Are Emotional Support Animals Allowed in All Public Places?2020-06-29
Emotional support animals (ESA) provide emotional comfort to their owners. Therefore, they should be allowed in all public spaces, right?
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Whether an ESA is allowed in a public space depends on the situation. Parks, sidewalks, and other publicly owned outdoor areas have no restrictions against emotional support animals. On the other hand, restaurants, retail stores, and other privately-owned places can refuse entry to an ESA.
Like we previously mentioned, details will vary depending on the situation. Each state or airline can have unique rules that apply to ESA’s. This guide will differentiate between ESAs and service dogs, and explain what rights your support animal has.
What Rights Do They Have and Not Have?
Emotional support animals do not have all the rights that service dogs/horses do. However, you should know two acts that cover your ESA under federal and state law.
- The Air Carrier Access Act protects ESA’s by requiring airlines to allow support animals to fly in the cabin with you. Airlines cannot charge you for your ESA, nor can they place a weight or breed restriction. The airline can contact you 48+ hours before to ensure you've submitted all necessary paperwork including veterinary information. The only species protected under the act are dogs, cats, and miniature horses. Still, it is always important to check requirements for each airline.
- The Fair Housing Act entails that landlords, property managers, and apartment complex owners must provide you and your emotional support animal fair housing. The ordinance protects all species as long as they have a valid therapist letter. No one can deny your application based solely on the fact that you have a support animal. A proprietor can deny you if and only if the ESA would impose an undue financial burden on the household.
Other private properties, such as individually owned business establishments, can deny entry depending on how they see fit.
Here are some other common questions you may need answered:
Is an ESA allowed in no pet housing?
Yes, because federal and local laws do not consider emotional support animals as pets. An ESA owner must undergo an evaluation by a mental health professional to be approved. After receiving the approval prescription letter, landlords and property managers cannot legally classify your animal as a pet.
The home or building owner must make reasonable accommodations for you whether or not you have an ESA. When signing the lease, ensure that there are no weight, breed, or species restrictions in the fine print. All housing discrimination based on creature characteristics is illegal.
Because of this, all charges, rules, and regulations that apply to traditional pets are not valid for support animals. If the landlord deems your animal a danger to the household, they can deny you housing with your ESA. Thus, ESAs have exceptions on a case by case basis.
Can the landlord charge me a pet/security deposit for my emotional support animal?
No, the landlord cannot charge you a pet deposit for your ESA. An emotional support animal is not a pet; therefore, no restrictions apply to them. So long as you have your valid evaluation letter, your property manager cannot deny your living space, nor can they charge additional fees.
If your animal causes damage to the home, the landlord can charge you. Otherwise, it is unlawful for someone to charge you a further deposit if you have an emotional support animal.
Are they allowed in public stores?
Unfortunately, public stores can deny access to your emotional support animal. Some stores will allow all pets in general, no questions asked. Others, however, will deny your ESA even if you show the paperwork. Business owners have every right to deny your entry to your ESA.
With establishments that allow you and your emotional support animal in, you are responsible should any damage occur. Whether to merchandise or other patrons, if your ESA ruins anything, you can be kicked out of the place and sued for the losses.
Why Do They Not Have the Same Rights as Service Dogs?
Emotional support animals are not classified the same as service dogs by the United States Government. A service dog, or miniature horse, is trained to handle a specific task and help someone with a physical disability. On the other hand, an emotional support animal provides therapeutic benefits to its owner, but training is not required. The owner also does not have to claim a disabled status.
Because of the lack of training, public establishments such as restaurants or retail stores can prohibit the entry of emotional support animals. However, landlords, apartment complexes, and property managers cannot ban ESAs due to being untrained, nor can they charge you additionally. The laws and restrictions for emotional support animals vary depending on the state.
Check with your local government to see if any rules or regulations apply to you. Even after making sure with the authorities, bring your paperwork when you go out in case of emergencies.
An emotional support animal can help make your life less burdensome, especially if you are struggling with a mental illness. Your support animal will not have the same rights as a service animal, but will still benefit your well-being and livelihood. If you have considered acquiring an ESA, look into local rules that could change your situation.
Know that individuals might not be as hesitant to pet your animal if they are an ESA rather than a service dog. For those who need the primary attention of their creature, an option is getting professional training. There are also patches, vests, and other indicators to let others know.
Though they are not required, we recommend getting an ESA identification vest for your animal. Not only does it make it easier for you when traveling, but it also cuts down explanation time when you're in public. When you are going out, carry your prescription letter with you. Both of these tips will minimize potential harassment and unnecessary explanations.
If you are looking to register an emotional support animal and would like to know more information, contact the ESA Registration of America. Note that registering a support animal does not automatically make it into an ESA. Registration will keep you in the know when it comes to legal changes and ESA specific products. A letter from a licensed mental health provider is what distinguishes a support animal.
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