Emotional support animals (ESAs) are often confused with service animals. However, it’s important to note that the two are not the same.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities. These animals are allowed in most public and private places.
On the other hand, ESAs provide companionship and comfort and diminish feelings of loneliness. They do not perform tasks specific to alleviating the symptoms of a mental or physical disability, according to the AKC. ESAs enjoy fewer legal protections under federal law. Nonetheless, these animals are still very beneficial for their owners.
So, what are ESAs allowed to do? If you own one, you should understand your rights and limitations. Read on to learn more.
Live in Apartments & Houses
Some apartments and other housing units have strict no-pet policies. The Fair Housing Act overrides these no-pet policies.
The Act prevents a building owner from charging you extra for your emotional support animal. However, the animal is viewed as a reasonable accommodation. It must still behave and not cause damage to the unit.
Stay in College Dorms
Students may have different living arrangements than other adults, but federal law still extends them the same rights regarding emotional support animals.
College dorms and other on-campus housing units must allow ESAs to stay with their owners.
The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development reinforces the idea of an ESA as a reasonable accommodation. It requires postsecondary institutions to permit ESAs as long as the animal is well-behaved.
Can You Take ESAs With You on an Airplane in 2022?
In the past, the Air Carrier Access Act allowed individuals to travel on airplanes with their ESAs without requiring an extra fee or making the animal ride in a cargo hold area. As long as the owners provided the proper documentation, ESAs were free to ride on airplanes with their owners.
Traveling with emotional support pets has been a long-standing topic of controversy in the U.S. Many people view it as a risk to public health and safety. Prior to recent legal modifications, people thought emotional support pets on airplanes were not regulated well enough.
On December 2nd of 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation initiated an amendment. According to Forbes.com, airlines have the choice to ban ESAs under these changes.
On January 11th of 2020, these new regulations officially went into effect.
Consequently, some airlines refuse to recognize emotional support animals. Even if they once allowed them free of charge, they can now legally charge the owner a pet fee. Airlines can even refuse the animal if it’s behaving poorly.
The changes were enacted to prevent people from abusing the system. The modifications were also meant to protect other travelers with medical conditions like allergies and asthma and to help airlines make money by charging an extra pet fee everytime you fly with your dog.
That said, some airlines still recognize ESAs. Before you book a flight, be sure to check with your airline for its current policies on ESAs.
If you are flying with an airline that still accepts ESAs, our team will connect you with a licensed healthcare provider. From there, he or she can evaluate your condition and see if you qualify for an ESA letter.
If you don’t always fly with one specific airline, make sure to educate yourself on each company’s most recent policies.
Where Are ESAs Not Allowed?
Unfortunately, ESAs and service animals do not enjoy the same rights. Some locations that allow service animals forbid ESAs. Learn about some of these places below:
Airbnb Rentals & Hotels
Federal law does not recognize short-term rentals like Airbnbs and hotel rooms in the same way as apartments and housing units. If you are planning to stay in a temporary housing location, the owner does not have to allow your emotional support pet to stay with you.
Before your vacation or work trip, contact the Airbnb owner or hotel chain. Reaching out in advance may help your situation.
Explain that your emotional support pet is beneficial to your well-being. Include information about his or her temperament and breed and size. Some hotels and Airbnbs will be more willing to accommodate a smaller breed with a notoriously calm disposition.
Stores & Restaurants
Private stores and restaurants have the right to deny access to emotional support pets. They do not enjoy free range in these establishments as service animals do.
If you want to bring your emotional support pet inside with you, you should talk with an employee or manager. Let them know that your pet is well-behaved and helps you manage the symptoms of a mental disability.
Even though ESAs can help their owners manage the symptoms of mental disabilities, employers do not have to allow them into the workplace.
Service animals are allowed full access to the workplace, but business owners reserve the right to deny ESAs access.
However, you can make a request to your office manager and ask for an exception.
To help your case, you should ensure that your ESA has a calm temperament and is fully house-trained. If your petition goes through, your little helper will be near you and your co-workers all day long. Minimize any issues by ensuring your pet is well-behaved from the get-go.
When you introduce an emotional support pet into your life, you and your pet enjoy certain protections. However, new legal changes have given airlines the right to deny ESAs and recognize them as regular pets. As a result, you may have to pay a fee for your animal or have them travel in a cargo hold area.
Before you venture out in public with your emotional support pet, be sure to check your specific state and county’s rules.
If you are looking for an ESA letter for housing purposes, get in touch with our team. We will put you in touch with a mental health professional who can recommend you for this kind of pet.