for a Psychiatric Service Animal?

To qualify for a psychiatric service animal, you must have an animal that is specifically trained to complete a task or tasks that help alleviate an aspect of your mental or emotional disabilities. This training can come from a professional dog trainer or yourself, with a little guidance.

If you wish to self-train your dog, we offer an online PSD training program that you can complete on your timeline. The course will supply you with all you need to successfully train your dog as a PSD.

Interestingly, though the standards of training for the dog are more rigorous, the mental or emotional disabilities that qualify one for a psychiatric service animal are the same that qualify for an emotional support animal.

These disabilities include: 

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Personality disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • ADHD
  • Schizophrenia

This disorder must be diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). In addition, it is recommended that the LMHP issues you a PSD letter to certify your need for a psychiatric service dog.

How To Get a Psychiatric Service Dog With Pettable

After completing our quick, 3-minute assessment, you will know whether you qualify for a psychiatric service dog or if you first need to speak with a mental health professional. Pettable can connect you with a clinician to assess your mental health needs, if necessary. Once it is verified that you qualify for a psychiatric service dog, you will be able to purchase access to Pettable’s PSD training program 

Pettable’s psychiatric service dog training program will allow you to learn how to train your dog to perform assistive tasks for your mental health disability and behave obediently in public settings while also providing you with the confidence needed to train your dog at your own pace. The course is entirely online and on-demand meaning you can complete it wherever and whenever suits you and is most comfortable for your pet. To get started, take our online quiz here.

Frequently asked questions on California ESA laws

Do I have to tell my landlord I have an ESA in California?

If your housing provider has a no-pet policy, you must inform your landlord that you own an emotional support animal. This can protect your right to be accommodated, without having to pay any extra fees – and regardless of the landlord’s policies or opinions. 

Technically, if your housing provider is pet-friendly, you do not have to tell your landlord you have an emotional support pet. However, it will still probably be helpful to let them know, as this can waive any breed restrictions or pet fees that your landlord typically has in place for pet owners.

Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal in California?

No, a landlord cannot deny an emotional support animal in California if you have a valid ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional in your state. 

When do I tell my landlord about my ESA in California?

You can let your landlord know about your support animal before OR after you sign your lease. Or, if you are getting a new emotional support animal and will still be living in the same place, inform your landlord as soon as you have received your ESA letter.

Could my landlord charge a fee for my emotional support animal in California?

In California, your landlord cannot ever require you to pay a pet deposit, higher rent, additional security deposit, or liability insurance because you own an emotional support animal.

Keep in mind, however, that emotional support pet owners are still always liable to pay for repairs to any damage caused by their animal.

Can you have more than one ESA in California?

Yes. There is no limit to the number of emotional support animals you can have in California. However, each support animal must help you with your disability in a specific way, and each must be covered by your ESA letter from an LMHP. In addition, your request must be reasonable (i.e. bringing 5 Great Danes into a California studio apartment likely won’t be reasonable).

Can my California landlord place any restrictions on my emotional support animal? 

Yes, a landlord in California can place some reasonable conditions on their tenants who are owners of ESAs. These are simply requests that make sure the animal is under the owner’s control. Some conditions may include things like disposal of animal waste and proper animal behavior that isn’t a nuisance to the housing provider or other tenants. 

Do I need a certificate, ID card, or vest for my emotional support animal in California?

No. Accessories – such as special certificates, ID cards, vests, harnesses, tags, or leashes – are not necessary to legitimize an ESA. All you need to prove your emotional support animal is legitimate is the same written notice as other states and a valid ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. Misleading ESA-related certificates are unnecessary.

How is a Psychiatric service dog (PSD) different from other service dogs in California?

Service dogs are all trained to perform specific tasks, so their training will vary according to the needs of their owners. PSDs are trained to help people by checking rooms, applying pressure with their paws to relieve anxiety, or retrieving medication. Guide dogs help visually impaired people. Guide dogs often wear harnesses and guide their owners safely around obstacles.

Hearing dogs, also called signal dogs, alert their owners when they hear a significant sound, like a doorbell, cell phone chime, fire alarm, or crying. Mobility dogs help people who struggle to move independently from one place to another. Mobility dogs offer support to people moving from one place to another, whether they're on foot, in a wheelchair, using a walker, or having trouble balancing.

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.

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