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

Please note: This law only applies to dogs. 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.

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.

 

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 prior to obtaining an ESA letter. This may make it difficult for anyone in a hurry to legitimize their emotional support animal with an ESA letter.

 

 

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