Emotional support animals are valuable companions to many, and their support helps individuals by decreasing stress, calming anxiety, and relieving symptoms of other mental health conditions.
Many individuals who have an emotional support animal may be wondering if they can take their companion to work with them in order to continue receiving their calming support. Our article gives you insight into emotional support animals and whether or not they would be allowed in the workplace.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal that many individuals may need to help relieve symptoms of certain mental health conditions. Emotional support animals are typically dogs or cats, but other animals such as miniature horses or even pigs may find a place as support animals.
Conditions that an ESA commonly helps with include anxiety, depression, or chronic stress. These animals have been scientifically proven to help boost feelings of happiness and contentment in their owners and decrease overall levels of stress or negative feelings.
Emotional support animals may also help to provide their owners with a routine and a reason to get out and about in public, something that is important to the treatment of many different mental health conditions.
Are Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals the Same?
Service animals and emotional support animals are not the same thing. Service animals are animals, typically dogs, that are specifically trained to complete disability-related tasks that help out their owner. Service animals are utilized by individuals with psychiatric, physical, or medical disabilities that interfere with the quality of their day-to-day life.
On the other hand, emotional support animals are not trained to complete any specific task for their owners, but they do provide comfort and support with their presence. Because emotional support animals are not specifically trained to help with disability-related tasks, they have different protections and rights according to both state and federal law.
What Are My Emotional Support Animal Rights?
It’s important to understand what your rights are when it comes to emotional support animals. These rights will let you know where you can take your emotional support animal and which accommodations you may have a right to.
Fair Housing Rights
Fair housing rights are the most important rights that individuals with emotional support animals should know about. The right to equal and fair housing is protected by the Fair Housing Act. This federal law states that individuals are able to request reasonable accommodations to live with their emotional support animal.
These accommodations are typically obtained by the individual providing proof of their need for an ESA to the landlord or rental agency, and then being placed in an appropriate unit. Further information about fair housing rights can be found by reviewing the Fair Housing Act or contacting a legal professional specializing in this field.
While emotional support animals previously had access to travel rights that were similar to those of service animals, there have been some changes.
Recent amendments to the Air Carrier Access Act have excluded ESAs from being treated like service animals on airlines. Individuals with emotional support animals may travel with their animal on airlines, but their ESA will be treated like a pet. Individuals will need to register the animal as a pet, depending on specific airline policies.
Public Accommodations Rights
As we mentioned above, emotional support animals have different public accommodations rights from service animals.
While service animals are granted fairly wide-reaching public access rights, emotional support animals are generally excluded from the same privileges. This is because emotional support animals are not trained, and they do not complete specific disability-related tasks for their owners.
Individuals looking to bring their emotional support animals with them when out and about in public should look for locations that typically allow pets inside so as to avoid any issues.
Can I Bring My Emotional Support Dog to Work?
Whether or not you can bring your emotional support dog to work with you depends on specific state laws and the policies of your workplace.
It is not a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is the federal regulation that grants service animals public access rights, for employers to deny access to ESAs. This is because emotional support animals are not specifically trained, and they are typically not needed to assist individuals as they go about their daily tasks.
However, some workplaces may be willing to make accommodations based on an individual’s needs. You may also have luck if the state that you are working in has defined ESAs as one of the types of companion animals that employers need to make accommodations for.
If you are considering bringing your emotional support dog to work, you will need to look at a few things. Consult with the specific laws surrounding ESAs in the workplace, your company’s specific policies, and any applicable state laws.
Are There Laws That Allow Me to Take My ESA to Work?
Depending on the state you live in, there may be laws that specifically define emotional support animals as being a type of companion animal that accommodations need to be made for.
California is one of the most notable states with a law that states ESAs must be granted accommodations in the workplace, as long as the accommodations are reasonable.
Research specific emotional support animal laws in your state to see whether or not there are regulations in place.
FAQs About Emotional Support Animals
Our answers to the following frequently asked questions about ESAs can help you understand more about these important companions and put any remaining worries to rest.
Does My Emotional Support Animal Need to Be Trained?
Emotional support animals don’t need to be trained and they mainly provide their benefits by providing comforting and supporting presence to their owners.
If you are looking for a companion animal that you need to complete specific tasks, you would likely be better served by a service dog instead of an emotional support dog. Speak to your healthcare provider for more information about which of these companion animals is the best choice for your treatment plan and specific needs.
How Do I Get an Emotional Support Animal?
The process of getting an emotional support animal may vary depending on which state you are in. Different jurisdictions have different requirements for what needs to be obtained before your emotional support animal is recognized as valid.
However, most states will require you to meet with a licensed mental health care provider and obtain a letter stating your need for an emotional support animal. Once you have this letter you can request accommodations of your landlord or other rental agency to live with your emotional support animal as per the Fair Housing Act.
You may adopt a new animal to have them act as your emotional support animal, or you may transition an animal that you already own and find comfort in into an emotional support animal.
Are Landlords Required to Accept My Emotional Support Animal?
In most cases, landlords will be required to accept your emotional support animal and make appropriate accommodations. There are a few cases and instances in which your emotional support animal can be legally denied, and it’s important that you pay attention to these so you understand what your rights are.
- Your accommodation request must be reasonable. The unit or housing area that you want to live in with your emotional support animals must be able to properly provide a living space for both you and your animals. Your accommodations request might be denied, for instance, if you are trying to live in a very small space with one or two very large dogs.
- Your emotional support animal cannot act as a threat to the health and safety of others on the property, and they must not be destructive or cause excessive financial strain on the landlord.
- Your accommodations request might be denied if the animal you are trying to bring in as an emotional support animal would not be properly supported by an apartment or other rental unit. This includes attempting to live with exotic animals in a housing unit that would not be conducive to proper care.
If your accommodation request for housing is denied for reasons other than those we’ve listed above, you may be able to consult a legal professional on your next steps. Denying emotional support animal accommodations without a valid reason is likely a violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Can My Emotional Support Animal Be Denied Accommodations?
The only accommodations for emotional support animals that are protected by law are housing accommodation rights. Other accommodations, such as traveling and public access, are not protected for emotional support animals.
You may find that you are denied access to businesses, restaurants, or other facilities when trying to enter with your emotional support animal. In these cases, this would be legal, as emotional support animals don’t have the same protections as service animals.
Can My Employer Deny My Emotional Support Animal?
If you’ve requested to bring your emotional support animal to work with you, your employer may be able to deny this request.
Company policies and specific state laws determine whether or not your employer will need to comply with your request to bring an ESA to the workplace. Check with your state’s laws and speak to your employer about what your options may be in regard to taking your emotional support animal to work.
Keeping Your Emotional Support Animal by Your Side
For many individuals, emotional support animals are a vital part of their daily life, and they provide an immense amount of comfort and support. Under federal law, individuals with emotional support animals have protected rights for equal housing, but they don’t have the same public access and travel rights that service dogs do.
That being said, you may be able to bring your emotional support dog to work with you depending on specific state laws and the policies of your employer. Check carefully with these rules to determine whether or not your ESA can stay by your side during the workday.