Looks like the Golden State needs to see legitimate emotional support animal documentation. – Chaz Stevens, ESAD Intl. Founder & CEO
BOCA RATON, Fla., December 31, 2021 – On January 1, 2022, a long overdue California law goes into effect cracking down on fraudulent emotional support animals.
Sponsored by Guide Dogs for the Blind and Canine Companions for Independence, the new law takes aim at the exploding number of falsely registered dangerous dogs, bogus certificates and registrations, and unscrupulous mental health and medical providers.
Analysis Of California’s AB-468 Legislation
Sadly, “the emergence of ESAs has led to an increase in the fraudulent selling and subsequent misrepresenting of emotional support dogs as service dogs.” Service animal training typically runs northward of $25,000, yet myriad online sites sell $25 certificates, all while offering “free registration.”
Highlights from AB-468 include:
- Emotional support animals (ESA’s) are NOT service animals. Service animals are individually trained to perform a task on queue or work directly related to an individual’s disability.
ESAs require no training, rather they provide a sense of wellbeing, fulfillment, companionship, or lessened anxiety for their handler.
- ESAs have few legal rights under law, and are not allowed to accompany their handler in public places.
- Under California law, individuals fraudulently misrepresenting your animal as a guide, signal, or service dog can be found guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment not exceeding 6 months, by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
- Revised and improved standards combating the blatant false advertising of false documentation and accessories.
Key Points And Penalties Under New CA ESA Law
AB-468 has three main components aimed at cracking down on ESA fraud:
- A person or business that sells or provides a dog for use as an emotional support dog must provide written notice – in at least 12-point bold type, on the receipt or a separate paper – to the buyer or recipient of the dog stating that (1) the dog does NOT have the special training required to qualify as a guide, signal, or service dog; (2) the dog is NOT entitled to the rights and privileges accorded by law to a guide, signal, or service dog; and (3) knowingly and fraudulently representing oneself to be the owner or trainer of any canine licensed as, to be qualified as, or identified as, a guide, signal, or service dog is a misdemeanor.
- A person or business that sells or provides a certificate, identification, tag, vest, leash, or harness for an emotional support animal will also be required to provide the same written notice to the buyer or recipient.
- Violation of these written notice requirements or knowingly and fraudulently representing, selling, or offering for sale, or attempting to represent, sell, or offer for sale, an emotional support dog as being entitled to the rights and privileges accorded by law to a guide, signal, or service dog, is subject to a civil penalty of $500 for the first violation, $1,000 for the second, and $2,500 for third and subsequent violations.
- Also, under the new CA law, health care practitioners are prohibited from providing documentation relating to an individual’s need for an emotional support dog unless the health care practitioner (1) holds a valid, active, license to provide professional services within the scope of the license in the jurisdiction where the documentation is provided; (2) establishes a client-provider relationship with the individual for at least 30 days prior to providing the documentation, (3) completes a clinical evaluation of the individual regarding the need for an emotional support dog, and (4) provides notice to the individual that knowingly and fraudulently representing oneself to be the owner or trainer of any canine licensed as, to be qualified as, or identified as, a guide, signal, or service dog is a misdemeanor. Violating these requirements subjects the health care practitioner to discipline from the licensing board.
Hopefully, this will be the beginning of more widespread recognition of the fraud that is currently rampant.
CEO Chaz Stevens Speaks Out
“This industry of mine is full of bogus operators,” said Chaz Stevens, founder of ESAD Intl. “I was able to ‘register’ an emotional support cactus. Like Illinois and Missouri, and hopefully soon in my home state of Florida, I’m tickled pink to see California take a step in the right direction. We’re always ready to rise in support of any reasonable legislation that follows suit.”
Since 2015, Stevens’ Boca Raton, FL-based ESAD Intl. has been connecting clients with licensed clinicians who provide animal-assisted therapy and emotional support animal letter of recommendations.
“I’m hoping the next step is the tightening of ethics on the clinical side. Really get a clinician’s skin in the game. In the end, it’s about helping those truly in need, while weeding out the ethically flexible.”
“AB-468 is a great first step for California at large.”
ESAD Intl. strongly suggests that clients do not seek counseling or assessment for the sole purpose of obtaining an ESA dog letter for housing.
About ESAD Intl.
Across North America, Europe, and Asia, ESAD Intl’s team of licensed local mental health counselors provide emotional support animal services thru online and in-person sessions.
Name: Chaz Stevens, Founder & CEO