How Does the Law Protect Emotional Support Dogs?

How Does the Law Protect Emotional Support Dogs?

There is a lot of confusion regarding emotional support animals. Often the general public, landlords, airlines, and restaurant owners get into a dispute with owners of emotional support animalsabout what they can or cannot do with their support animals. Much of the reaction comes either from lack of knowledge or because of a feeling of frustration that some people are taking others for a ride. Some perspectives on what the law says amount emotional support animals:

The Protection Given By Law to Emotional Support Animals

As per law, emotional support animals are allowed in housing that is otherwise barred to pets and on all U.S. domestic and international flights. Since the protection is specific, ESAs may not be allowed inside restaurants, hotels or businesses that ordinarily do not allow pets to enter unless the owner specifically allows. Owners of ESAs are likely to get more cooperation if they ask politely without being argumentative or threatening to take legal action.

The Legal Requirements of Obtaining an ESA

You cannot just claim to be suffering from an emotional disability and go around with a dog in restricted places. You are required to obtain a letter issued by a legitimate mental health professional that explicitly states that you are suffering from a disability that is included in the latest (5th) edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by American Psychiatric Association. The letter should also state that you are under the care of the mental health professional issuing the letter and that he is professionally qualified to diagnose disabilities of mental health. Finally, the letter should mention that the dog registered emotional companion is required for your mental well-being and may be allowed air travel or accommodation.

The letter must be issued on the letterhead of the mental health professional and contain both the license and contact information of the doctor. Landlords and airline operators are entitled to establish the authenticity of the letter, however, they may not seek any specific information about the disability. The validity of any issued letter is one year and should be renewed if so warranted. Those who need the companionship of an ESA should preferably keep multiple copies of this letter in their possession as well as upload a soft copy so that it can be easily accessed online whenever required. There is no need for your ESA to wear a special vest or a badge and using such devices does not lend any validity to the animal. Never try to purchase a letter online as this will tantamount to be a fraudulent activity.


Even though as per law the ESA will be allowed to travel along with the passenger, the export/import rules applicable to the destination countries and states will still need to be complied with, especially documentation and quarantine. Owners are advised to familiarize themselves with all the rules before traveling abroad. Owners will also need to ensure that the ESA is well behaved, otherwise travel permission may be denied.

Author Bio: Adam Belucci is a mental health professional who has considerable experience of evaluating the requirement of patients for a dog registered emotional companion.


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