Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Oakland

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 16, 2021

emotional support animal oakland skylineOwning an emotional support animal in Oakland grants certain rights of access under state and federal law. For example, your dog may accompany you on air flights and live in rented no pets policy accommodation. To qualify as an emotional support animal in Oakland, the dog must benefit your mental health as verified in writing by a licensed mental health professional. Learn more about how to become a legal ESA owner and the laws that protect you!

Emotional Support Animal in Oakland: Specific Protections

Both service animals and emotional support animals have certain legal rights in Oakland. But these rights do differ, with a service animal having the wider right of access.

It is important to understand the differences between a service animal, assistance animal, and emotional support animal, in order not to fall foul of the law. This is especially true in Oakland since the Californian law is tightening legislation and fraudulent claims are considered a criminal offense.

An emotional support animal in Oakland will be protected by two main laws—the federal Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act.

Definition of Assistance Animal

An assistance animal is an umbrella term under which service dogs and emotional support dogs shelter. The broader term encompasses the idea of animals, such as dogs or even miniature ponies, assisting those with a disability to function.

For a psychiatric disability, the dog usually benefits mental health by providing reassurance and companionship. Thus, the dog doesn’t have special training, and it’s their presence which is reassuring. Such a dog is termed an emotional support animal. (ESA)

In contrast service dogs have been trained for years to accomplish special tasks. Examples of this are opening doors, fetching things, or sounding an alarm.

So whilst service dogs and support dogs are both assistance animals, under the law, service animals have more rights.

How to get an Emotional Support Animal in Oakland: CertaPet’s simple 5 min process

If you are one of the 25% of Americans who suffer from mental health problems then getting ESA status may seem an insurmountable hurdle. But Certapet can help.

To qualify your dog does not need special training, just that you need their presence to function. To prove this it requires a letter written by a licensed healthcare professional, attesting to this need.

Simply by completing Certapet’s 5-minute pre-screening, find out if your pet qualifies or not. If the answer is yes, we will put you in touch with a licensed healthcare professional, who will conduct the necessary interview and where appropriate issue the letter.

In addition, many states now require those accompanied by an ESA to be in therapy. To this end, Certapet will arrange one pre-application therapy session followed by two more after the letter is issued.

So, if you’re ready to get an emotional support animal in Oakland, then make sure you take our pre-screening test to get started!

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

A good reason for getting your emotional support dog acknowledged, is access to air travel. For people with post-traumatic stress or similar psychiatric disability, the comforting presence of their ESA on a flight makes air travel possible.

Ordinary pets have restricted rights to accompany their owner on a flight. But under the Air Carrier Access Act) psychiatric service animals and ESA, regardless of size, can accompany their owner in the cabin. On US internal flights there is usually no extra charge for the dog. But this is not always the case on international flights.

However, be aware that air carrier will require advanced notice of your intention to fly accompanied by an ESA. Neither are the flight attendants obliged to care for the animal, so you must see to all the dog’s needs.

Employment Laws

A service dog is allowed to accompany their owner into the workplace. However, for a dog that provides a psychiatric service, this is judged on a case-by-case basis, rather than a right.

For Americans with disabilities, under the ADA (American Disabilities Act) only service dogs (and not support dogs) have a legal right to go into the workplace. Discuss your needs with the employer. Many will be sympathetic and decide on an individual basis.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

Much rented accommodation in Oakland is owned by landlords with a no pet policy. If your health and well-being are dependent on a support dog then this stipulation can seem an overwhelming barrier. Happily, a dog rendering you a psychiatric service that is recognized as an ESA is given certain rights to housing.

According to Californian law, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) makes provision for people with disabilities and their animals. The landlord is required to make fair accommodation for people with an ESA and is not permitted to decline a lease because of their dog.

But be aware if the dog is destructive or a nuisance, the landlord can revoke the contract and deny access to housing. This applies to any tenant with a service animal, not just an ESA.

ESA Campus Housing

Students that reside in campus housing (rather than renting from a private landlord)  are also protected by the FEHA. Whether a tenant in private or university housing, your ESA has a right to live with you, should your mental health require it?

If you have the ESA letter supporting this then the dog can stay.

 Exception to Rules

The Californian law goes a long way to helping those with a genuine need for an emotional support animal. But in exchange certain standards of behavior are expected in return. Even a service animal (such as a seeing dog for the blind) can be banned from public places if they misbehave.

Typical behaviors that will nullify the rights to air flight and accommodation include:

  • Excessive Barking
  • Aggression
  • Destructiveness
  • Being out of control
  • Inappropriate toileting

This last point is relevant if your ESA is a species other than a dog. Some ESAs are miniature ponies, pigs, or even chickens. If that creature would foul on a flight or cause disturbance their travel rights can be revoked. This applies to air carriers and accommodation alike.

emotional support animal in oakland airport

Punishment for misrepresenting an assistance animal

Firstly, people with a genuine mental health condition that benefits from the presence of a dog, have nothing to fear.

However, misrepresentation of a pet as an ESA is an increasingly common occurrence. This is for the obvious reason that it can enable that dog to live in accommodation that would otherwise be denied to them. In California, the authorities are increasingly cracking down on the misuse of ESA status.

In California, falsely claiming you have a service animal is considered breaking the law. This is punishable with a fine up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail. In addition, people have a moral obligation not to work the system. Falsely claiming the need for an ESA can sour the attitude of the public, towards those in genuine need.

5 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

Be aware of the following facts in order to have the best experience with an emotional support animal in Oakland

  1. Good behavior: An assistance animal is expected to behave well and not cause a nuisance. Even a service dog will be denied access if they bark, soil inappropriately, or are aggressive.
  2. Be wary of false certification: There is no ‘register’ for emotional support animals. Any organization which offers to register your ESA on such a site is bogus.
  3. Counseling is required: Due to the rise in bogus claims of ownership for ESAs, legislation has tightened up. In addition to a letter from a licensed healthcare professional, the claimant must be undergoing therapy. (Certapet will arrange this for you.)
  4. ESAs and Access: Even an ESA is not granted access to many public places. For example restaurants, theatres, and other public spaces are not obliged to admit your ESA. However, many will consider a reasonable request on a case-by-case basis provided the animal is well behaved.
  5. ESA status is assessed yearly: Circumstances change so expect your pets ESA status to be reassessed each year.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

Owning an emotional support animal in Oakland is about forming a unique bond with that animal, rather than specialized training. If it sounds like an ESA is for you, then why not investigate your local rescue shelter. East Bay SPCA is always desperate for caring owners who can offer a stray dog or cat a loving home.

By offering a rescue animal a home, this benefits you, that animal, and also provides space for another pet in need to be rescued.

Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal

Your dog offers unconditional love, so why not return the favor with some awesome days out together!

Here are some of the venues in and around Oakland that are dog-friendly.

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

  • Redwood Regional Park, Oakland (5 stars)
  • Leona Canyon Trail, Oakland (5 stars)

Dog-friendly restaurants and bars

  • The Fat Lady Restaurant, Oakland
  • Bocanova, Oakland

Resorts, fitness, and spas

  • Waterfront Hotel, Oakland (No pet fee)
  • Temescal Boutique Garden Apartment (Big dogs allowed)


  • World Dog Surfing Championships, Pacifica, Ca
  • DogFest Walk ‘n’ Roll, Oakland

ESAs in Oakland: How to Get Connected with an LMHP in Your City Today!

Don’t add to your stress by worrying about how to connect with a licensed mental health care professional. All you need to do is contact Certapet online, and we will do the rest for you. What could be easier! Certapet also sees to all the details, such as putting you in touch with a therapist, and will despatch your letter with 48 hours.

Do you have questions about getting an emotional support animal in Oakland? Let us know in the comments below!

emotional support dog in oakland apartment

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