As a pet parent, I understand the emotional benefits of having a loving four-legged friend by my side. My dog, Diamond, is one of the biggest calming forces in my life. Her mellow demeanor allows me to take her to dog-friendly restaurants, on pet-sitting gigs, and more. I had always considered making her an emotional support animal (or ESA), but knowing I didn’t have a medical reason to do so kept me from taking the plunge.
However, when I was diagnosed with an iron-overload disorder called Hereditary Hemochromatosis and learned I would have to deal with needles — my greatest fear — on a frequent basis, I decided to take the steps to make Diamond an ESA so I could have her with me at my doctor’s office.
If you are thinking about making your pet an ESA, here’s what I learned when I went through the process.
The difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal
The first thing to note is that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ESAs are not considered service animals. While service animals are allowed everywhere, ESAs have limitations on where they can go. This is because service animals are specially trained to assist a person with a diagnosed physical or mental disability, whereas ESAs are not.
Where you can take an ESA
Based on federal regulations, there are only two places your ESA is allowed:
A home you’d like to rent
Under the Fair Housing Act, all landlords must make “reasonable accommodation” to permit dogs that are ESAs.
When you fly
Under the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines are required to provide accommodation to passengers traveling with an ESA, upon review of required ESA documents.
You can also check with your state or local government to find out their rules on allowing ESAs in public places. I did find that many doctor’s offices and medical facilities in my area allow patients to bring their ESA with them to appointments, tests, and…