cat in the sun

Can I Bring My ESA Into Shopping Malls?

If you’re the proud owner of an ESA or emotional support animal, you’re probably well-versed in the laws around which private and public places owners can take their companions. The ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act, lays out strict laws that govern where service animals are allowed and where ESAs are allowed.

It can be confusing. Over time those laws have changed, and it’s not always clear whether places like shopping malls are private or public places or whether they’re pet friendly. If you own an emotional support animal due to a mental health disability and are wondering whether you can take it to a mall, look no further than this guide to your rights.

Can I Bring My ESA Into Shopping Malls?

Emotional Support Animals are distinct from service animals in several ways. First, service animals are generally recruited and trained to assist owners who have a physical disability or sometimes a severe psychological disability. Emotional support animals, however, are for those who struggle with their emotional and mental health. 

Because service animals are expected to perform physical activities that their owners are incapable of performing themselves, they must be professionally trained and certified. Service animals provide accommodation for those living with physical disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act grants them the right by law to accompany their owners just about anywhere, not just in pet-friendly spaces.

Service dogs can be provided accommodation on airplanes, in hotels and in most apartments, and in most restaurants. Show the proprietor of the space your certification letter, and whether they are pet friendly or not, they have to provide your dog accommodations.

Emotional support animals are unfortunately not granted the same bill of rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Unlike service animals, which can only be dogs, ESAs can be any kind of animal, from a parakeet to an opossum. This is just one reason why ESAs aren’t provided the same accommodations as service dogs because their size may be obscenely large, and their nature may be too wild.

The bigger reason why ESAs aren’t granted access to the same spaces as service dogs are that they’re meant only as emotional companions to their owners. They aren’t necessary for their owners’ physical functioning.

ESAs don’t need to be trained or certified. You only need to obtain a letter from a licensed mental health professional. This letter won’t work the same way as a service dog certification at a private shopping mall that isn’t pet-friendly. What you’ll need to do before your visit is look up whether the mall is pet-friendly and see if they’ll make accommodations for your pet.

Pet-Friendly Shopping Malls For You and Your ESA

Many shopping malls are public spaces, and thus much easier to bring a pet to. Fortunately, it’s quite easy to look up whether a shopping mall is public or private and whether they are pet friendly or not on their website. If you can’t find that information there, check with your city or county, as they may have standard laws in place that govern what kind of spaces you can take your ESA.

Here are three of the best examples of pet-friendly shopping malls:

The Citadel — Los Angeles, CA

If you live in Southern California and want to take your ESA to a mall, you’re in luck. Many malls in Southern California are outdoors due to the year-long favorable weather conditions. Outdoor malls are almost always pet-friendly, though you’ll still want to check ahead.

The Citadel is a giant complex of outlet stores, brand headquarters, and storefronts where you’re guaranteed to be able to snag an unbeatable deal. It’s located in a city called Commerce, after all.

Pets are allowed within the Citadel as long as they are leashed and kept in common areas. If you’re planning on bringing your support animal, try and bring a friend who can take care of it in case any individual shops you want to visit won’t allow it inside.

Reston Town Center — Reston, VA

The beautiful suburb of Reston in northern Virginia is home to as much spectacular natural scenery as it is tantalizing shopping opportunities. Many who settle in Reston use it as a base from which to work in or explore nearby Washington, D.C.

The Reston Town Center is part outdoor mall, part community center, part cozy suburban glen. Every year the Northern Virginia Art Festival sets up shop in the Town Center, and the central pavilion gets turned into a gorgeous ice skating rink in the winter.

Like The Citadel, the Reston Town Center allows emotional support animals in, provided they’re kept on leash. As long as they are restrained and won’t cause a scene in some way, you’re good at this pet-friendly mall.

The Domain — Austin, TX

For those who are seeking pet-friendly public places and accommodations in the American south, check out the hip and swanky Domain in Austin, Texas. Austin has become one of the premier hubs of the arts in the country, and The Domain reflects that creative spirit. 

Bring your ESA on a leash or otherwise restrained, and get a little retail therapy.

Things To Keep In Mind Before Taking Your ESA To Shopping Malls

Call Ahead

Before you venture with your ESA into public places, whether they’re malls or not, call ahead. Malls are usually run by companies that are listed in the phone book, or you can swipe the number off the internet.

It’s better to be disappointed ahead of time than majorly inconvenienced by a wasted trip to a place that can’t provide accommodations.

Take Care of Business Ahead of Time

Your emotional support animal is, after all, an animal. Make sure it does its business before setting foot at the mall. 

Your ESA can’t distinguish outdoor malls from any other public places, and so they won’t discriminate where they drop trou to do their business. Get that out of the way beforehand.

Do you Have Documentation?

Even if you live with a clinical disability, your ESA does not need licensing or certification. Special accommodations can’t be made in most cases, even if your ESA has the proper paperwork from a doctor.

However, bringing that paperwork doesn’t hurt. Many don’t know the laws distinguishing between service dogs and ESAs, which could work out in your favor. Something about signed and notarized paperwork makes people more amenable to special accommodations!

To Find Out More

If you’re confused over what you need to obtain a proper support animal, where you can take them, and where you can’t take them, get in touch with the professionals at ESA Registration of America

ESA Registration of America can assist with registration forms and evaluation letters and has a full shop of pet essentials, from harnesses to water bowls. Don’t hesitate, call ESA Registration of America today.