An emotional support animal is truly a life-saving asset for hundreds of thousands of Americans. From rabbits to dogs (and many species in between), emotional support animals provide assistance and therapeutic benefits to help those living with mental disabilities or emotional trauma. Anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, just to name a few, can make it extremely difficult to perform everyday activities.
However, an emotional support animal can help ease the burden and make life a bit easier for those struggling with these issues. Thankfully, getting an emotional support animal in Illinois is relatively easy, especially if you acquire a hassle-free ESA letter through US Service Animals.
It is important to note the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal. Service animals (typically dogs) have been trained to perform specific tasks that a person is incapable of performing on their own. For this reason, service animals are allowed in public spaces where other animals (possibly including emotional support animals) may not be allowed to go.
Alternatively, emotional support animals are not trained in specific tasks, nor are there as many limitations on the types of animals that qualify; dogs, cats, birds, and even miniature horses can qualify as emotional support animals. In Illinois, as with other states, the Fair Housing Act covers the legal definitions of emotional support animals. This law helps protect emotional support animals and their owners when attempting to rent a living space.
Once upon a time, the Air Carrier Access Act provided emotional support animals with the right to travel in airplane cabins with their owners free of charge. However, the law has since changed and airlines are no longer required to allow ESAs to ride in the cabin. Now, only service dogs are protected by the Air Carrier Access Act. Even then, the airline is within its rights to require travelers to fill out a form with information about the dog’s training. This form also requires service dog owners to agree that if their dog is aggressive or unruly, the airline can charge a pet fee and have the dog put in a carrier.
If you want to bring your ESA into the cabin of an airplane, you’re left with two options. The first depends on your animal’s size. If it is small enough, it may be able to qualify as a carry-on that you stow under your seat. Otherwise, if you have a dog, you can have it trained as a psychiatric service animal. PSDs perform tasks that provide relief to handlers during times of distress. For instance, a PSD might ground their handler during an anxiety attack by licking, pawing at, or laying on them. Because PSDs are trained to perform specific tasks, they are considered service animals and are protected by the Air Carrier Access Act.
Although employment is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which states that employers cannot discriminate against anyone with a disability, emotional support animals are not protected under this law. However, if you have an ESA letter to show your employer in Illinois, you may be allowed to bring them into the workplace. This is determined on a case-by-case basis, so if your employer does not approve of having an emotional support animal in the workplace, unfortunately, you must abide by their decision.
Additionally, the Illinois White Cane Law grants service animals the ability to be in certain public spaces with their owners, but this right does not extend to emotional support animals.
In Illinois, the Fair Housing Act provides certain protections for those with certain kinds of assistance animals.
According to the Fair Housing Act, landlords have the right to request an ESA letter when applicant’s request accommodations for their service animal. However, they are limited in how and what they can ask of a potential tenant. They are only permitted to ask the following questions:
- “Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability (a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities)?
- Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? (afford a person with disabilities an equal opportunity to use or enjoy the dwelling).”
Additionally, landlords must abide by the following guidelines related to assistance animals:
- “Breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to assistance animal.
- Animals other than dogs can be assistance animals.
- Housing providers may ask for documentation of the disability-related need for an assistance animal if disability is not apparent.
- Decision must be based on individualized assessment relying on objective evidence about the specific animal’s actual conduct–not based on mere speculation that the animal may cause harm or on evidence of harm or damage caused by other animals.
- Landlords can request proof of current vaccination and/or license for the assistance animal.
- Landlords can expect the tenant to conform to the rules of the complex, i.e. picking up animal waste, maintaining the unit to the extent expected of every other tenant.
- A landlord cannot require the assistance animal to have any specific training or certification.
- A landlord cannot require the assistance animal to wear or carry any special collar, harness, vest, emblem or other means of identifying it as such.
- Pet deposits or pet fees are not allowed.”
While Illinois state law requires landlords to admit service animals, this same protection does not extend to emotional support animals. However, the ADA does provide this protection at the federal level.
In any case, you should make sure to get your ESA letter with US Service Animals as soon as possible, especially if you plan to travel with your pet. You can also learn more about Illinois’ state requirements and regulations for emotional support animals right here.
How to get an emotional support animal in Illinois
It is quite easy to get an emotional support animal in Illinois. Simply contact US Service Animals to speak with one of our medical professionals. They will assess your situation to see if you and your animal qualify. If you do, you will be permitted to continue the registration process and receive your ESA letter. This letter is very important, as many landlords in Illinois may ask for it.
With US Service Animals, you can talk to a mental health professional and register your emotional support animal quickly. Simply follow the steps provided on our website. You won’t have to pay anything unless the mental health professional approves your request. Then, you will receive your ESA letter, granting you all of the rights and benefits associated with an emotional support animal!