What Are Fake ESAs?
There’s a misguided notion that an ESA is for “anyone,” and that you can claim any animal is an ESA. But an ESA is no less valid than a service animal. The difference between an ESA and a service animal is that a service animal performs a specific task. That doesn’t make an ESA any less a medical support service.
Real ESAs serve real disabilities. They provide emotional support and improve mental health, but some may not have the training for specific tasks such as detecting seizures or turning on lights. An ESA is essentially a medical aide and is necessary for physical or mental health.
Lying About an ESA
But if an ESA doesn’t do anything, how can anyone really “lie” about an ESA? Lying happens when people claim to have an ESA when flying, when in a restaurant, or when renting, simply because they want to keep their animal with them at all times. These fake ESA owners hurt the perception of people with real ESAs.
A real ESA is recommended by a professional, like a therapist. It’s not something that someone just decides to have. Lying about an ESA gives the perception that people with ESAs are selfish. That they want to compromise the environment for their own gain.
Most ESAs are calm and well-behaved. If people take poorly trained animals out and claim that they have ESAs, it damages the reputation of people with real ESAs. It makes people generally skeptical about ESAs, and by association, service animals.
Unfortunately, there’s no real penalty for lying about an ESA, and it’s difficult to prove someone is lying about an ESA. Since there’s no central certification process, many simply have to take an ESA owner at their word.
Proving You Have a Real ESA
That brings up another question: How do you prove that you do, in fact, have a real ESA? A certifying authority or a recommendation letter may help. While it’s not required to have a certificate for an ESA, it helps to show that it isn’t a spur-of-the-moment lie.
For most ESAs, landlords and business owners have nothing to go on. They can’t claim that your animal isn’t an ESA, but they also may be wary of accepting a fake one. A recommendation will ensure that you’re not lumped into the same category as liars making the people with real disabilities look bad.
ESAs are incredibly important for the health of many people. But because they’re so hard for people to understand, people can take advantage of the situation. Lying about an ESA hurts the people who really need ESAs, generally for very selfish reasons. If you think that you legitimately need an ESA, but don’t have one yet, the right thing to do is go through an assessment.