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Law Change Regarding Emotional Support Animals: What Board of Psychology Licensees Need to Know

AB 468 (Friedman, Chapter 168, Statutes of 2021) was recently signed by the Governor and becomes effective on January 1, 2022.  This bill requires all health care practitioners (including Board licensees and registrants) to comply with all of the following if they are providing documentation relating to an individual’s need for an emotional support dog. The healthcare practitioner must:

  1. Have a valid, active license, and include their license effective date, license number, jurisdiction, and type of professional license in the documentation.

  2. Be licensed in the jurisdiction where the documentation is provided (i.e.: where the client is located).

  3. Establish a client-provider relationship with the individual for at least 30 days prior to providing the documentation.

  4. Complete a clinical evaluation of the individual regarding the need for an emotional support dog.

  5. Provide a verbal or written notice to the individual that knowingly or fraudulently representing oneself as the owner or trainer of any dog licensed, qualified, or identified as a guide, signal, or service dog is a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code section 365.7.

Any lack compliance with those requirements is a violation and subjects a health care practitioner to discipline from their licensing board. 

What is an emotional support dog?
The bill defines an “emotional support dog” as a dog that provides emotional, cognitive, or other similar support to an individual with a disability, and that does not need to be trained or certified.

Are associates also permitted to issue this documentation?
Yes.  Here, “health care practitioner” means a person who is licensed pursuant to Division 2 of the Business and Professions Code (BPC), and BPC section 23.8 states that “licensee” includes registrants (associates).  Therefore, the law as stated above applies to associates as well.

How many times must I meet with my client before issuing the documentation?
The new law states that the health care practitioner must not provide the documentation until a client-provider relationship has been established for at least 30 days.  It does not prescribe a specific number of meetings.

Code sections: Health and Safety Code sections 122318 and 122319.5(b)