Emotional support animals (ESAs) help thousands of patients in Colorado improve their mental health. ESA ownership is a well-documented, drug-free treatment for mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Because this treatment has helped so many people suffering from these conditions and more, laws have been enacted to provide protection to Colorado residents who benefit from their emotional support animals. These laws prevent ESA owners in the state from being denied housing or transportation based on their need for animal assistance.
If you live in the state of Colorado and you believe you would benefit from the companionship of an emotional support animal or you believe that your current pet fulfills these requirements and you would like to learn more about how to make sure that you are protected under the law, keep reading.
Summary of ESA Laws in Colorado
The most important protection given to residents of Colorado and their Emotional Support animals can be found in the federal Fair Housing Act, also called the FHA. According to this act, animals who are covered by a valid ESA letter may live in the same house or apartment with their owner, even if the property normally has a “no pets” policy. Landlords also may not charge any additional pet fees or require additional deposits for these animals
When traveling by airplane, emotional support animals are usually allowed to travel in the main cabin of the aircraft with their owners. This protection is not as broad as the ones for housing because the safety and comfort of other airline passengers also play a role. What the law says is that airlines must be willing to make reasonable accommodations for passengers who wish to travel with their ESAs. This is covered by the Air Carrier Access Act, a federal law that applies across the country.
There are no additional protections provided to ESA owners by state laws in Colorado. However, there are additional state laws that make it a crime to knowingly misrepresent a pet as an emotional support animal or a service animal. Fines for this can reach as high as $500.
Qualifying for ESA Protections in Colorado
There is no need to go through a government agency or complete a registration process in order to qualify for the protections outlined in the previous section. The only requirement is that patients receive a letter from their doctor or other mental health professional licensed in Colorado.
When writing this letter, the mental health professional will include a brief outline of the conditions that your animal offers help in treating and express their recommendation that spending time with your animal will have a positive effect on your treatment. This letter can be delivered electronically, but it must be written on the their letterhead.
Unfortunately, as the demand for emotional support animals has grown, so has the number of unethical providers selling fraudulent or invalid letters. That’s why it’s important for patients to be able to trust the provider who will be writing their ESA letters. Otherwise, they risk being left without a valid letter at a crucial time.
By registering at US Service Animals, you’ll gain access to our network of licensed providers that you can trust to issue a 100% valid ESA letter. If you have already been issued an ESA letter and you believe it may have been a scam, we encourage you to report it here.
Colorado ESA Travel Laws
The Federal Air Carriers Access Act protects owners in Colorado by making it easier for them to travel with their emotional support animals. The law requires airlines to make reasonable accommodations so that anyone with an emotional disability to travel in the main cabin of an aircraft with their emotional support animal as long as they have an ESA letter. All airlines require this letter as proof and may require additional medical forms to be filled out in order to fly.
If you are planning a trip and would like to fly in the main cabin accompanied by your emotional support animal, you should make sure to contact the airline you will be flying as soon as possible. This will give you as much time as possible to see what their policies are as well as the restrictions on the size and breed of your animal.
Colorado ESA Employment Laws
Although employment is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act which states that employers cannot discriminate against anyone with a disability. However, this law only covers service animals, and emotional support animals are not included in this.
If you have an ESA letter and believe you would benefit from their assistance during the workday, we still encourage you to show your employer in Colorado. You may be surprised by how accommodating your employer is. Companies around the world are seeing a boost of productivity and office morale as a result of allowing ESAs in the workplace.
Unfortunately, however, if your employer doesn’t approve of having an emotional support animal on the work premises, there is nothing else you can do.
Colorado ESA Housing Laws
Another federal law, the Fair Housing Act, protects Colorado residents who have an emotional support animal. The act prevents landlords from discriminating against anyone with a disability and ensures that anyone with a service dog or emotional support animal has equal access to housing.
What this means for ESA owners in Colorado is that it is illegal to be evicted or denied housing for needing your animal to live with you, even if your landlord or property manager does not allow pets. It is important to note that if an emotional support animal behaves badly or disruptively, a landlord has the right to refuse entry or have them removed from the premises.
If someone is caught claiming their animal is a service animal or emotional support animal without the proper documentation, they may be assessed with a fine of up to $500. This is another reason it is extremely important to be sure that your ESA letter is valid before submitting it to your landlord.
University campus housing is also covered under the Fair Housing Act, but dorm rooms are not. So students wishing to have an emotional support animal nearby while they study will want to keep this in mind. Like landlords, universities may also request an ESA letter to confirm the animal is an emotional support animal and its eligibility for housing accommodations.
How to get an ESA letter in Colorado
In order to prove you require the services of your emotional support animal, the only documentation you need to show is a letter from a qualified medical professional who is licensed to practice in Colorado.
Simply call or schedule a free consultation through US Service Animals and we’ll connect you with one of our medical professionals who will assess your situation to see if you and your animal qualify. If you do then you can register and get an ESA letter, often sent the same day.
This letter is very important as it required by all airlines and most landlords as proof of the animal being a legitimate emotional support animal.
What is the Difference Between a Service Dog and an Emotional Support Animal?
It is important to know the difference between a service dog and an emotional support animal. Service animals have been trained to perform specific tasks and are allowed in most public places, whereas emotional support animals are not trained and can be any kind of animals including dogs, cats, birds, and even miniature horses.
In Colorado, the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carriers Access Act cover emotional support animals as well as service animals. These laws help to protect emotional support animals and their owners in getting fair housing and access to air travel.
Owners should be aware that misrepresenting an emotional support animal as a service animal is a crime in the state of Colorado and carries a fine of up to $500.
How Can I Be Sure My ESA Letter is Valid?
In order to make sure that your ESA letter is accepted by landlords and airlines, you should make sure it meets a few specific requirements. First, as stated above, the letter should be signed by a licensed medical professional and printed on their letterhead.
As far as the content of the letter, it is important that your doctor clearly states that the companionship of your emotional support animal is a recommended part of your treatment. How much detail you wish to include specific medical information is up to you. Keep in mind that you are entitled to privacy under HIPAA laws, but extra details in the letter may be helpful when submitting it to landlords and airlines.
When looking for an ESA provider online, you should be very careful to make sure and avoid any offers that seem too good to be true. Unfortunately, as demand for ESA letters has skyrocketed, so have predatory providers looking to make a quick buck by selling letters from overseas doctors or even total counterfeits. Needless to say, these phony ESA letters can cause a massive headache down the road.
Can Emotional Support Animals Only Be Dogs and Cats?
No! Because there is no training required for a pet to become an emotional support animal, animals of all kinds can qualify. We have seen patients with all kinds of emotional support animals, including turtles, rabbits, hamsters, and even mini-horses. The only requirement for becoming an emotional support animal is that their companionship improves your mood.
Can My Emotional Support Animal Live in My Apartment if My Landlord Doesn’t Allow Pets?
Yes! With very few exceptions, a landlord is not allowed to deny one of their tenants the right to live with their emotional support animal. Furthermore, they are not allowed to charge any additional fees as a result of this. This does not apply to residences where the property owner lives on the premises and there are fewer than four units.
Can My Emotional Support Animal Accompany Me To a Restaurant in Colorado?
No. Emotional support animals are not allowed to accompany their owners in any public areas that are otherwise off-limits to pets. Service animals who have specific training to assist owners with physical disabilities are allowed anywhere the general public can go. Misrepresenting a dog with an ESA letter as a service dog is a crime in Colorado and is punishable by a fine.
Can My Emotional Support Animal Stay in a Hotel With Me in Colorado?
Because hotels are not covered by the fair housing act, owners with emotional support animals are not given the same protection when seeking out hotel lodging. This means that emotional support animals are not permitted to stay in a hotel room with you unless the facility is pet friendly.
If you are unable to find a pet-friendly hotel in the area, then you may want to call, explain your situation, and ask for special accommodations, even though they are not required by law.
Are Emotional Support Animals Covered by The ADA?
Contrary to what you may hear and read online, the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) does not deal with emotional support dogs at all. The two federal laws that give emotional support animal owners additional protection when seeking out housing or booking air travel are the Air Carrier Access Act (ACA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA).
Do I Need to Register My Pet for Them to Be an Emotional Support Animal?
There is no formal registration process for emotional support animals. This means that any pet owner with a note from a licensed mental health professional can take advantage of all the protections and accommodations reserved for ESA owners.