Alabama Emotional Support Animal Laws

Alabama Emotional Support Animal LawsIf you have an emotional support animal (ESA) in the state of Alabama, it is critical that you understand all of your rights and responsibilities. Becoming informed in this area will help you to avoid many of the difficulties or misunderstandings that can occur when trying to bring your animal with you to various places. It can also help to ensure you are doing everything you are supposed to do when exercising your rights. On this page, you will find answers to some of the most questions related to ESAs, and some general advice on how to have the best possible experiences for you and your animal.

Are ESAs Considered Service Animals in Alabama?

Alabama does not consider emotional support animals to be service animals and they do not extend any of the special rights to those who have them. Service animals are limited to dogs and miniature horses and must receive training that is tailored to the specific physical or mental handicap that the person they will help has.

How Does Alabama Define an Emotional Support Animal?

The state of Alabama does not have any specific laws on the books that define what an emotional service animal is. They also do not grant any additional rights to people with ESAs. There are, however, several federal laws that offer protections to emotional support animals, and these laws do apply within this state.

There is one Alabama state law, however, that those with emotional support animals need to be very familiar with. In 2019, the state passed a law that made it a Class C misdemeanor for anyone to falsely claim that an animal is a service animal. If you attempt to bring your ESA to an area where it is not permitted, and claim that it is a service animal, you could face these penalties. This is why it is so critical that you understand your legal rights in this state.

Which Animals can be Emotional Service Animals in Alabama?

There are no restrictions on what species of animal can be an emotional support animal in this state. Which type of animal you have as an ESA, however, may impact where you are able to bring them. If an animal causes a reasonable concern that it will cause injury, damage, or other issues, they can be denied entry even to places they would normally be welcomed. This is one reason why the vast majority of ESAs are dogs and cats, with some people choosing small mammals like bunnies or even mice.

Psychiatric Service Dog in Alabama

Psychiatric service dogs are a subset of service dogs that are known for their ability to help with mental health conditions and psychiatric disabilities. A psychiatric service dog might help with conditions such as anxiety, depression, OCD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or PTSD. In Alabama, state law supports protections granted to service dogs by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as long as the psychiatric service dog is trained to complete disability-related tasks for their owners (this is what makes a companion animal a service dog, as according to the ADA).

Individuals with psychiatric service dogs in Alabama can take advantage of public access rights, such as entering businesses or restaurants that typically don’t permit dogs to enter. Psychiatric service dogs are allowed to accompany their owner wherever the owner needs to go in Alabama, with the exception of religious organizations that have specific rules excluding dogs from entry.

Owners are not required to provide proof that their dog is a service dog via identification paperwork or certification papers, nor are they required to answer questions about their service dog. The only questions that individuals with service dogs need to answer are about whether or not their dog is a service animal and which tasks their dog is trained to perform; Alabama state law supports this, and adheres to the ADA’s rules regarding service dogs.

PTSD Service Dog in Alabama

A PTSD service dog in Alabama is a type of psychiatric service dog that is trained to help relieve the symptoms of an individual’s PTSD. Tasks that a PTSD service dog might complete include retrieving medication and water for their owner, checking around corners and clearing rooms, protecting their owner’s back when out in public, and helping to warn an individual about the onset of flashbacks or providing comfort to help an individual out of a flashback.

With the help of a PTSD service dog, many individuals suffering from this condition are able to regain confidence in their daily lives and complete their daily tasks with much less stress.

Do ESAs Require Special Training in Alabama?

No. Unlike service animals, which require specific training, an emotional support animal provides its benefit simply by being with you. This is why there is no required training on either the state or federal level for this type of animal. Those who have ESAs, however, should always provide sufficient training to ensure their animal is well-behaved while in public. If an animal causes others to feel threatened or is otherwise causing a disturbance, it can be made to leave. An animal that is well-trained is going to be welcomed in many more places than one that is a problem.

Does Your ESA Have to Wear Any Identifying Markings?

Emotional support animals do not have to wear any type of vest or other identifying markings in order to serve their role. Some people who have an emotional support animal, however, will use specific markings to provide further benefits. For example, if you suffer from serious anxiety when meeting new people, you could have your ESA wear a vest that asks people not to approach or interact with you or the animal. Whether you use any type of marking or not is entirely up to you.

What Protections do Federal Laws Provide for Emotional Support Animals?

Federal laws offer some protections to emotional support animals in the state of Alabama. The following are specific areas where an ESA must be allowed, even if pets are not normally permitted. In most situations, the easiest way to exercise your right to bring your animal to these areas is to simply show them your ESA letter when talking to the people in charge of the area.

Airline Travel Protections

Unfortunately, the Air Carrier Access Act no longer offers protections to ESAs, who used to be allowed to fly for free in the cabin of an airplane with their handler. While some airlines may still allow ESAs, or may at least allow you to bring them onboard in a carrier, it is not a legal requirement.

However, if you train your dog to be a psychiatric service dog (PSD), they will again be protected under the Air Carrier Access Act and will be allowed to fly with you for free. You can reach out to us for a risk-free service animal consultation to find out more about training your own PSD.

Housing Protections

Under the federal Fair Housing Act, emotional support animals are considered assistance animals, which means they must be allowed to live with you. If you are looking to rent a home, condo, or apartment, just let the landlord know that you will have an ESA with you.

The landlord can deny a request to bring an ESA onto the property in certain situations, such as:

  • Allowing an ESA would cause a demonstratable and undue financial and/or administrative difficulty on the landlord.
  • Your ESA (the species or some other aspect of it) poses a clear threat to other tenants or the landlord.
  • Your animal would cause physical damage to the facility even with reasonable precautions being taken.

Campus Living Protections

If you are living on a college or university campus, you are permitted to have your ESA with you. This is thanks to the federal Rehabilitation Act, which confirms that you can have these animals in on-campus housing. In most situations, you will also be able to bring the animal with you throughout the campus, and even to class if it provides you with emotional benefits, but this is not enshrined in law, and your college or university may prohibit it.

Can You Bring Your ESA to Public Areas where Pets are Not Allowed?

Legally speaking, you do not have the right to bring your emotional support animal to places in Alabama that do not permit animals (with the exceptions mentioned above). You can, however, take some steps that will help you to get permission to bring your animal into these areas in many cases.

Get an Emotional Support Animal Letter

Having an ESA letter helps to prove that your ESA does indeed help you with real diagnosed issues. This added credibility often encourages people to be more accommodating than they would be for those wanting to bring a normal pet into the area.

Talking to Business Owners

If you want to bring your ESA into a restaurant, supermarket, museum, or other areas where animals are banned, it does not hurt to ask for permission. Many people with ESAs have had great results by simply calling the owner or manager of a business ahead of time to explain their situation. Let them know that you have an ESA letter (if you do) and that you would be happy to show it to them upon arrival. In addition, give them assurances that your animal will be well-behaved and will not cause any problems for the business.

Talking to Employers

It is a common misconception that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) grants you the right to bring your ESA with you into work. While the ADA does require that employers allow service animals into the workplace, that does not apply to emotional support animals.

If you find that you often experience stress, anxiety, or other issues at work, however, it really cannot hurt to ask your boss or your human resources representative for permission to bring your ESA. Employers are most interested in ensuring that your work gets done efficiently, and if they can be shown that having your ESA with you will help with this, they may give approval.

Exercise Your Rights with Kindness

It is important to always be able to exercise your legal rights when it comes to your emotional support animal. It is equally important, however, to try to be patient and understanding with who you interact with. Not everyone is going to understand what an ESA is or what rights they have. Planning ahead and making sure you have a little extra time in situations where you may need to explain your rights is a good idea. This will help to ensure your rights are not violated, and those you interact with will also have a positive learning experience.

What Does the Future Hold for ESAs?

There are no bills or other proposals being considered federally or in Alabama regarding emotional support animals at this time. There are always individuals and groups that are working to push forward the rights of people to have their emotional support animal with them wherever they go. This is why it is important to always try to keep up on the news to see if any changes in the laws are made.