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Can an Emotional Support Animal Go Anywhere? Facts & FAQ

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

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Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock

A pet’s valued companionship is a great way to soothe the pains of any hardship you may be experiencing, which is why emotional support animals are a tremendous support for those who may be struggling with emotional or mental health disorders. Unfortunately, emotional support animals cannot be taken everywhere, although many exceptions are made for them. Keep scrolling to learn more about where you can and cannot bring your emotional support animal.

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What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

While any animal can technically offer emotional support, not all animals can be considered official emotional support animals. To have your pet considered an official emotional support animal, you must receive a prescription from a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.

Are Emotional Support Animals the Same as Service Animals?

Emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) explicitly differentiates between emotional support animals and service animals, stating that pets that solely provide emotional support are not classified the same as service animals, which are animals who are trained to perform tasks for individuals with disabilities.

Since emotional support animals are not considered service animals, there are accommodations that service animals receive that are not extended to emotional support animals. However, state and local governments have different rules for emotional support animals. So, depending on where you live, your emotional support animal may have more accommodations.

Girl with emotional support dog
Photo Credit: Anagarcia, Shutterstock

Are Emotional Support Animals the Same as Psychiatric Service Animals?

Psychiatric service animals are pets trained to help people cope with mental illness. While on the surface, this may sound exactly like an emotional support animal, the fact is that they are different.

Psychiatric service animals are recognized by the ADA and have been trained to do specific tasks that help people cope. An example could include your pet reminding you to take medicine or keeping you safe during dissociative episodes. Emotional support animals help people cope simply with their presence, so they do not qualify as psychiatric service animals.

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Accommodations Made for Emotional Support Animals

Although the ADA does not recognize emotional support animals, there are still accommodations made for them.

Housing

Emotional support animals cannot be excluded from housing, even if the landlord has a strict “no pets” rule. Likewise, people with emotional support animals cannot be charged a fee for bringing their pet to live with them. This is because the Fair Housing Act recognizes emotional support animals as assistance animals, so people with emotional support needs cannot be discriminated against when searching for housing.

University Housing

Like general housing, university housing cannot discriminate against those in need of an emotional support animal. This is also due to the Fair Housing Act. However, universities can impose their own requirements regarding emotional support animals. If you plan to bring your emotional support animal to live with you in university housing, you will need to verify and complete any requirements set by your university.

Cat welcomes his owner at home
Photo Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

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Accommodations Not Made for Emotional Support Animals

Since emotional support animals are not classified as service animals under the ADA, some accommodations are made to service animals that do not include them.

Hotels and Airbnb

Hotels and Airbnb locations are not obligated to welcome emotional support animals, as they are not included in the Fair Housing Act. If you plan to bring your emotional support animal along for a trip, you must verify that the owner will accept your pet.

Restaurants, Stores, and Other Businesses

Many people mistakenly believe that emotional support animals can be brought into any place of business, but that is not true. Businesses may allow your emotional support animal into the store as a kindness to you, but they are not legally obligated to.

Your Workplace

Your employers are not legally mandated to welcome your emotional support animal, although individual employers may be willing to discuss the possibility with you.

black poodle service dog
Image Credit: grandbrothers, Shutterstock

Why Can’t Emotional Support Animals Go Everywhere?

Emotional support animals, psychiatric service animals, and service animals are different categories of assistance animals. Their job is to assist people in need of support, particularly those with disabilities, and due to the different degrees of disabilities, there are various degrees of support animals.

Service animals and psychiatric service animals are specially trained to support individuals through a series of learned tasks and abilities. Emotional support animals, however, provide support simply with their presence. Although they can be trained to perform specific tasks, these tasks generally do not involve physical assistance. For this reason, emotional support animals are more limited in accommodations than other service animals because other service animals provide the support necessary for a person’s daily life.

Emotional support animals are instrumental in helping to soothe a person’s anxiety, but they are categorized differently due to their skillset and training.

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Conclusion

Emotional support animals are valuable companions that can play a pivotal role in a person’s life. They are not considered the same as service animals, so they do not have all of the freedoms that a service animal has. Still, they enjoy many more accommodations than the average pet.


Featured Image Credit: AJR_photo, Shutterstock

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