Emotional Support Animals
An Emotional Support Animal, sometimes also referred to as a comfort animal, assistance animal or personal therapy animal, is a pet that provides therapeutic support to a person with a mental health problem. To be designated as an emotional support animal, the pet must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional. A letter from the mental health professional must state that the individual has an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, and that the presence of the animal is necessary for the individual’s mental health and quality of life. This letter must be updated yearly and presented to the landlord or air carrier when requested.
Per the ADA, individuals with emotional support animals do not have rights to public access as do individuals with a service dog. Emotional support may live with their owner in locations covered by the Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) regardless of a “no pets” policy. Previously the Air Carrier Act allowed emotional support animals to travel with their owner on an airplane cabin at no charge. That law has recently changed and most major airlines are no longer allowing this. Although these pets are most frequently dogs or cats, other species may be prescribed as emotional support animals. No special training or physical identification of the pet is required by law.
Therapy Animal, like those who participate in the Pet Partners Therapy Animal Program, is not an Emotional Support Animal. (Although it is possible for an emotional Support Animal to also be Therapy Animal.) A therapy animal may not accompany their handler in the cabin of an airplane or live in no-pet housing regardless of their therapy animal designation.