woman with emotional support dog on lap

Navigating Arizona’s Emotional Support Animal Laws

Arizona’s rules and laws regarding ESAs are designed to ensure that individuals who benefit from these supportive companions can do so without getting stuck in the legal thorns.

Whether you’re a proud ESA owner or considering becoming one, understanding the lay of the land is key. From housing rights to public access, Arizona has its own set of guidelines that govern how ESAs are recognized and accommodated. 

Understanding Arizona Emotional Support Animal Rules and Laws

The Arizona Revised Statutes and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) form the cornerstone of ESA regulations, emphasizing the difference between ESAs and service animals.

Housing Rights for ESAs in Arizona

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), residents with emotional or psychological disabilities can keep an ESA in their dwelling, even in buildings with a no-pets policy. Arizona supports this federal law, requiring landlords to make reasonable accommodations for ESAs. You won’t need to pay extra pet fees, but you’ll need a letter from a licensed mental health professional verifying your need for the ESA.

Public Access and ESAs

Unlike service animals, ESAs don’t have the same broad rights of public access under Arizona law. Places like restaurants, stores, and parks might allow pets, but this is at the discretion of the property owner. Service animals, trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities, are granted more extensive access to public spaces under the ADA.

Workplace Accommodation

Arizona employers are not mandated by state law to allow emotional support animals in the workplace. However, some employers may choose to accommodate ESAs based on individual circumstances and company policies, emphasizing the importance of open communication between employees and employers regarding ESA-related needs.

Air Travel

Recent changes in federal regulations have tightened rules regarding ESAs on flights. Airlines are no longer required to accommodate emotional support animals as they do for service animals. It’s vital to check with airlines for their specific policies on ESAs before planning your travel.

Housing Rights and Protections

In Arizona, emotional support animals (ESAs) have specific housing rights and protections that ensure individuals can live with their companions without undue hardship. These rights stem from the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a federal law that bans discrimination against tenants with ESAs.

If you’re a resident of Arizona and have an ESA, landlords can’t refuse your housing application based on your emotional support animal. However, you’ll need to provide a letter from a licensed mental health professional. This letter must confirm that you have a mental or emotional disability and that your ESA is essential for your well-being.

Under the FHA, landlords are also required to make reasonable accommodations for ESAs, even in buildings that generally prohibit pets. This means they can’t charge you extra fees or deposits for your ESA. But, remember, you’re still responsible for any damage your ESA might cause.

There are a few exceptions to these rules. Landlords may deny an ESA if it poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others or would cause significant property damage. Small, owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units, and single-family houses sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent, are also exempt unless the owner owns three or more such single-family houses.

Employment and Emotional Support Animals

Transitioning from housing to the workplace, Arizona’s stance on emotional support animals (ESAs) within employment settings adds another layer to the state’s complex rules. Unlike the Fair Housing Act’s clear-cut protections for ESAs in residential scenarios, employment law is a bit more nuanced. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) governs workplace accommodations but does not extend the same automatic allowances to ESAs as it does to service animals. In Arizona, this means your ESA’s access to your workplace isn’t guaranteed.

However, Arizona employers are encouraged to engage in an interactive process to determine reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, which can include ESAs under specific circumstances. It’s key that you have a letter from a licensed mental health professional attesting to your need for an ESA, as this document can significantly bolster your request for accommodation. Employers in Arizona can consider this request, weighing the presence of an ESA against potential disruptions or threats to safety in the workplace.

Legally, Arizona employers aren’t required to accommodate ESAs in all situations. They can deny requests based on substantial operational difficulties or significant expenses. Yet, many find that fostering a supportive work environment includes finding ways to accommodate ESAs, especially when it can enhance employee wellbeing and productivity.

Public Access and Emotional Support Animals

Unlike service animals defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ESAs do not have the same broad rights to public places.

In Arizona, public access for ESAs is more restricted. Establishments such as restaurants, shops, and most public venues differentiate between ESAs and service animals. While service animals perform specific tasks for their owners and are generally allowed anywhere the public can go, ESAs, which provide comfort and support through companionship, do not qualify for this kind of access.

However, certain exceptions exist. For instance, some private businesses and airlines might choose to accommodate ESAs voluntarily, recognizing the value they provide to their owners. Policies can vary greatly, so it’s essential to contact establishments directly to understand their stance on ESAs before visiting.

Legally, the distinction hinges on the definition of service animals under the ADA, which solely recognizes dogs and, in some cases, miniature horses trained to perform specific tasks. Since ESAs are not trained for specific tasks related to a disability, they do not fall under this definition, limiting their public access rights in Arizona.

When planning to bring an ESA into a public setting, it’s advisable to have documentation, such as a letter from a licensed mental health professional, readily available. This documentation, while not guaranteeing access, can help in negotiating individual access rights with businesses that are open to making accommodations.

Air Travel with Emotional Support Animals

Navigating air travel with emotional support animals (ESAs) in Arizona involves understanding specific rules that airlines have in place. The Department of Transportation (DOT) no longer requires airlines to accommodate ESAs as they do service animals. This change means airlines can treat ESAs as pets, which may involve fees and restrictions.

Check the airline’s policy on ESAs before booking your ticket. Each airline can have different requirements and restrictions, including size and breed, for ESAs in the cabin. For example, some airlines may allow small ESAs in the cabin for a fee, while others may restrict them to the cargo hold, also possibly at a charge.

Prepare ESA documentation thoroughly, despite the DOT’s regulations change. Some airlines may still request to see an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. This document should confirm your need for the ESA for mental health reasons.

Familiarize yourself with the airline’s cabin rules for pets if they treat ESAs similarly. These can include carrier size requirements, additional fees, and whether the animal can be on your lap or must stay under the seat in front of you.

Consider your ESA’s comfort and ability to handle flying. Some animals may find air travel stressful, and it’s essential to prioritize their well-being. If your ESA is not accustomed to being in a carrier or hasn’t experienced flying, you might want to consider other options or prepare them gradually for the travel experience.

Violations and Penalties

If you’re navigating the emotional support animal (ESA) landscape in Arizona, knowing the penalties for violations of state laws and federal regulations is key. Falling afoul of these rules can lead to various consequences, depending on the nature of the violation.

Misrepresenting an animal as an ESA under Arizona law can incur significant penalties. If you falsely claim your pet is an ESA to benefit from housing laws or public access rights, you could face fines and other legal repercussions. Arizona takes the integrity of accommodations for individuals with disabilities seriously, and fraudulent claims undermine these provisions.

In the housing context, landlords can impose penalties for ESA violations. If an ESA owner fails to provide the required documentation or the animal causes damage or undue disturbance, landlords might charge fees, request the removal of the animal, or, in severe cases, terminate the lease. It’s essential to maintain open communication with your landlord and adhere to the Fair Housing Act guidelines to prevent such outcomes.

Regarding air travel, since the Department of Transportation allows airlines to treat ESAs as pets, non-compliance with an airline’s pet policy can result in additional fees or denial of boarding for your ESA. Each airline has its policies, so you’d do well to review these carefully and prepare your ESA documentation accordingly to avoid issues at the airport.

In any case, the consequences of violating ESA regulations highlight the importance of understanding and complying with both Arizona state laws and federal rules. Staying informed and ensuring your ESA meets all necessary requirements can help you avoid these penalties and enjoy the benefits of ESA accommodation smoothly.


With the right professional letter, you can ensure your ESA is accommodated in Arizona under the Fair Housing Act. However, it’s vital to remember that ESAs have limited public access rights compared to service animals. Misrepresenting an animal as an ESA or failing to comply with housing and airline policies can lead to significant penalties. By staying informed and compliant, you’ll avoid legal issues and enjoy the benefits of your emotional support animal without hassle.