What Are The Arkansas Emotional Support Animal Laws?

If you’re planning to get an ESA (Emotional Support Animal) in the state of Arkansas, you need to know not only your legal rights but also your obligations under the law. In this article, you’ll find out everything you need to know about obtaining an ESA in Arkansas, the laws you need to be aware of, and the different places you’ll be able to take your support animal.

What’s the Difference Between an ESA and a Service Animal in Arkansas?

Studies have shown that animals are able to help reduce stress and lower your blood pressure simply by just being by your side. If you suffer from a mental health disorder or PTSD, having an ESA can bring a calming presence that makes an enormous difference to your quality of life. However, even though emotional support animals have been shown to be beneficial for those with emotional and mental health problems, they still aren’t viewed under the law in Arkansas as service animals. This means that they do not receive the same protection under state law as a service animal would. While service dogs are permitted access along with their owner to all public spaces, ESAs may not automatically be granted access.

Psychiatric Service Dog in Arkansas

Under Arkansas state law and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are defined as dogs that are trained to complete disability-related tasks that help individuals in their daily lives. Tasks that a service dog might perform include guiding the visually or hearing impaired, retrieving medications, or providing mobility support.

Psychiatric service dogs are trained to help those suffering from certain mental health or psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or PTSD. While the ADA provides protections in regard to public accommodations and access rights for those with service dogs, Arkansas state law only provides additional protections to individuals with visual, hearing, or physical disabilities. 

This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a psychiatric service dog in Arkansas, but it does mean that you should reference the ADA for details on your public access rights within the state.

Arkansas state law adds additional requirements that individuals with service dogs pay for any damages their animal causes when accessing public or private areas. However, if your service dog is properly trained, this shouldn’t be something to worry about.

PTSD Service Dog in Arkansas

PTSD service dogs are a type of psychiatric service dog that are specially trained to help individuals who are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. These dogs accompany their owners throughout their daily lives and provide support in the form of retrieving items and medication, guiding their owners to calm or safe locations, guarding their owner’s backs while in public, and checking around corners or inside of rooms for their owners. 

Every individual is different, and most organizations providing PTSD service dogs in Arkansas will work with the handlers to learn what specific needs or tasks they need assistance with, and the service dogs will be trained accordingly.

What Is an ESA in Arkansas?

An ESA in Arkansas is defined as an animal that can provide therapeutic benefit to someone suffering from an emotional or mental health disability. Meanwhile, service animals under Arkansas law are defined as an animal that has been specifically trained to carry out tasks to benefit a disabled individual. ESAs aren’t specially trained to perform tasks – they only offer comfort to their owner.

What Protections do Arkansas ESAs Have?

These days, there isn’t much prejudice surrounding physical disabilities but there are still some stigmas attached to unseen disabilities like depression, anxiety and PTSD. Unfortunately, this has been translated into the law, with ESAs having a different legal status to service animals, which in turn affects their rights. ESAs are protected by certain laws, though these protections vary from those applied to service animals.

Arkansas ESA Flight Laws

a dog in an aircraft carry bag

If your dog is a recognized emotional support animal, they used to be covered by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Previously, they were allowed to fly with you for free in the airplane cabin. However, now, only trained service dogs are allowed.

Luckily, you can often train your emotional support dog to become a service dog, which would allow them to still travel with you for free – as well as accompany you nearly anywhere in public.

What Are The Laws at Work for My ESA?

Individuals living in Arkansas with an emotional support animal may be wondering whether they are permitted to bring their pet to work with them under state law. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case.

Although service dogs are covered by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), ESAs aren’t currently covered by this law.

Nevertheless, some workplaces will permit you to bring your ESA to work with you if you can provide a valid ESA letter that states your animal is an ESA and helps you to cope with your emotional or mental health disorder. Although it cannot be guaranteed that you will be able to bring your animal to work with you, having this authorization letter to show your employer may help to give your case more strength.

Arkansas ESA Housing Laws

Housing is one more area where individuals with emotional or mental health disabilities in Arkansas need clarification about their legal rights. The good news is that under state law, ESAs are covered by the FHA or Fair Housing Act.

As long as you can supply a valid ESA letter to your landlord, your ESA must be permitted to live with you, even if the property doesn’t usually permit pets. Landlords are permitted by law to refuse to rent out accommodation to anyone with a pet, but if that pet is an ESA and has the appropriate documentation to prove it, they cannot refuse to let you a property.

I’m a Student in Arkansas – Can I Have an ESA Live With Me?

If you’re a student suffering from a mental health problem like depression or anxiety, you will be permitted to have an ESA living with you on campus as long as you have a valid ESA letter.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Fair Housing Act Rules?

Although landlords must permit you to have an ESA live with you as long as you have a valid ESA letter, there are some exceptions. If your animal is disruptive or causes harm to other people living in the complex or accommodation, their rights are waived under the law.

Can I Take an ESA to Restaurants, Theaters, or other Public Places?

While service dogs are allowed into any public place, ESAs aren’t yet afforded the same rights in Arkansas. This means that ESA’s aren’t automatically granted access to cinemas, theaters, restaurants, or other public places. While some places may permit you to bring your emotional support animal along with you, others will not.

Although you may not be permitted to bring your emotional support animal along with you to every public place in the state, there are many destinations across Arkansas that are dog-friendly and that will welcome you and your ESA with open arms. These include:

  • Sassy’s Red House in Fayetteville
  • Local Flavor Café in Eureka Springs
  • Hot Springs Bark Park
  • Murphy Memorial Dog Park in Rogers
  • Pond Mountain Resort and Lodges in Eureka Springs
  • 1886 Crescent Resort and Spa in Eureka Springs

What Is a Valid ESA Letter in Arkansas?

In Arkansas, a valid ESA letter is needed if you’re to exercise your rights to have an emotional support animal with you in your accommodation. It is important to be aware that this letter can only be issued by a qualified mental health professional, and it must be renewed on a yearly basis for it to remain valid.

It’s also important to be aware that an ESA letter is the only thing that you need to exercise your rights under Arkansas law – there is no need to certify or register an emotional support animal.

How Can I Get an ESA Letter in Arkansas?

If you’re suffering from a mental health or emotional disorder in Arkansas, you could benefit from having an emotional support animal to improve your quality of life.

However, it’s important to make sure that you’ve taken the proper steps to legitimize your ESA so that they will be legally recognized. To do this, you must obtain a valid ESA letter. This must be supplied by licensed mental health professional (LMHP). It’s possible to either see one in person or to connect with an LMHP online.

Additionally, you must be under the care of this LMHP for at least 30 days prior to receiving your letter. This means that you cannot simply see any mental health counselor and receive your letter the same day. You’ll need to establish yourself as a patient with your provider first. USSA abides by these laws and has Arkansas-approved providers to ensure that you follow all applicable laws.

To be valid, the letter must include the LMHP’s license number and name, as well as the state in which the license was issued. It must also be written on the official letterhead of the LMHP and must contain the date of issue as well as the signature of the professional themselves.

The letter will remain valid for a period of one year after issue, and must therefore be renewed when that time has elapsed to ensure its validity is maintained.

You can begin the process to get an ESA letter in Arkansas by making contact through our website today. We can put you in touch with a licensed mental health professional in your area who can carry out an assessment to ensure that you are eligible before issuing you with a valid ESA letter (after the appropriate 30-day waiting period) that will enable you to exercise your legal rights when it comes to housing in the state of Arkansas.