Living with an Emotional Support Animal - Answering 16 Top FAQs

Emotional support animals can help you deal with a lot of emotional and mental problems. But there are some things you need to know about it.

ESAs are good to have. They can help you connect with the real world while managing your mental or emotional illness. But many people don't know what their rights are, which includes how they can use their ESA in housing where pets are not allowed.

The Fair Housing Act allows people with mental or emotional disabilities to live with their animals without paying extra. We know you might have questions about the law.

We have tried to answer all of your concerns below!

  1. 1. Are emotional support animals and service animals any different?

    Yes, emotional support animals and service animals are different. Emotional support animals are not specifically trained to help someone who is physically disabled or has a physical or mental impairment. Service dogs help their owners to perform major life activities.

    Emotional support animals are pets that help people feel better. It doesn't matter if they are trained or not, but they need to be housebroken and behave well.

  2. 2. Are all housing facilities regulated by the Fair Housing Act?

    Yes! The Fair Housing Act (FHA) applies to most types of housing. But it does not apply if the owner is renting a building with four or fewer apartments, if the house is rented without a third party, or if it's a private club or religious organization.

  3. 3. Does my ESA need special training to live in a house with me?

    No, there are no emotional support animal laws that say you have to train your animal formally. But you should make sure it is well-behaved and can be around other people, without causing any damages.

    If you have a dangerous or ferocious animal, your landlord might not allow it in the building. Or, they may charge an additional security charge. If they do allow them, you will be liable to pay any damages caused by your animal.

  4. 4. Can my emotional support animal be rejected by my landlord?

    No, as per the law, no landlord can reject your ESA for any reason. But if your animal is wild or dangerous for people and other animals, then they can ask you to leave.

    A legally enforceable ESA letter cannot be denied/rejected by anyone. But sometimes, the housing complex and landlords may want more information or paperwork. Your therapist can sign those additional papers for you too!

  5. 5. What are the requirements of a landlord for accepting your ESA request?

    According to the HUD housing rules for an emotional support animal, landlords or property managers can only ask two questions when someone wants to get an ESA.

    • Do you suffer from any kind of mental or emotional disability, illness, or disease?
    • Does the animal emotionally or psychologically help you to manage your condition?

    If you answer "no" to any of these questions, then the landlord has the right to refuse your ESA accommodation request.

  6. 6. What are the documents required to live with an ESA?

    The person must have an ESA letter for housing from a doctor who is licensed to be a mental health professional. It should say that the animal helps the person emotionally or psychologically through their illness. This doctor will need to sign the letter too.

    Some online letter providers ask people to register their animals separately. But it is not true. You do not need to register your animal if you have an authentic ESA letter.

  7. 7. Can the landlord ask me to prove my disability?

    No, a landlord cannot ask for your medical records. You can have an animal who is a support animal, and they do not need to ask you for proof of the disability. But if you have a mental or emotional disability that is not visible, then the landlord might want to see proof.

  8. 8. Can the landlords demand additional pet fees from me?

    No, the landlord cannot ask for any extra fee if you want to live with an emotional support animal. This is important information because many people do not know this. You can live in a place that does not allow pets and still have an emotional support animal.

    An ESA is not a pet. That means that the owner does not have to pay extra costs to live with it. The ESA letter will help you to avoid any pet fees/charges.

  9. 9. My landlord doesn’t allow my ESA snake. What to do?

    Here are the following two solutions for this situation:

    • You can talk to the landlord about your rights as an ESA owner. You have the right to use the space for your emotional support animal.
    • Filing a complaint with the Housing and Urban Development Agency against your landlord can also be an option. You can report his unnecessary restrictions.

    Landlords are not allowed to discriminate against people with ESA's. This is because of the Fair Housing Act. The landlords cannot refuse or deny an ESA without a good reason.

  10. 10. Are there any limitations on the type, breed, and size of the ESA?

    No, there are no restrictions on the type of animal you can have as an emotional support animal. Emotional support cat and dogs are popular, but you can also have other animals as ESAs.

    There are other types of animals you can get as an ESA. Some people get rabbits, hamsters, squirrels, pigs, ducks, and even chickens! The landlord can not say what type of animal you can have.

  11. 11. Who can write an ESA letter for me?

    A Licensed Mental Health Professional, LMHP, is the only person who can write a letter for you. That's because mental health professionals from licensed health care departments know about mental and emotional disorders. They are the only ones who can diagnose and prescribe the animal.

    Many people think that a doctor's letter is all they need to get an ESA. But the doctor must be a mental health professional to write your prescription letter.

  12. 12. Will I be responsible if my ESA causes any damages?

    If you make the changes that the landlord needs and your animal still damages the property, then you will be responsible for paying to fix it.

    It is your responsibility to make your animal well-behaved and house-broked. So, if they cause any harm or damage to the people or property around them, you will be fully responsible.

  13. 13. Can I live with my ESA in a college dorm with an ESA letter?

    Yes! You can live with your ESA in college also. More and more people are doing this now because assistance animals help them feel better about their illness.

    But you will need permission from the school and a letter saying that you have an ESA. You must take care of your animal and make sure it does not hurt anyone or damage anything on the school grounds.

  14. 14. Can I keep a dog as my ESA whose breed is banned in my state?

    This question doesn’t have a fixed answer.

    Some people say that the ban goes against the FHA. The FHA says that you cannot discriminate against people with disabilities. If an animal is well-trained and safe, then it will be fine to live with it even in a state where it is banned.

  15. 15. What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

    The Americans with Disabilities Act states that people with disabilities should be able to get housing or services, just like anyone else. It is also known as the Person’s Disability Act.

    This federal law also says that the state and local governments should enforce agencies, facilities, and organizations to make reasonable exceptions for people with disabilities.

    Living with an ESA can help you feel less stressed. It also keeps you grounded in reality. Plus, these animals offer a number of health benefits, too! But when looking for suitable accommodation for your ESA and yourself, it is good to know about the laws around them so that you don't get in trouble.

  16. 16. Does an ESA letter have an expiry date?

    Yes, the letter for an ESA can expire. The validity period of an ESA letter is one year.

    But it is different in the case of a letter for housing. If you don't move within a year, you don't need to renew your letter. However, landlords might ask to see a renewed letter after a year.