Emotional support animals (ESA) are invaluable companions to many people throughout Kentucky. For those who struggle with depression, anxiety, social difficulties, severe stress, ADHD, and other issues, having an animal at your side can provide significant relief. It is because of this that there are a variety of federal and state laws that are focused on establishing certain rights for those who benefit from these animals.
Are Emotional Support Animals the Same as Service Animals?
The first thing you should know about an emotional support animal is that from a legal point of view, it is not the same as a service animal. Under both federal and Kentucky state laws, service animals are those animals that have been specifically trained to help someone with a physical disability or other medical condition to overcome challenges in their life.
Though guide dogs are often the most commonly thought of example, service dogs can do so much more. For example, an allergy avoidance dog is trained to smell for the presence of a substance that someone is severely allergic to. This type of dog is most commonly trained to detect the presence of peanuts, which can be deadly to those who are allergic. There are many other types of service dogs that can help in a variety of ways. Service animals are almost always dogs, though they can also be miniature horses.
Do Emotional Support Animals Have to be Dogs?
Unlike service animals, emotional support animals can be any species that you desire. This is because different types of animals are able to provide different people with the comfort and support that they need.
While it is legally acceptable to have any type of animal as an ESA, most people will choose a dog, cat, rabbit, or other common species. If you choose something more exotic, you may run into difficulties bringing the animal with you, or even having it live in your home. This is because both federal and state laws that grant ESAs special rights also include verbiage that allows business or property owners to impose reasonable restrictions. If you have a tiger for an emotional support animal, for example, your landlord can decline your request to have it on the property because it would cause fear to the other residents.
Training Requirements for ESAs
Unlike service animals that must receive specialized training, emotional support animals are not required to undergo any type of training. This is because for many people, simply having their animal companion next to them during stressful situations is enough to provide them with relief.
Depending on the species of your emotional support animal, however, you will want to make sure you at least give it some basic training. If you have a dog for your ESA, for example, make sure that it is housebroken, is not aggressive, and will not chew, dig, or cause other types of damage.
Not only will this help you to avoid having to pay for any damage that they cause, but it will also help to minimize any difficulties you run into when trying to exercise your rights. Perhaps most importantly, it is courteous to make sure your animal is well-behaved when taking it around other people who may not be used to seeing an animal in a given setting.
Extra Rights Granted to Emotional Support Animals
The state of Kentucky has laws in place that mirror various federal laws that grant extra rights to emotional support animals in several situations. Becoming familiar with the laws that allow you to bring your ESA to places that otherwise restrict animals will help you to be able to more easily exercise your rights.
In some cases, the businesses or property owners are not familiar with these laws. If they attempt to deny you the right to bring your animal with you to these locations, make sure to let them know about the relevant laws so they can look it up and avoid further confrontation. In most situations, those who you are talking with will be more than willing to grant your animal access once they understand their legal obligations.
Living in Kentucky with Your ESA
If you have an emotional support animal, you will obviously need it to be living with you. This is both so you can get the benefits of having the animal, and so the animal has somewhere to live. With this in mind, the federal Fair Housing Act has specific verbiage that grants support animals the right to live in homes, apartments, dormitories, and any other normal place where people live.
Even if the place where you live has a no pets policy in place, they must allow you to have your animal with you.
The landlord is not allowed to charge you any extra fees or security deposits for having the animal living with you. If your ESA causes any type of damage, however, you will be responsible for covering the costs of getting it fixed. In addition, if your animal causes serious and ongoing problems with other tenants, the landlord can evict you from the property.
In some cases, if the landlord has a reasonable concern that your ESA will cause damage or disturb other tenants, they can deny your request from the beginning. If you believe that their concerns are unreasonable, however, you can file a legal complaint to have your case reviewed.
Traveling in Kentucky with Your ESA
If you want to go on a commercial flight with your emotional support animal, you are legally permitted to do this. Airlines are not allowed to restrict you from having the animal on the flight with you unless they have reasonable reason to believe that it will cause a problem or serious distress to other passengers.
In fact, according to the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines are not even allowed to charge you an extra fee or make you purchase an additional seat to have your ESA with you on the flight.
When planning a flight with your emotional support animal, you will want to do everything you can to ensure everything goes smoothly. The best way to do this is to contact the airline as soon as you purchase your tickets to let them know that you will be traveling with an ESA. If asked, send them a copy or a picture of your ESA letter. The more time in advance you let them know, the easier it will be for them to make any necessary accommodations.
Areas Where ESAs May Not Be Welcomed
While the laws mentioned above are very helpful for those who have emotional support animals, it is important to remember that there are many areas that legally do not have to allow your animal to enter.
Just because a particular place is not obligated to allow your ESA to enter does not mean that they will refuse to make an exception to their normal rules. In many cases, if you show your ESA letter to a business owner and ask them for permission to bring your animal with you, they will be happy to grant it. Business owners typically want to do everything they can to bring in additional customers, so unless your animal is likely to cause problems, they will often allow them in.
Other places that normally do not allow animals but may make an exception for ESAs include employers, amusement parks, malls, restaurants, classrooms, and many more. To give yourself the best chance at being able to bring your ESA, simply contact the manager or other person in charge ahead of time to ask permission. Let them know that you have an ESA letter and that you would be grateful if you were allowed to bring your animal to their establishment.
Never Misrepresent Yourself or Your Animal
Having an emotional support animal can be very beneficial for those who struggle with emotional issues. Unfortunately, however, some people have started claiming that their pets were actually emotional support animals in order to get around no-pet policies or other issues.
To help combat this, Kentucky has passed a law that specifically identifies the rights and restrictions of assistance animals. Most of this law simply follows the federal laws that are already in place. Section 7 of this law, however, imposes a fine of up to $1000 for those who misrepresent an animal as an assistance animal. This law is called KRS 383.085, for those who want to read the entire text.
In the end, having a good understanding of the Kentucky emotional support animal laws, as well as all relevant federal laws, will help you to be able to properly exercise your rights. Make sure to keep up to date with any changes to the laws in this state so you can always be sure that you are aware of all of your rights and responsibilities for you and your emotional support animal.