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 Iowa 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 Iowa, as with other states, the Fair Housing Act covers the legal definitions of emotional support animals. These laws help protect emotional support animals and their owners when attempting to rent a living space.
The Air Carrier Access Act once protected emotional support animals on flights, allowing them to ride in the cabin with their owners for free. The law has since changed to exclude emotional support animals. Now, the only animals allowed in the cabin are service dogs. In some cases, you can take your ESA into the cabin as a carry-on that you stow under your seat. Of course, this is not free and your ESA has to be small enough to qualify.
If your ESA is a dog, you may be able to train it as a psychiatric service animal. These dogs support their owners by performing tasks that reduce distress caused by mental health problems. A PSA might be taught to ground its owner by licking or pawing at them. Though airlines cannot reject a PSA outright, they can require you to fill out forms that ask about your pet’s training and essentially require you to agree to the airline removing your dog if it is unruly.
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 Iowa, 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.
In Iowa, the Fair Housing Act and the Iowa Civil Rights Act protect those with an emotional support animal. Specifically, these two laws outline rules related to “assistance animals,” which includes both service animals and emotional support animals.
According to Iowa state law, landlords can request an ESA letter if a prospective tenant’s disability is not apparent. 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.”
Despite these rules, in certain circumstances, landlords are allowed to refuse an emotional support animal if it “would impose an undue financial and administrative burden, if it would fundamentally alter the essential nature of the housing provider’s services, or if the specific assistance animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.”
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 Iowa’s state requirements and regulations for emotional support animals right here.
How to get an emotional support animal in Iowa
It is quite easy to get an emotional support animal in Iowa. 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. Even though Iowa state law does not require an ESA letter for housing purposes, it is still necessary, as landlords have the right to request 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 owning an emotional support animal!