Emotional Support Animal Laws Wisconsin

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 Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin, 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.

Are ESAs Considered Service Animals?

No. Emotional support animals do not qualify as service animals under federal law or Wisconsin law. Service animals (which are almost always dogs) must receive specific training to help their owner with tasks related to a diagnosed disability. The best-known type of service dog is a seeing-eye dog, which receives extensive training prior to being assigned to an owner who is legally blind.

Emotional support animals, on the other hand, do not need to receive any special training in order to qualify. This means that ESAs do not automatically qualify for the legal benefits that service animals receive.

Psychiatric Service Dog in Wisconsin

A psychiatric service dog helps people who struggle with mental health illnesses. When paired with the appropriate medications and therapy, adding a companion that’s trained to recognize your emotions into the mix can help you take your treatment to the next level. For this reason, psychiatric service dogs are great for treating conditions like anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, and PTSD.

In Wisconsin psychiatric service dogs are protected by several laws that allow them in public spaces and housing. Even if you live in an area that isn’t pet-friendly, landlords have to adhere to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and can’t discriminate if someone has a service dog. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects service dogs in public spaces. According to state law, a service animal can be any animal that’s trained to perform a specific task. Therefore, small horses and other animals can become service animals in Wisconsin.

Psychiatric service dogs can be trained to fetch someone’s medication, remind them to take medication, guide them to safety, and provide comfort through emotional regulation. Deep pressure therapy is also a common training that psychiatric service dogs go through.

PTSD Service Dog in Wisconsin

Psychiatric service dogs are trained to treat specific mental health disorders, so one variation is the PTSD service dog. These dogs are trained to help people who have PTSD and they’re protected under the FHA and ADA like other service animals in Wisconsin.

PTSD service dogs help people with post-traumatic stress disorder in a few ways. One of the most common training methods is to train the dog to recognize someone’s emotions and triggers. This helps the service animal prevent a panic attack from starting. Many PTSD service dogs will also guide owners to safe spaces, find authorities, and provide comfort through touch.

Bringing an ESA to a Public Facility in Wisconsin

There are many public areas where animals are typically not allowed. This would include places like stores, restaurants, certain public parks, and more. Unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not automatically allowed to go in these areas by law. The owners of these areas do not have to make exceptions to their normal ‘no animals allowed’ policies. Similar to employers, however, it is not uncommon for them to grant a special exception if you approach them ahead of time.

Many people have been successful by calling ahead and letting the property owner know that they have an ESA letter and that their animal would not cause any type of disturbance. If they do not agree to give you permission to bring your animal to their property, you must respect their decision and either avoid the area entirely or leave your animal at home.

What Animals Can Be an Emotional Support Animal in Wisconsin?

According to Wisconsin law, an emotional support animal can technically be any type of animal that provides you with emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship. The most common emotional support animals are dogs and cats, though some people also keep bunnies, small pigs, and even chickens for this purpose.

While any animal can be an emotional support animal, the species you choose will definitely impact your rights and responsibilities. All relevant laws and guidelines have stipulations that state that business owners, employers, and other impacted parties can make reasonable restrictions to minimize the impact of the animal on others in the area.

For example, if you have a goat as an ESA, an airline does not have to permit you to bring it on a flight, even if they do typically allow certain other animals. Finding an animal that can truly provide you with emotional support is most important, but also consider how the species or breed will impact your overall life.

ESA Travel Laws in Wisconsin

Unfortunately, airlines in Wisconsin are no longer required to allow emotional support animals to ride in the cabins of their planes. The Air Carrier Access Act which once provided protection to ESAs now offers those protections to service dogs only. This means that airlines are well within their rights to deny you from bringing an emotional support animal into the cabin of the plane.

However, if your ESA is small enough, it may qualify as a carry-on. You can keep it in a pet-safe carrier that will be stowed under your seat. This isn’t the same as having it on your lap, but just having your pet near may provide you with some extra comfort. If you have a dog, you can train it to be a psychiatric service animal (PSA). PSAs are allowed to ride in the cabin for free because they are service dogs trained to perform tasks that relieve distress caused by mental health issues. Even if your dog is a service animal, the airline can still make you fill out a form before you fly. These forms ask about your dog’s training and require you to agree that if your dog is aggressive or unruly it can be made to travel in a carrier and treated as a pet instead of a service dog.

ESA Employment Laws in Wisconsin

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 Wisconsin, 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, Wisconsin state 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.

ESA Housing Laws in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, 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 the ADA and Wisconsin state law require landlords to admit both service and emotional support animals, there are exceptions to the rule. 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 Wisconsin’s state requirements and regulations for emotional support animals right here.

Questions Landlords May Ask

If you tell your landlord that you want to have an emotional support animal living with you, they are permitted to ask two specific questions to ensure your request is legitimate.

The first one is if the person with the animal has a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities in a substantial way. The second question is if the person with the animal has a disability-related need for the assistance animal.

If the landlord presses for additional information, they may be violating the Fair Housing Act. Both of these questions are answered by having a valid ESA letter, and it’s all you need to show your prospective landlord.

Limitations On What ESAs Are Permitted

Landlords may not prohibit specific breeds of dog or other animals based on their size, weight, or reputation. They can, however, refuse to allow any emotional support animal if it could be shown that it would cause a serious financial and/or administrative burden.

In addition, if the animal can be shown to pose a threat to the health or safety to other tenants, the landlord can deny the request. This is why it is so important to make sure that your ESA is well behaved and cared for.

Your Responsibilities

Once your landlord approves your request to have an emotional support animal living with you, make sure you do everything possible to ensure there are no problems.

  • Don’t allow your ESA to roam around the facility, or the grounds around the facility, alone.
  • Do not permit the animal to show any signs of aggression to your neighbors or visitors to the facility.
  • Always pick up any animal waste right away and dispose of it properly. If your animal makes noises such as barking, try to keep it to a minimum so it does not disturb your neighbors.
  • Perhaps most importantly, you always need to keep your animal up to date on all vaccinations and animal licenses.

If your animal causes a nuisance, then their status as an ESA will not stop the landlord from having the right to evict them.

No Additional Fees

Landlords are not allowed to require any type of additional deposit, pet fee, or other expense based on the fact that you will have an animal in your home. Legally speaking, your emotional support animal is not a pet, so you are not responsible for these types of extra costs. That being said, however, the landlord can charge you for any damage that is caused by your ESA.

Get an Emotional Support Animal in Wisconsin

It is quite easy to get an emotional support animal in Wisconsin. 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 because many landlords will ask to see it before renting to you.

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!