Are Emotional Support Dogs Allowed in Hospitals?

Going to the hospital is one of the most stressful times in anyone’s life. Whether you are sick or a visitor to a loved one in their time of need, having a friend who can keep you calm is essential.

The rules between every hospital are different, but you can bring your emotional support animal to keep you safe in a difficult situation under certain conditions. There are hoops to jump through, and sometimes it can be impossible, but your ESA may be allowed.

If you’ve been curious about the rules and regulations involved in bringing your ESA to a hospital, this article will shine a light on all the details you need to know.

Can I Bring My ESA To Hospitals?

While the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) does not expressly grant ESAs access to hospitals, it can be possible to come to an agreement with a specific institution. 

Ultimately, hospitals are trying to prevent visitors and patients from bringing their pets into a medical atmosphere. Their strict rules are in place to keep everyone safe and keep the health care facility sterile and allergen-free for all patients. Their thinking is that if they start letting some animals, soon they will have to let in all animals and do not want to operate a zoo on their grounds.

Service animals are permitted under ADA in all circumstances, but ESAs do not qualify as service animals and do not maintain the same rights. Guidelines for emotional and therapy animals are not regulated by the government in the same manner as service animals.

Hospital Policy Guidance on ESA

Since your emotional support animal is not specifically trained to complete a task like an ADA-approved service animal, there are many restrictions when it comes to some public places, like offices and clinics.

When it comes to a medical emergency, your health needs to come before your animal. But for those with a chronic disability, you are more likely to come to a compromise. If your disability requires frequent trips to the hospital, work with your doctors to come with a plan that suits both you and the administration. 

Do not expect any special allowances for your animal, no matter how calm or well-behaved they are.

Things To Consider Before Taking ESA To Hospitals

You should never waltz up to a hospital with your emotional support animal and expect to be granted entrance with no questions. Do your preparation and have all the information and documentation needed before you find yourself in that situation. 

Consider the following now, and reduce stressful moments later.

Call Ahead

Ring up all the local hospitals in your area before you have an emergency and inquire about their specific guidelines regarding emotional support animals. Be clear you are not referring to a service animal, or you may receive conflicting information. 

Include urgent care centers and any medical offices you may find yourself in during dire circumstances. Also, ask about their policy when it comes to guests and their ESAs.

The most important thing you can do is be polite. As soon as you begin to act entitled, any chance you had is thrown out the window. The organization would be doing you a favor, so be grateful and understanding no matter the outcome.

Have Proper Documentation

Do you have your ESA letter prepared and ready to go at the drop of a hat? When you need to go to the hospital or other medical center, you won’t have time to look through your paperwork. Tell the doctors you have the information for an ESA, but explain it is not a service animal to avoid confusion.

Speak to your therapist or doctor now and get your letter both in physical form and online, so you will never be without it. You won’t be granted access anywhere with your emotional support animal unless you have official proof signed off by a mental health professional.

Your letter will detail your disability and the reason you need extra support. It can be smart to get a vest for your dog or animal, so you can telegraph to others it is not simply a pet but there for a reason.

Get The Right ESA

If you know, you will spend extended periods in a hospital and won’t be able to leave. A large dog will not be the ideal companion. Consider a cat or smaller creature that won’t need to be taken outside and walked several times a day. 

A hospital is stressful for human patients but also puts animals under stress. You will need an emotional support animal that is comfortable in changing environments and experiencing loud noises and bright lights.

While service animals are often dogs and mammals, support animals can be much more varied in size and shape, from reptiles to insects.

Have A Backup Plan

A hospital has the legal right to deny your ESA access to the facility. Make sure you have a plan in place for someone to care for your emotional support animal in the event you cannot be with them. 

Hire a pet sitter who can be at home while you are away or find a boarding facility that can take your animal during the day, and you can pick them up at night. 

But if you have a disability that requires you to spend overnights, add a pet sitter to your list of visitors, so you can get updates on your support animal while you are away. 

Rely On Sanctioned Therapy Dogs

Occasionally patients will be greeted by very special visitors — therapy dogs! These dogs are part of mental health programs meant to calm the nerves of people recuperating. A disability from mental health to physical restrictions can be eased with the assistance of these service animals.

Specific wards will call in these service animals that are allowed under ADA rules to support patients in need. Ask if your local health care facility uses these service animals, which can make your time as a patient better. When you can’t have your buddy by your side, another one is the next best thing!


Being a patient is difficult for the toughest among us. Studies have proven that health care supplemented by an animal creates better results and makes the process more tolerable. If you cannot get a service animal, it is time to consider other options.

Get your best friend established as a support animal today at the ESA Registration of America. We can partner you with your doctors and quickly get your letter. The letter is the proof you need to get more legal rights for your animal.

Your health care always needs to come first, and a furry friend by your side will make every aspect of being a patient easier. 

While not all hospitals will allow your ESA, you will have no chance if you don’t complete the proper documentation. 

Complete your free sign-up today and begin the process now!