Certified Emotional Support Animals (ESA) Have Protected Rights
Emotional Support Animals: What are your rights under federal law?
Because an emotional support animal (ESA) is not considered a "working" or animal, they and their handlers aren't afforded the same rights and protections under federal law (ADA) as working service animals. Despite the definition differences between service animals and emotional support animals, emotional support animals do qualify for special rights related to housing and traveling.
There are a couple of things you should know about having an ESA. The only legal protections an Emotional Support Animal has are 1) to fly with their emotionally or psychologically disabled handler in the cabin of an aircraft and 2) to qualify for no-pet housing (no other public or private entity is required to allow your ESA to accompany you, including motels, restaurants, taxis, busses, markets, etc.). You'll also need to be prepared to present a letter to airlines from a licensed mental health professional stating that you are emotionally disabled and that he/she prescribes for you an emotional support animal.
When you certify your emotional support dog or other animal with National Service Animal Registry (NSAR), you'll find that 95% of all businesses do not differentiate between a working service dog and an emotional support dog. That's because your dog will have an official photo ID card attached and other "service animal" identifiers.
Both the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act allow for modification of "no pets" policies on the condition that the correct documentation, including a letter from a licensed mental health professional verifying that the ESA would provide some degree of comfort, is provided. That means that if you have supporting documentation (ESA certification or registration and a letter of prescription from a licensed mental health professional), your emotional support animal will be able to accompany you on an airplane and you will qualify for housing in otherwise "no pets allowed" housing. If your therapist is unwilling to write a qualifying letter of prescription for an emotional support animal (or if you don't currently see a therapist), click here to obtain one.
Qualify for "No Pet" Housing
The Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act protect the right of people with disabilities to keep emotional support animals, even when a landlord's policy explicitly prohibits pets. Because emotional support and service animals are not "pets," but rather are considered to be more like assistive aids such as wheelchairs, the law will generally require the landlord to make an exception to its "no pet" policy so that a tenant with a disability can fully use and enjoy his or her dwelling. In most housing complexes, so long as the tenant has a letter or prescription from an appropriate professional, such as a therapist or physician, and meets the definition of a person with a disability, he or she is entitled to a reasonable accommodation that would allow an emotional support animal in the apartment or other housing. Click here to learn more about your right to have an emotional support animal in "no pet" housing.
Flying With Your Emotional Support Animal
By law, you're allowed to have your emotional support animal accompany you on any domestic airline, and even several foreign airlines. The process is easy and painless, provided that you're prepared before checking in. Click here to find out exactly what you'll need.