The state of Arkansas distinguishes between service animals and Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). If you have an ESA, this distinction is crucial to know.
Arkansas has its state laws and federal legislation like the ADA regarding ESAs. The ADA is designed to protect all American citizens from discrimination due to physical, mental health, and emotional disabilities.
As in other states, Arkansas does not view ESAs in the same way or give them the same status as service animals. However, an ESA letter provides evidence of the animal’s status and can make a difference in certain situations. It is also a legal requirement in others.
Obtaining an ESA letter can impact every area of your life, including housing, travel, the workplace, and social activities. Keep reading to find out how to get an ESA letter in Arkansas.
Do You Qualify for an ESA Letter in Arkansas?
Depending on the mental health or emotional condition that you believe warrants animal-assisted therapy, you may qualify for an ESA. A licensed mental health professional (LMHP) or a state-licensed doctor must diagnose your condition. You can have this assessment done in person or online.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Arkansas?
Only a qualified mental healthcare professional in Arkansas can issue an ESA letter. This requirement is the only one stipulated under Arkansas law.
You must also renew the letter on an annual basis for it to remain valid. The letter follows an assessment and evaluation that can take place in person or online.
You may be charged a fee for the application process and the issue of the letter. Make sure you check out the provider you are using if you apply online and not in-person to ensure your ESA letter is genuine.
What’s Inside an Arkansas ESA Letter?
An ESA letter must contain the identity of the LMHP, including their full name, license number, and the state in which they originally issued the license.
The letter must be on the official letterhead of the practitioner, not on blank paper. It must be dated and signed by the healthcare professional in person.
An ESA letter remains valid for one year, and at that point, you will need reassessment so the LMHP can issue a new letter if your needs remain unchanged or have worsened.
These initial and ongoing annual assessments are to avoid fraud. Some people try to gain a logistical or financial advantage under pretenses using an emotional support animal.
Benefits of Getting an ESA Letter in Arkansas
Take Your ESA to work in Arkansas
It can be easier to take your ESA into the workplace if you have a valid letter confirming their status.
Employers are not obliged to accommodate ESAs, unlike service animals. However, many employers will anyway, and a formal letter is often a prerequisite to this concession.
Avoid Pet Fares When You Travel
An ESA letter will mean that not only can your ESA accompany you on your journey, but you avoid the added cost of paying for your ESA every time you travel.
Save Pet Rent Costs
An Arkansas landlord is legally obliged to accept your ESA in accommodation providing the animal is well behaved and not disruptive to other residents.
An ESA letter will secure the accommodation you require, even if it is not usually pet-friendly. Plus, it lets you avoid the added charges of pet rent or damage deposits.
Landlords in Arkansas cannot levy extra charges for ESAs in your accommodation.
Emotional Support Animals Laws in Arkansas
What Is the Definition of an ESA Under Arkansas Law?
The law in Arkansas defines an ESA as an animal that can provide therapeutic benefit to someone suffering from a mental or emotional disability or disorder.
Compare this with service animals, which Arkansas law defines as animals trained to carry out specific tasks to support a person with a disability.
ESAs are not trained in this way and only offer psychological and emotional support to their owner.
Arkansas Flight Laws for ESAs
Previously, the Air Carrier Access Act covered a recognized and certified ESA. It stipulated that the airline cannot prevent the animal from traveling in the cabin with you, which would be standard policy.
However, in 2020, the US Department of Transportation revised the ACAA, leaving it up to airlines to determine whether they would accept ESAs.
If an airline does accommodate an ESA, an ESA letter can provide proof of your need and allow the animal to travel with you on your flight. There are some caveats, including a dog repeatedly barking or an aggressive animal. Airlines can exercise discretion and deny these disruptive animals access.
Laws in the Workplace for ESAs in Arkansas
Arkansas relies on the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act to regulate animals in the workplace. Although owners of service dogs are permitted to bring their pets to work, the same does not apply to ESAs.
However, on the ground, some employers will allow ESAs to come to work if the owner can provide a valid ESA letter. This official documentation can make it easier to persuade a hesitant employer.
Arkansas Housing Laws for ESAs
Under state laws in Arkansas, ESAs have protections under the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
Providing you can supply an authentic ESA letter to a landlord, your emotional support animal can live with you even in properties that usually ban pets. Under ordinary legislation, landlords can refuse tenants with pets but not if they are ESAs.
Landlords can refuse ESAs residency if they are dangerous or disruptive or cause harm to other residents in the building or complex.
ESAs in Public Places in Arkansas
The law in Arkansas does not afford the same status to ESAs in public places like cinemas and restaurants as service dogs. While many ESAs are allowed access, this is entirely at the discretion of the venue’s management.
There is a network of well-published locations in Arkansas that welcome ESAs, but you will need to have proof of status via your official letter.
Student Accommodation for ESAs in Arkansas
ESAs are allowed to live with students in their college or university accommodation under the Fair Housing Act, providing you have an official ESA letter.
Some educational institutions in Arkansas have been fined for not allowing ESAs and complying with the provisions of the FHA.
How to Get an ESA Letter in Arkansas: A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Book an Appointment with an LMHP or a Doctor
Make an appointment with your healthcare professional or doctor. You have the option to complete the process online or in person. It is whichever route you prefer or is more convenient.
2. Have Your Particular Mental or Emotional Condition Diagnosed
The doctor or LMHP will need to evaluate your condition, illness, or needs and categorize it based on an extensive list.
Many people worry that their specific problems won’t qualify or that they will fall outside the list of accepted conditions, but in reality, this is very rare.
Some of the qualifying conditions include:
- Bipolar disorder and mood management problems
- Stress problems that manifest in behavioral difficulties and sleep disorders
- People who suffer from suicidal thoughts or tendencies
- Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders
- Separation anxiety
- Anxiety in a social situation
- Cognitive disorders
- Learning difficulties and problems
These are the most common listed conditions, but there are many others. If you are unsure whether your condition or problem will qualify, then have a preliminary conversation with your healthcare professional or ESA letter service provider.
3. Undergo a Formal Assessment
Your doctor or an LMHP must assess your mental health or emotional status. They will also need to understand how the ESA supports you in your daily living.
4. Receive a Formal ESA Letter
When the letter is issued, check that it contains all the legal requirements. It should be on the practitioner’s formal letterhead and include their license number as a practitioner and the state in which they originally qualified and were licensed.
The letter must also clearly identify the recipient and be dated.
5. Register Your ESA (Optional)
Unlike service dogs, there is no central registry for formal registration of an ESA. The ESA letter is the only visible means of proof of the status of an ESA to a third party.
6. Beware of Scams
Understanding the process of obtaining an authentic ESA letter will help protect you from scams.
Because there is no central registration service validating ESA letters or registering animals, this area has little governance or control.
Beware of scam services that offer quick or cheap letters that are either not issued by an LMHP or a doctor, have fake medical details, or are defective in some other way.
Always use a reputable online service provider or speak to your healthcare professional directly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are ESA letters only for support dogs?
Although dogs are probably the most common, emotional support animals can include other species not confined to dogs. Cats are popular ESAs and sometimes rabbits, hamsters, and even horses.
There is no restriction on the type of animal that can offer mental, emotional, or psychological support. However, there may be some practical issues to consider in daily living and travel when deciding on the animal you want as an ESA.
The laws in Arkansas are similar to those in other parts of America. Gradually, the situation is changing, and ESAs are becoming more widely known and accepted.
Accommodation providers, employers, educational institutions, and airlines will examine your ESA letter with caution as they still have a duty of care to protect and look after those around you.
Even though it may be your legal right, it is always better to handle the issue of an ESA letter with tact and sensitivity. You also want to go through legitimate channels to avoid scammers.
At ESA Registration of America, we can help you qualify for an authentic letter of certification for an ESA in Arkansas. We have a wide network of qualified and vetted licensed mental health professionals. Once you sign up, you also can register your ESA to have peace of mind for you and your companion.