Emotional support animals support people all over the country through various challenges. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, ESAs can accompany people onto airplanes or residences that don’t allow pets. While they aren’t service dogs, an ESA and their owner can expect substantial accommodations.
However, there are some guidelines that ESA owners must abide by, such as registration, for a standard pet to be a recognized emotional support animal. Here, we review state and federal laws that establish these guidelines and how they apply to residents in the state of New York.
ESA Origination: The ADA and State Laws
The ADA is a federal law that applies to everyone in the United States. However, as with many of our laws, the details can vary across state lines. While some states may go just far enough to respect the law, others go the extra mile to provide added accommodations for those requiring emotional support.
Emotional support animals in New York State and New York City have added protections. However, it’s also important to remember that some aspects of the laws for ESAs in New York are a bit vague and therefore open for interpretation.
New York Rules and Protections for Emotional Support Animals
First, don’t forget that certified ESAs can legally accompany you on an airline or housing unit. That law is solid anywhere in the country. Additionally, New York has some added protections for ESA pets in the workplace, but this is where things get tricky.
New York law does not recognize emotional support animals as service animals or service dogs, so at first glance, it would seem they lack protections within the workplace. HOWEVER, state and federal law requires that the employer give employees with a disability reasonable accommodation.
In the case of certified and registered ESAs in New York (state and city), it means that a licensed mental health professional has recognized your disability and signed off on your need for support. You can take this ESA letter of certification from your provider to your employer and request that your emotional support animal is a reasonable accommodation for your recognized need for emotional support.
At this point, the employer may have to allow your ESA at work. Keep in mind that this aspect of the New York law is not as fleshed out as in some other states. Every employer is different, and some may agree that you qualify and accommodate the law. However, others may see the law’s open-ended nature language as an opportunity to ignore your provider request since they aren’t service animals but rather emotionally supportive pets.
Letter of Certification
However the law gets interpreted, it’s essential for your emotional support animal to be properly certified and registered, just as service animals are. Without certification, you won’t have any recourse if an airline, employer, or landlord denies your right to well-being. Your best bet is to stay up to speed with the current state and federal laws because they can change quickly. If you’re ever unsure about the legal status of your emotional support or service animal, check our website for important updates.
ESA Registration in New York
To get an emotional support animal registered in New York, you’ll first need to meet with a licensed mental health professional to get an ESA letter certifying your need for the emotional assistance animal. You can also register online with organizations that work with providers directly to provide access. When you use ESARegistration.org, you can get your ESA letter in as quickly as 48 hours.
While there is no official registry for emotional support animals in New York or any state, it’s still essential to go through the necessary steps to prove the need for your emotional support pet.
Note that emotional support animals are not the same as service dogs, which have specific training to qualify to help their handlers with a disability. To qualify for a service dog, you must prove a disability-related need for the dog. However, to qualify for an ESAyou just need to show your medical provider that you have an emotional need for the animal.
ESA and Housing in New York
According to the Fair Housing Act, landlords cannot deny housing to anyone with an emotional assistance animal, and they cannot charge a pet fee to allow them to live there. It’s illegal to do so. The landlord must provide reasonable accommodation and fair housing as long as you can show the documentation for your ESA support animal.
Reasonable accommodations for those with an emotional support animal include allowing an ESA, even if pets usually aren’t allowed, and waiving the pet fee. For example, in places like NYU, you should be able to bring your ESA dog to your housing as long as you follow their instructions for reasonable accommodation.
ESAs and Traveling
When traveling in New York with an assistance animal, you should plan to bring your documentation with you to ensure you receive accommodations. Public providers cannot demand you show this document, but you can guarantee that they cannot deny access to your emotional support animal if you have it.
Emotional Assistance Animals vs. Service Animals
It’s important to note the primary differences between a service animal and an emotional support animal, which have different protections and allowances.
A service dog receives specialized training to help a person with a disability. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities include physical disabilities, emotional disabilities, or psychiatric disabilities. If they display a need for support from individually trained service dogs, they may qualify for a service animal (which can be a dog or a miniature horse).
Service dogs trained to perform tasks for their handler must be directly related to the person’s disability. These tasks can include guiding the blind, pulling a wheelchair, or alerting nearby people if the person has a seizure. Those with disabilities may bring their service animal in public, on public transportation, or in public places in New York. Public facilities must allow guide dogs, hearing dogs, and service animal dogs.
The exception to the rules is if any service dog poses a threat to the health or safety of others, then according to the ADA, that disabled person cannot bring their animal dog into public spaces.
Emotional support animals, also known as assistance animals, are usually emotional support dogs, though the language can be vague about what animals do and do not qualify. Some other animals, like a pig, duck, or monkey, may also be an ESA.
Assistance animals are not necessarily for a disability but rather provide support emotionally for their handler, as with an emotional support dog.
If you would benefit from an emotional support pet in New York, you should begin the registration process so you can access accommodations in housing or when traveling.
While a person with a disability may require a service dog, those who could benefit from the support and assistance of an ESA letter will find it much easier to become eligible.
Get started by registering your animal on ESARegistration.org. And to learn the legal status of your ESA, be sure to check out the resources on our website for more information.
Disclaimer: Please note that the information on this page is not legal advice.