Emotional Support Animal & Service Animal Laws in Utah

If you are suffering from a physical or mental health condition, emotional support animals (ESA) and service animals (SA) can help you manage everyday life. From anxiety to depression to physical disabilities, a furry friend can provide comfort, help you manage stressful situations, and be trained to perform special tasks.

Before you take steps to register for one of these special animals, it’s worth knowing the differences between ESAs and SAs. For example, unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not trained to perform specific tasks and are also not allowed in public places. Also, while ESAs are primarily for emotional support, service animals are trained to help handlers with disabilities who require assistance with daily tasks.

As a Utah resident, it is important to know what rights you have with each of these animals. ESAs have fewer rights than SAs so it important that you are informed. This article provides information about the legal differences between emotional service animals and service animals in the state of Utah.

Difference Between Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals

Before launching into the state-specific laws for emotional support animals (ESAs) and service animals (SA), it’s worth noting the differences between them.

Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

As its name suggests, emotional support animals provide comfort and support to their handler. However, these special creatures are not to be confused with therapy animals that often work with a group of people — say, in a care home. ESAs are usually assigned to one handler and will accompany them in social and public places.

The primary role of an ESA is to provide an ongoing sense of comfort and security. These animals are particularly useful for handlers with disabilities or who require emotional support following bereavement or a traumatic event. However, while ESAs are beneficial for physical and mental health support, their role is more like a pet than a service animal.

Service Animals (SA)

Service animals, on the other hand, are trained for specific tasks, and they provide help for individuals with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. This includes conditions such as blindness, hearing impairments, physical disability, learning disabilities (e.g. autism), or mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or schizophrenia.

The main role of a service animal is to assist their handler with day-to-day tasks that are otherwise difficult because of their disability. For example, a service dog may fetch medication, protect the handler in public, provide distraction and comfort during an anxiety attack, or do a room search to put someone with PTSD at ease. These highly skilled animals are also trained to deal with emergency scenarios that may arise because of their owner’s impairment.

The Importance of the ADA

Another key difference between service animals and emotional support animals is that SAs are granted more special access rights, which we’ll cover in detail below. In other words, SAs are protected under the American Disability Act (ADA), while ESAs are not.

Under the ADA, SAs and their handlers are granted fair and equal access to housing, places of employment, transportation, and public areas. While each state has its own unique laws pertaining to service animals, the ADA is the guiding regulation which protects handlers and their SAs.

Emotional Support Animal Laws in Utah

Like other states, Utah does not provide legal protection or recognition for emotional support animals. While ESAs play an important role, handlers are only legally protected when it comes to housing.

Housing Laws

In Utah, those with an emotional support animal are protected under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). This law states that landlords cannot deny access (or charge additional fees) to a renter with an emotional support animal, even if the property has a no-pet policy.

However, if your ESA is out of control, threatening, or behaving badly, a landlord can deny access and charge you for any damages incurred. They can also deny accommodation when the animal is a direct threat to others.

Property owners or landlords will often request documented need for your emotional support animal, which is why an ESA letter is important. These letters are written from a mental health professional and can help a landlord understand more about your reasons for having an emotional support animal.

In terms of other housing, University campus accommodation is also covered under the FHA, but dorm rooms are not. Students wishing to have an ESA nearby while they study will want to keep this in mind. Like landlords, universities can request an ESA letter to determine its eligibility for housing.

However, one area that is not covered by the FHA are hotels. ESAs 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, you may want to explain your situation and ask if an exception can be made, even though they are not required by law.

Transportation & Air Travel Laws

Because emotional service dogs are not covered under the American Disability Act, they can be refused entry on public transportation such as buses or trains. However, many places allow small pets, so depending on your animal’s size, you should be fine on most forms of transport.

When it comes to airlines, emotional support animals in Utah were once protected under the Air Carrier Access Act, but this is no longer the case. The Act was modified so that only service dogs are permitted access to a plane’s cabin. If your ESA is small enough, some airlines will allow you to bring it onto the plane as your carry-on, which you can stow under your seat. This way, you can still have your animal nearby, even if it isn’t on your lap.

Employment Laws

Emotional service animals are not protected when it comes to employment laws. While employment is covered under the ADA — which states that employers cannot discriminate against anyone with a disability — only service animals are protected under this law.

If you have an ESA letter and believe you have a need for their presence, you could still make a case to your employer in Utah. While this is up to the discretion of your workplace, they may be accommodating to your requests. Companies around the world are seeing a change in flexible working practices as well as the demonstrated benefits that ESA bring in terms of boosting office morale.

However, if your employer doesn’t approve of having an emotional support animal on the work premises, there is not much else you can do.

Public Access Laws

There are no additional protections provided to ESA owners by state laws in Utah. Emotional support animals are not allowed to accompany their owners in any public areas that are otherwise off-limits to pets. Only fully certified service animals have access to public places. This means that public establishments have the right to refuse entry to you and your ESA or to charge you pet fees.

While it may be tempting to pass your ESA off as a service animal to offset these regulations, there are laws that make it a crime to knowingly misrepresent them as such. Fines for falsely presenting your ESA as an SA can be as high as $500.

How Can I Get an ESA Letter in Utah?

There is no need to go through a government agency or complete a registration process to qualify for the protections outlined in the previous section. The only requirement is that patients receive an ESA letter from their doctor or mental health professional licensed in Utah.

When writing this letter, the mental health professional will include a brief outline of what conditions your animal provides support for. They will also indicate how spending time with your animal has a positive effect on your treatment. This letter can be delivered electronically, but it must be written on 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.

US Service Animal Laws in Utah

Service animals are afforded more rights than emotional service animals. For the most part, state laws are similar with only a few minor variations. It is important to check the laws in your specific state, however, so that you can obtain correct and up-to-date information.

Like most states, legal protections in Utah are granted if a person has a disability. Under the ADA, a person with a disability is defined as having a physical or mental impairment that “substantially limits one or more major life activities”.

While handlers are not required to show proof of their animal’s certification or training, Utah law encourages (but does not enforce) them to use animal service vests or laminated cards for easier identification.

If you have a disability and live with a service animal, the laws in Utah should make your journey a little easier since you and your SA will be protected on most public property.

Definitions of a Service Animal in Utah

Before diving into the specifics surrounding the laws for service animals, it’s important to mention that not all animals are recognized as service animals. These definitions vary between each state: for example, in Utah, only dogs are classed as SAs. Therefore, other animals — even if they assist you with your disability — are not granted the same protections.

Psychiatric Service Dog in Utah

Psychiatric service dogs are there to help people who struggle with mental disabilities. Some mental health conditions can be treated with the aid of a service dog with some examples being post-traumatic stress disorder, mental impairments, OCD, and bipolar disorder. Psychiatric service dogs help with these conditions if you get the okay from a licensed mental health professional.

Service dogs help with these conditions by being trained to perform a specific task or to develop a unique skill. Some of these skills include opening doors, fetching medications or other items, and recognizing emotions. For some people, these skills help them live a more independent life without the need for a human caretaker.

To ensure that people with mental health disabilities aren’t discriminated against, several laws in Utah protect service dogs. Federal laws like the Fair Housing Act (FHA) ensure that people can live in rental properties without discrimination from landlords. Some other notable laws include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which allows service dogs to enter public space and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

PTSD Service Dog in Utah

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that causes people to experience symptoms like panic attacks, stress, and anxiety. Depending on the trauma, PTSD can manifest in many ways but a service dog can help. Service dogs for PTSD are known as PTSD service dogs and they can prevent someone from experiencing triggers and get people to safety during a panic attack.

What makes a PTSD service dog effective is its training. They’re trained to recognize body language and the emotions of their owner, which is what helps them treat symptoms. PTSD service dogs can also open doors, escort people to safety, and understand when an area isn’t safe for their owner.

Housing Laws

As mentioned above, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that protects tenants from any discrimination based on their disability. The FHA protects service animals and their handlers, allowing fair and equal access to housing opportunities to handlers and their animals. Landlords are also not permitted to charge additional “pet fees” or to turn a handler away because of the animal.

Under Utah law, landlords may only charge a security deposit for wear and tear on the property (and only if they apply similar rules to other tenants). If there is no security deposit, the handler is liable to pay for any other damages incurred from the animal.

To be fully protected under the FHA, individuals must have a disability and a specific need for their service animal. In other words, they must perform specific tasks and duties to alleviate their disability.

Transportation & Air Travel Laws

In Utah, service animals are permitted on public transportation, including buses, trains, taxis, etc. These entities must allow handlers and their service animals to board their vehicles and access services without prejudice. In other words, SAs are entitled to full and equal access to public accommodations.

However, SAs are always required to be on a leash, and they normally cannot occupy a seat on public transport. They are permitted under the seat or on your lap (if they’re small).

These laws also apply to air travel. Airlines must permit disabled handlers and their service dogs onto an airplane without charging fees. To assess whether your animal qualifies, the airlines will usually check to see:

  • If the animal is required to accompany you because of a disability.
  • What tasks the animal performs and how it relates to your disability.
  • That the animal wears a harness or a vest.
  • That the animal is behaving well.

Some airlines will also require you to fill out paperwork prior to your flight (e.g. a US DOT form attesting to the animal’s health and training and/or a DOT form attesting to adequate sanitary measures). While each airline differs in terms of required paperwork, it’s best to contact them ahead of your flight so that you can submit the right documentation on time.

Employment Laws

Under ADA rules, service animals are also permitted in places of employment. In other words, employers must grant reasonable accommodations to disabled people and their service dog so that they can perform the essential functions of their job. This could be through amending the environment, practices, or policies to accommodate the animal.

However, an employer could refuse your request if the presence of a service animal would place “undue hardship” on business operations. The employer may also choose to provide a different, yet equally effective, accommodation than the one requested by the disabled person. For this reason, it’s up to the disabled person to prove that they need their service animal.

Public Access Laws

Like other states, service animals in Utah have special rights and are allowed in places that other animals aren’t. This means that you can take your SA to public places without having to show proof or documentation.

Establishments are only allowed to ask about the tasks the animal is trained to perform and whether the SA is necessary due to a disability. Any establishment that refuses entry to you and your SA can be fined and asked to do community service. The only other exceptions where restrictions might be in place is if the animal poses a threat or risk to others.

In broad terms, your service animal is free to accompany you in the following public spaces:

  • Hotels and other lodging establishments
  • Public transportation terminals, depots, and stations
  • Restaurants and other places that serve food and drink
  • Sales or rental establishments
  • Service establishments
  • Any place of public gathering, such as an auditorium or convention center
  • Places of entertainment and exhibit, like theaters or sports stadiums
  • Gyms, bowling alleys, and other places of exercise or recreation
  • Recreational facilities, such as zoos and parks
  • Libraries, museums, and other places where items are collected or displayed publicly
  • Educational institutions
  • Social service centers


How Do I Register My Service Dog?

To register your service animal on our website, click here. For just under $80, you’ll receive:

  • Lifetime registration for your service animal in the United States’ largest service animal database
  • A Service Animal Registration Photo ID Card
  • A Registration Certificate for your service animal
  • Digital copies of your Registration Certificate, immediately available for download
  • The option to order a vest for your service animal
  • 24/7 access to our legal team and support staff

Additionally, you’ll receive a card explaining service animal laws and your rights if inquiries are made regarding your SA’s legal status. Keep in mind, though, that the registration itself will not grant you any additional rights, as these are already protected under the ADA and other related laws.

Are There Special Rules I Need to Know About Service Animals?

Despite the protections afforded to your service animal, they must also be well-behaved, non-aggressive and not cause a nuisance when using public accommodations. Threatening or otherwise ill-mannered service animals may result in your being asked to leave the premises, in which case, these federal and state protections will do nothing to protect your rights.

The Benefits of an ESA or an SA

There are numerous benefits to having an ESA or an SA. While these animals differ in terms of their duties, there is no doubting the physical, emotional, and mental support they provide for disabled individuals and those with mental health issues.

If you’re thinking of getting an emotional support animal or a service animal, it’s worth reviewing this guide so that you know what your legal rights are. Utah, among many other states, is eager to accommodate disabled people’s rights to animals to help them live functional and fulfilling lives.