Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals help Americans with mental disabilities

Medical assistance animals save lives

For disabled Americans

In the United States, disabled Americans are granted civil rights protections against discrimination and harassment under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act (ADA), the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and the Rehab Act.  Many states have also enacted legislation applicable for their residents.

To qualify as a protected class, the individual must meet the definition of disabled as declared in the specific law or as stated in the federal regulations published by department deemed responsible for its administration.  Because of multiple qualification possibilities, potentially an individual could meets the legal definition of disabled status under one law, while not being protected under a different law.  Any individual not meeting that law’s definition of disabled is not afforded the civil rights protections against discrimination and harassment is not a protected class.

While there are many things that can mitigate or lessen the effects of an impairment, American Disability Rights, Inc.  mission is on the education and advocacy of the civil rights for disabled individuals who utilize a medical assistance animal as part of their prescribed treatment plan.

These civil rights protections against discrimination and harassment are not legal loopholes or shortcuts for members of the public to avoid pet fees, bring a fur-baby to non-pet-friendly locations or circumvent local breed/species restrictions.  Numerous courts have determined those actions warrant disability fraud and as such can carry heavy civil liability and criminal penalties.  Service animal fraud is disability fraud and negatively impacts the public’s perception of the disabled.

Sadly, there is an online network of individuals  and organizations selling service animal certification or registrations implying their customers will have the same protections as a qualified disabled American with a prescribed medical assistance animal.

The United States Department of Justice has repeatedly said that these documents do not convey any rights and they are not to be recognized as proof that a person’s pet is a medical assistance animal.

ESAs come in many species, sizes and shapes

Training maybe required

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a dog or other common domesticated animal that provides support to its disabled handler through companionship, non-judgmental regard, affection and/or being a distraction from the issues of daily life.  While typically dogs or cats, emotional support animals may include other species. However, before any animal can be determined to be an ESA, their owner must first be diagnosed with a mental disability that significantly limits one or more of their daily major life activities by a qualified mental health professional.

 

What type of animals qualify to be an emotional support animal?

Emotional support animals are considered pets outside of two situations of reasonable accommodations, residential and travel.

If the disabled person’s needs are exclusively in a residential setting, any legal species (cats, dogs, mice, rabbits, birds, hedgehogs, ferrets, etc.) of any age could qualify for an emotional support animal.  Under the protections of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rules for the Fair Housing Act (FHA) or the Rehab Act Section 504, no training is needed for any ESA, including basic obedience or conditioning.   Not all properties are covered by the FHA.  Only residential properties receiving federal funds are covered under the Rehab Act.  In a residential environment. emotional support animals are subject to any communities species regulations including registration, vaccination and prohibitions.   For example, a person could not use a horse as an ESA in an urban setting that the city has banned all equines.

In regards to travel, two different federal laws administered by the Department of Transportation (DOT), provide protections for emotional support animals and their disabled handler.

The DOT’s rules for the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) enable emotional support animals to travel for free, in-cabin with their disabled handler.  However, the DOT’s rules for air travel allow for more restrictions on what qualifies as an ESA when compared to HUD’s rules for FHA.  “Unusual” animals can not be used as ESA’s under the DOT’s rules including snakes, reptiles, rodents, spiders and ferrets.  Miniature horses, pigs and monkeys may also be denied ESA status by the air carrier.  Because of widespread abuse, increasingly air carriers are also requiring credible proof of animal training to grant service.

Separately, the DOT’s rules for public transportation (mass transit bus, commuter rail, ferries, etc.) covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title II do not mandate providers make exceptions for emotional support animals.  It is left up to the local provider to allow emotional support animals on the same basis as service dogs, to classify them as pets under their same pricing/policies or to ban them completely.

However, neither the ACAA or ADA Title II protections cover ESAs in hotels, inns or any forms of transient lodging. Handlers should seek pet-friendly locations during their travels away from their residence.   These locations may legally charge a pet-fee for emotional support animals, limit the types of animals and place additional requirements on their handlers.

Staying pet-friendly

Only service dog teams are granted public access

Commonly refereed to as “public access,” qualified disabled Americans, including those using a prescribed service dog to mitigate a disability, have civil rights protections against discrimination in the activities of public accommodations on the basis of their disability under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Many states have enacted similar legal protections at their local level.

For ADA protections, the Department of Justice has defined Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.

The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.  “Service Dogs in Training” (SDiT) do not have public access rights under the Department of Justice’s definition.

Civil monetary penalties

28 C.F.R. Parts 36 and 85

On March 28, 2014, the Department of Justice issued a Final Rule that adjusts for inflation the civil monetary penalties assessed or enforced by the Civil Rights Division, including civil penalties available under title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).   For the ADA, this adjustment increases the maximum civil penalty for a first violation under title III from $55,000 to $75,000; for a subsequent violation the new maximum is $150,000.  The new maximums apply only to violations occurring on or after April 28, 2014.


The text of the ADA defines the term “commerce” as means of travel, trade, traffic, commerce, transportation or communications (A) among several states; (B) between any foreign country or territory or possession and any state; or (C) between point in the same state but through another state or foreign county.  The text of the ADA defines “commercial facilities” as facilities (A) that are intended for nonresidental use; and (B) whose operation will affect commerce.  Commerce does not include rail operations or locations exempted from coverage under the Fair Housing Act. (§ 12181 (1-2)).

The text of the ADA defines a “private entity” means any entity other than a public entity (§ 12181 (6)).  Requirements on state and local governments and departments, public entities, are found in Title II of the ADA.

The text of the ADA defines 12 areas of private entities that are considered public accommodations for the purposes of Title III, if the operations of such entities affect commerce:

(A) an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than five rooms for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as the residence of such proprietor;

(B) a restaurant, bar, or other establishment serving food or drink;

(C) a motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition entertainment;

(D) an auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, or other place of public gathering;

(E) a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment;

(F) a laundromat, dry-cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or other service establishment;

(G) a terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation;

(H) a museum, library, gallery, or other place of public display or collection;

(I) a park, zoo, amusement park, or other place of recreation;

(J) a nursery, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate private school, or other place of education;

(K) a day care center, senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, adoption agency, or other social service center establishment; and

(L) a gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation.

Know the laws, know your protections

Flying with Emotional Support Animals under the Air Carrier Access Act

In the United States, under the Department of Transportation‘s (DOT) administration for the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), a service animal is any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support.  Documentation may be required of passengers needing to travel with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal.

Which emotional support animals are allowed in the cabin?

  • A wide variety of service animals are permitted in the cabin portion of the aircraft flying to and within the United States; however, most service animals tend to be dogs and cats.  Airlines may exclude animals that:
    • Are too large or heavy to be accommodated in the cabin;
    • Pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others;
    • Cause a significant disruption of cabin service; or
    • Are prohibited from entering a foreign country.

How do airlines determine whether an animal is a emotional support animal?

  • Airlines can determine whether an animal is a service animal or pet by:
    • Looking for physical indicators such as the presence of a harness or tags;
    • Requiring documentation for psychiatric support animals and emotional support animals; and
    • Observing the behavior of animals.
  • Emotional Support and Psychiatric Service Animals –  Airlines can request specific documentation and/or 48-hours advanced notice for service animals that are emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals.

What kind of documentation can be required of persons travelling with emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals?

  • Airlines may require documentation that is not older than one year from the date of your scheduled initial flight that states:
    • You have a mental or emotional disability that is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM);
    • You need your emotional support or psychiatric support animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at your destination;
    • The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional and the passenger is under his/her professional care; and
    • The licensed health care professional’s;
      • Date and type of professional license; and
      • Jurisdiction or state in which their license was issued.

Tips for Flying with an Emotional Support Animal

At the airport

  • If your animal needs to relieve itself, please ask an airport or airline professional for the location of the nearest animal relief areas.

Onboard the aircraft

  • Your animal must be permitted to accompany you in the space under the seat in front of you.
  • Certain small animals may be permitted to sit on your lap, if it can be done so safely.
  • Your animal cannot block a space that must remain unobstructed for safety reasons (ex. an aisle or access to an emergency exit).
  • An airline is not required to upgrade you to a different class of service to accommodate your animal.
  • Airlines cannot refuse to allow your animal onboard because it makes other passengers or flight crew uncomfortable.
  • Your animal must behave properly. An animal that engages in disruptive behavior (ex. barking or snarling, running around, and/or jumping onto other passengers, etc. without being provoked) will not be accepted as a service animal.
  • For a flight that is scheduled for eight hours or longer, airlines may require documentation stating that your animal will not need to relieve itself, or can do so in a sanitary way.

Traveling outside of the United States?

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to fly outside of the United States with your emotional support animal.

  • Foreign airlines operating to and from the United States are only required to accept dogs.
  • U.S. airlines traveling to foreign countries are subject to the requirements of that foreign country regarding acceptance of emotional support animals; not all countries permit emotional support animals from other foreign countries.
  • Check to ensure whether your destination country permits your animal and any other requirements to enter and exit legally.

Encounter A Problem?

  • If you believe your rights under the Air Carrier Access Act are being or have been violated, ask to speak with a Complaints Resolution Official (CRO). A CRO is the airline’s expert on disability accommodation issues. Airlines are required to make one available to you, at no cost, in person at the airport or by telephone during the times they are operating.

Traveling by public transportation with an emotional support animal

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is an agency within the Department of Transportation that has rulemaking and administrative responsibilities for local public transit systems including buses, subways, light rail, commuter rail, trolleys and ferries.  As such, the agency is responsible for handling most transportation services covered by the state and local government services protections found in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title II.

The FTA has decided to retain the original language used with “service animal” to be “any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, or fetching dropped items.” Transit agencies are not required to transport animals that have not been individually trained to perform specific work or tasks. If an animal’s only function were to provide emotional support or comfort for the rider, for example, that animal would not fall under the regulatory training-based definition of a service animal.

As such, on public transportation, emotional support animals are considered pets.  Handlers must adhere to no-pets policies or pet fees as developed by the individual public transportation service.

Traveling by train - Amtrak

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, better known as Amtrak, is defined as a public entity under the authority of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title II (42 U.S.C. § 12131 (1) (C)).  Administration of ADA compliance for Amtrak falls to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) under the Department of Transportation (DOT).

For Amtrak, the FRA/DOT consider emotional support animals to be pets.  Pets are subject to fees and restrictions to travel with their passenger on Amtrak.

Traveling by bus - Greyhound, MegaBus, BoltBus, RedCoach, etc.

Over-the-road buses are subject to the rules of the Department of Transportation (DOT) under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III.  The Secretary of the DOT publishes the rules for implementing Title II along with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in the Code of Federal Regulations (49 CFR Parts 27, 37 and 38).

Under the DOT rules, buses are not required to accept emotional support animals.   Any animal must be trained to mitigate the individual’s disability and merely providing comfort by its presence does not make an animal a service animal.

As such, ESAs are to be considered pets for services offered by bus companies.  ESAs are subject to any no-pets policy or pet-fees.

Traveling by taxi or rideshare- Yellow Cab, Uber, Lyft, etc.

The Department of Justice enforces the Title III portion of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which applies to private transportation providers including taxi-cabs and ride sharing providers.   The DOJ does not include emotional support animals as a reasonable accommodation to disabled Americans under ADA Title III.

Private transportation providers are required to provide regular service to service dogs that have been task-trained to mitigate their handler’s disability, but emotional support animals are subject the individual private companies policies related to pets.

An assistance animal is not a pet

The Fair Housing Act or Section 504 protections start with approval of a reasonable accommodation for service dogs

A reasonable accommodation is a change in rules, policies, practices, or services so that a person with a disability will have an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit or common space. A housing provider should do everything s/he can to assist, but s/he is not required to make changes that would fundamentally alter the program or create an undue financial and administrative burden. Reasonable accommodations may be necessary at all stages of the housing process, including application, tenancy, or to prevent eviction.

For a disabled American to have legal protections for their use of a service animal in residential housing under the Fair Housing Act or Section 504 of the Rehab Act, it must be a covered property.   Both of these laws are administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

FHA covered properties include condo associations; homeowner associations; single-family homes owned by a private person and represented by a licensed real estate agent, single-family homes owned by a company, owner occupied multi-family buildings when represented by a licensed real estate agent; multiple-family building with five or more united. FHA exceptions include property owned by private clubs, religious organizations or single-family homes owned by a private person.

All residential properties that receive any type of federal funding are covered by Section 504.

A disabled American should make a documented request for a reasonable accommodation for a covered property anytime their use of a service dog would be impacted by existing property rules.  This includes no-pets policies; breed restrictions; pet deposits/fees; size restrictions and .  Under HUD an assistance animal is not considered a pet.  The disabled American must wait for the approval of the accommodation request prior to bringing the service dog onto the covered property to ensure FHA/Section 504 protections.  Failure to gain approval for the reasonable accommodation, the existing policies or terms would apply and could result in fines or eviction.  If not obvious, the property management can ask for documentation validating the disability and the need for a service dog as a reasonable accommodation.

In most cases, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not apply to residential housing.

Title III of the ADA covers public and common use areas at housing developments when these public areas are, by their nature, open to the general public. For example, it covers the rental office since the rental office is open to the general public. Title II of the ADA applies to all programs, services, and activities provided or made available by public entities. This includes housing when the housing is provided or made available by a public entity. For example, housing covered by Title II of the ADA includes public housing authorities that meet the ADA definition of “public entity,” and housing operated by States or units of local government, such as housing on a State university campus.

FHEO Notice: FHEO-2013-01

Issued: April 25, 2013

Expires:  Effective until Amended, Superseded or Rescinded

 


Subject:  Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-Funded Programs

  1. Purpose: This notice explains certain obligations of housing providers under the Fair Housing Act (FHAct), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with respect to animals that provide assistance to individuals with disabilities. The Department of Justice’s (DOT) amendments to its regulations (1) for Titles II and III of the ADA limit the definition of “service animal” under the ADA to include only dogs, and further define “service animal” to exclude emotional support animals. This definition, however, does not limit housing providers’ obligations to make reasonable accommodations for assistance animals under the FHAct or Section 504. Persons with disabilities may request a reasonable accommodation for any assistance animal, including an emotional support animal, under both the FHAct and Section 504. In situations where the ADA and the FHAct/Section 504 apply simultaneously (e.g., a public housing agency, sales or leasing offices, or housing associated with a university or other place of education), housing providers must meet their obligations under both the reasonable accommodation standard of the FHAct/Section 504 and the service animal provisions of the ADA.
  2. Applicability:  This notice applies to all housing providers covered by the FHAct, Section 504, and/or the ADA (2).
  3. Organization: Section 1 of this notice explains housing providers’ obligations under the FHAct and Section 504 to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities (3) with assistance animals. Section II explains DM’s revised definition of “service animal” under the ADA. Section III explains housing providers’ obligations when multiple nondiscrimination laws apply.

 

Section I: Reasonable Accommodations for Assistance Animals under the FHAct and Section 504

The FHAct and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) implementing regulations prohibit discrimination because of disability and apply regardless of the presence of Federal Financial assistance. Section 504 and HUD’s Section 504 regulations apply a similar prohibition on disability discrimination to all recipients of financial assistance from HUD. The reasonable accommodation provisions of both laws must be considered in situations where persons with disabilities use (or seek to use) assistance animals (4) in housing where the provider forbids residents from having pets or otherwise imposes restrictions or conditions relating to pets and other animals.

An assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the FHAct nor Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified. (5) While dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals.

Housing providers are to evaluate a request for a reasonable accommodation to possess an assistance animal in a dwelling using the general principles applicable to all reasonable accommodation requests. After receiving such a request, the housing provider must consider the following:

(1) Does the person seeking to use and live with the animal have a disability — i.e., a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities?

(2) Does the person making the request have a disability-related need for an assistance animal? In other words, does the animal work, provide assistance, perform tasks or services for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provide emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of a person’s existing disability?

If the answer to question (1) or (2) is “no,” then the FHAct and Section 504 do not require a modification to a provider’s “no pets” policy, and the reasonable accommodation request may be denied.

Where the answers to questions (1) and (2) are “yes,” the FHAct and Section 504 require the housing provider to modify or provide an exception to a “no pets” rule or policy to permit a person with a disability to live with and use an assistance animal(s) in all areas of the premises where persons are normally allowed to go, unless doing so would impose an undue financial and administrative burden or would fundamentally alter the nature of the housing provider’s services. The request may also be denied if: (1) the specific assistance animal in question poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation, or (2) the specific assistance animal in question would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others that cannot be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation. Breed, size, and weight limitations may not be applied to an assistance animal_ A determination that an assistance animal poses a direct threat of harm to others or would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others must be based on an individualized assessment that relies on objective evidence about the specific animal’s actual conduct — not on mere speculation or fear about the types of harm or damage an animal may cause and not on evidence about harm or damage that other animals have caused. Conditions and restrictions that housing providers apply to pets may not be applied to assistance animals. For example, while housing providers may require applicants or residents to pay a pet deposit, they may not require applicants and residents to pay a deposit for an assistance animal. (6)

A housing provider may not deny a reasonable accommodation request because he or she is uncertain whether or not the person seeking the accommodation has a disability or a disability related need for an assistance animal. Housing providers may ask individuals who have disabilities that are not readily apparent or known to the provider to submit reliable documentation of a disability and their disability-related need for an assistance animal. If the disability is readily apparent or known but the disability-related need for the assistance animal is not, the housing provider may ask the individual to provide documentation of the disability related need for an assistance animal. For example, the housing provider may ask persons who are seeking a reasonable accommodation for an assistance animal that provides emotional support to provide documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability. Such documentation is sufficient if it establishes that an individual has a disability and that the animal in question will provide some type of disability-related assistance or emotional support.

However, a housing provider may not ask a tenant or applicant to provide documentation showing the disability or disability-related need for an assistance animal if the disability or disability-related need is readily apparent or already known to the provider. For example, persons who are blind or have low vision may not be asked to provide documentation of their disability or their disability-related need for a guide dog. A housing provider also may not ask an applicant or tenant to provide access to medical records or medical providers or provide detailed or extensive information or documentation of a person’s physical or mental impairments. Like all reasonable accommodation requests, the determination of whether a person has a disability-related need for an assistance animal involves an individualized assessment. A request for a reasonable accommodation may not be unreasonably denied, or conditioned on payment of a fee or deposit or other terms and conditions applied to applicants or residents with pets, and a response may not be unreasonably delayed. Persons with disabilities who believe a request for a reasonable accommodation has been improperly denied may file a complaint with HUD. (7)

Section II: The ADA Definition of “Service Animal”

In addition to their reasonable accommodation obligations under the FHAct and Section 504, housing providers may also have separate obligations under the ADA. DOJ’s revised ADA regulations define “service animal” narrowly as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. The revised regulations specify that “the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.” (8) Thus, trained dogs are the only species of animal that may qualify as service animals under the ADA (there is a separate provision regarding trained miniature horses (9)), and emotional support animals are expressly precluded from qualifying as service animals under the ADA.

The ADA definition of “service animal” applies to state and local government programs, services activities, and facilities and to public accommodations, such as leasing offices, social service center establishments, universities, and other places of education. Because the ADA requirements relating to service animals are different from the requirements relating to assistance animals under the FHAct and Section 504, an individual’s use of a service animal in an ADA covered facility must not he handled as a request for a reasonable accommodation under the FHAct or Section 504. Rather, in ADA-covered facilities, an animal need only meet the definition of “service animal” to he allowed into a covered facility.

To determine if an animal is a service animal, a covered entity shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person’s disability, but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. A covered entity may ask: (1) Is this a service animal that is required because of a disability? and (2) What work or tasks has the animal been trained to perform? A covered entity shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal. These are the only two inquiries that an ADA-covered facility may make even when an individual’s disability and the work or tasks performed by the service animal are not readily apparent (e.g., individual with a seizure disability using a seizure alert service animal, individual with a psychiatric disability using psychiatric service animal, individual with an autism-related disability using an autism service
animal).

A covered entity may not make the two permissible inquiries set out above when it is readily apparent that the animal is trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability (e.g., the dog is observed guiding an individual who is blind or has low vision, pulling a person’s wheelchair, or providing assistance with stability or balance to an individual with an observable mobility disability). The animal may not be denied access to the ADA-covered facility unless:  (1) the animal is out of control and its handler does not take effective action to control it; (2) the animal is not housebroken (i.e., trained so that, absent illness or accident, the animal controls its waste elimination); or (3) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by a reasonable modification to other policies, practices and procedures. (10) A determination that a service animal poses a direct threat must be based on an individualized assessment of the specific service animal’s actual conduct — not on fears, stereotypes, or generalizations. The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where members of the public are normally allowed to go.” (11)

Section III. Applying Multiple Laws

Certain entities will be subject to both the service animal requirements of the ADA and the reasonable accommodation provisions of the FHAct and/or Section 504. These entities include, but are not limited to, public housing agencies and some places of public accommodation, such as rental offices, shelters, residential homes, some types of multifamily housing, assisted living facilities, and housing at places of education. Covered entities must ensure compliance with all relevant civil rights laws. As noted above, compliance with the FHAct and Section 504 does not ensure compliance with the ADA. Similarly, compliance with the ADA’s regulations does not ensure compliance with the FHAct or Section 504. The preambles to DOD’s 2010 Title II and Title III ADA regulations state that public entities or public accommodations that operate housing facilities “may not use the ADA definition [of “service animal” as a justification for reducing their FHAct obligations.” (12)

The revised ADA regulations also do not change the reasonable accommodation analysis under the FHAct or Section 504. The preambles to the 2010 ADA regulations specifically note that under the FHAct, “an individual with a disability may have the right to have an animal other than a dog in his or her home if the animal qualifies as a ‘reasonable accommodation’ that is necessary to afford the individual equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, assuming that the use of the animal does not pose a direct threat.” (13) In addition, the preambles state that emotional support animals that do not qualify as service animals under the ADA may “nevertheless qualify as permitted reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities under the FHAct.”(14) While the preambles expressly mention only the FHAct, the same analysis applies to Section 504.

In cases where all three statutes apply, to avoid possible ADA violations the housing provider should apply the ADA service animal test first. This is because the covered entity may ask only whether the animal is a service animal that is required because of a disability, and if so, what work or tasks the animal has been been trained to perform. If the animal meets the test for “service animal,” the animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where persons are normally allowed to go, unless (1) the animal is out of control and its handler does not take effective action to control it; (2) the animal is not housebroken (i.e., trained so that, absent illness or accident, the animal controls its waste elimination); or (3) the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by a reasonable modification to other policies, practices and procedures. (15)

If the animal does not meet the ADA service animal test, then the housing provider must evaluate the request in accordance with the guidance provided in Section I of this notice. It is the housing provider’s responsibility to know the applicable laws and comply with each of them.

Section IV.  Conclusion

The definition of “service animal” contained in ADA regulations does not limit housing providers’ obligations to grant reasonable accommodation requests for assistance animals in housing under either the FHAct or Section 504. Under these laws, rules, policies, or practices must be modified to permit the use of an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation in housing when its use may be necessary to afford a person with a disability an equal opportunity
to use and enjoy a dwelling and/or the common areas of a dwelling, or may be necessary to allow a qualified individual with a disability to participate in, or benefit from, any housing program or activity receiving financial assistance from HUD.

Questions regarding this notice may be directed to the HUD Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Programs, telephone 202-619-8046.

John Trassvina/s, Assistant Secretary for
Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

 

1. Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services, Final Rule, 75 Fed. Reg.
56164 (Sept. 15, 2010) (codified at 28 C.F.R. part 35); Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability by Public
Accommodations and in Commercial Facilities., Final Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 56236 (Sept. 15, 2010) (codified at 28
C.F.R. part 36).

2. Title II of the ADA applies to public entities, including public entities that provide housing, e.g.. public housing
agencies and state and local government provided housing, including housing at state universities and other places of
education. In the housing context. Title III of the ADA applies to public accommodations, such as rental offices,
shelters, some types of multifamily housing, assisted living facilities and housing at places of public education.
Section 504 covers housing providers that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD). The Fair Housing Act covers virtually all types of housing, including privately owned
housing and federally assisted housing, with a few limited exceptions.

3. Reasonable accommodations under the FHAct and Section 504 apply to tenants and applicants with disabilities,
family members with disabilities, and other persons with disabilities associated with tenants and applicants. 24 CFR
§§ 100.202; 100.204; 24 C.F.R. §§ 8.11, 8.20, 8.21, 8.24, 8.33, and case law interpreting Section 504.

4. Assistance animals are sometimes referred to as “service animals,” “assistive animals,” “support animals,” or
“therapy animals.” To avoid confusion with the revised ADA “service animal” definition discussed in Section II of
this notice, or any other standard, we use the term “assistance animal” to ensure that housing providers have a clear
understanding of their obligations under the FHAct and Section 504.

5. For a more detailed discussion on assistance animals and the issue of training, see the preamble to HUD’s final
rule, Pet Ownership for the elderly and Persons With Disabilities, 73 Fed. Reg. 63834,63835 (October 27, 2008).

6. A housing provider may require a tenant to cover the costs of repairs for damage the animal causes to the tenant’s
dwelling unit or the common areas, reasonable wear and tear excepted, if it is the provider’s practice to assess
tenants for any damage they cause to the premises. For more information on reasonable accommodations, see the
Joint Statement of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice, Reasonable
Accommodations Under the Fair Housing Act, http://www.hud.gov/offices/fheo/library/huddojstatement.pdf.

7. Ibid.

8. 28 C.F.R. § 35.104; 28 C.F.R. § 36.104.

9. 28 C.F.R. § 35.136(i); 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c)(9).

10. 213C.F.R § 35.136: 28 C.F.R. § 36.302(c).

11. For more information on ADA requirements relating to service animals, visit D03’s website at www.ada.gov.

12. 75 Fed. Reg. at 56166, 56240 (Sept. 15, 2010).

Finding a way

What is a reasonable accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is a documented request by an individual disabled American for exceptions or changes to a company’s pet or animal policies that would enable the qualified individual to use their emotional support animal to mitigate their disability while on the property.

In a residential situation, reasonable accommodation requests can be made for properties covered by either the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and/or the Rehab Act Section 504.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is responsible for the regular administration of these laws.  The FHA covers all residential properties when the transaction is brokered by licensed agent unless it is owned by a private club or religious organization.   The FHA does not cover some single-family housing, owner occupied housing or occupancy laws.  The Rehab Act only covers properties that receive any type of federal funding.

Reasonable accommodations should be requested in writing and approved, before bringing the emotional support animal onto the property to ensure civil rights protections.  HUD has stated FHA protection against disability discrimination covers not only tenants and home seekers with disabilities but also buyers and renters without disabilities who live or are associated with individuals with disabilities. The Act also prohibits housing providers from refusing residency to persons with disabilities, or placing conditions on their residency, because they require reasonable accommodations.  Since rules, policies, practices, and services may have a different effect on persons with disabilities than on others, treating persons with disabilities exactly the same as others will sometimes deny them an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.

According to HUD, the requirement to provide reasonable accommodations applies to, but is not limited to individuals, corporations, associations and others involved in the provision of housing or  residential lending, including property owners, housing managers, homeowners and condominium associations, lenders, real estate agents, and brokerage services. This also applies to state and local governments, most often in the context of exclusionary zoning or other land-use decisions.

According to HUD, an assistance animal is not a pet. It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting persons to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support. For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the Fair Housing Act nor Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified. While dogs are the most common type of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals.

Training becoming a standard requirement for flying with emotional service animals

With a series of high profile negative stories about emotional support animals in the media in 2017 and early 2018, airlines have begun adjusting their requirements as allowing ESAs in-cabin with their disabled handler.  There is a growing trend for the passenger to provide proof of animal training or guarantee its behavior in public places.  These requirements meet the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and Department of Transportation’s (DOT) rules.

Air Carrier Emotional Support Animal Requirements

Alaska Airlines

Training will be required

Trained support animal- tickets purchased on or after May 1, 2018

Emotional support / psychiatric service animals assist those with emotional, psychiatric, cognitive or psychological disabilities.

You may travel with an emotional/psychiatric support animal in the cabin if you are a qualified individual with a disability and certain documentation requirements are met.

You must provide Alaska Airlines the following completed documentation at least 48 hours before departure, and keep the completed forms with you for the entire journey.

  • Animal health advisory form
    • We strongly recommend guests should have a certified copy of the animal’s health certificate from their veterinarian for their entire journey. Refer to Alaska’s pet policy for requirements for a health certificate.
  • Mental health form
  • Animal behavior form

DOWNLOAD the required forms.


Trained support animal – tickets purchased through April 30, 2018

Emotional support / psychiatric service animals assist those with emotional, psychiatric, cognitive or psychological disabilities.

You may travel with an emotional support / psychiatric service animal in the cabin if you are a qualified individual with a disability and certain documentation requirements are met.

Prior to boarding, you must present current documentation to one of our customer service agents. It must not be more than one year old and it must be on letterhead from a mental health professional or medical doctor who is treating your mental health-related disability. The letter must state the following:

  • That you have a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition (DSM IV)
  • That you need the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at your destination
  • The letter must come from a licensed mental health professional, you must be under his/her professional care.
  • The letter MUST contain the date, the mental health professional’s or medical doctor’s license, and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.

All of the above specific criteria must be provided to accept your emotional support / psychiatric service animal for travel in the passenger cabin. Advance notice is strongly recommended to ensure all paperwork is in order. When traveling with an emotional support / psychiatric service animal you are not permitted to sit in an emergency exit row. The emotional support / psychiatric service animal must be small enough and confined to sit in your lap, in the space beneath your feet, or in the space under the seat in front of you without invading another customer’s seat or foot area space during the entire flight. At no point can an emotional support / psychiatric service animal occupy a seat by itself.

Alaska Airlines

Allegiant Air

48. Service Animals

  1. Carrier permits dogs and other service animals used by an individual with a disability to accompany such individual in the passenger cabin at no charge.
  2. Carrier will accept as evidence that an animal is a service animal the presentation of identification cards, tags, or other written documentation; the presence of harnesses or markings on harnesses; or the credible verbal assurances of the individual with a disability using the animal.
  3. Carrier will permit a service animal to accompany a qualified individual with a disability at either a bulkhead seat or a seat other than a bulkhead seat, as the individual prefers, unless the animal obstructs an aisle or other area that must remain unobstructed in order to facilitate an emergency evacuation. Service animals may not occupy a seat.
  4. A trained service animal accompanied by a trainer will be permitted to travel aboard Carrier’ s aircraft only if the animal is being delivered to the domicile of an individual with a disability who either owns or, upon delivery, will take immediate ownership of the animal for that individual’s personal use. No additional charge will be assessed for carriage of a trained service animal being delivered to the domicile of the animal’s owner under such circumstances.
  5. Service animals in training will be accepted by Carrier for transport.
  6. Emotional Support or Comfort Animals do not need to have specific training for that function. Proper documentation (no older than one year from the date of the passenger’s scheduled initial flight) is required on letterhead from a mental health professional (e.g., a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, or other medical doctor specifically treating the passenger’s mental or emotional disability) stating:
    1. That the passenger has a mental or emotional health-related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition (DSM IV).
    2. That having the animal accompany the passenger is necessary to the passenger’s mental health or treatment or to assist the passenger with his or her disability during the flight or at the passenger’s destination.
    3. That the individual providing the assessment of the passenger is a licensed mental health professional and the passenger is under his or her professional care.
    4. The date and type of the mental health professional’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.

    Airline personnel will require this documentation as a condition of permitting the animal to accompany the passenger in the cabin. The purpose of this provision is to prevent abuse by passengers that do not have a medical need for an emotional support or comfort animal and to ensure that passengers who have a legitimate need for emotional support or comfort animals are permitted to travel with their service animals on the aircraft. Carrier does not require the documentation to specify the type of mental health disability, e.g., panic attacks.

Allegiant Air

American Airlines

Emotional support or psychiatric service animals

To travel with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal you must provide recent documentation (within 1 year) to Reservations at least 48 hours before your flight.

Doctor’s letter requirements

  • State you have a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Show the need for emotional support or psychiatric service animal for air travel and / or activity at your destination
  • Proof of their licensing as a mental health professional or medical doctor (including date, type and state of license) and that you’re a patient

If we’re unable to validate your documentation or it wasn’t received at least 48 hours before your flight, the animal may need to be checked and travel in a kennel.

American Airlines

Delta Air Lines

Service and Support Animals


When flying on Delta, we welcome service and support animals in the aircraft cabin. When traveling with a service or support animal, we’re here to work with you to make sure your travel day runs smoothly.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TRAINED SERVICE ANIMALS AND EMOTIONAL SUPPORT/PSYCHIATRIC SERVICE ANIMALS 

We know that both types of animals provide invaluable services and we welcome both on our flights. To travel with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal, passengers must upload the required documentation at least 48 hours before a flight. For questions, call 404-209-3434.  Advanced notice is encouraged but not required for customers travelling with trained service animals.

TRAINED SERVICE ANIMAL

Trained service animals receive training to assist those who are blind or have low vision, deafness or hard of hearing, diabetes, seizures, mobility limitations or other needs.

If you are traveling with a trained service animal, in some cases you may be asked to show:

  1. The animal’s Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record or other proof that the animal’s vaccinations are current within one year of the travel date
  2. While not required, customers are encouraged to upload this documentation to My Trips through the Accessibility Service Request Form

EMOTIONAL SUPPORT AND PSYCHIATRIC SERVICE ANIMALs

Emotional support and psychiatric service animals assist those with emotional, psychiatric, cognitive or psychological disabilities.

To travel with an emotional support animal, passengers must:

  1. Download and fill out the required Emotional Support or Psychiatric Service Animal PDF.  You may submit a copy of vaccination records in lieu of the Veterinary Health Form as long as the vaccination dates and veterinary office information are included.
  2. Upload it to My Trips through the Accessibility Service Request Form
  3. Keep completed paperwork with you while traveling

Flying with a Trained Service or Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animal

On a Delta flight, service and support animals are expected to be seated in the floor space below a passenger’s seat, or seated in a passenger’s lap. Service and support animals and their associated items travel for free. The size of the animal must not exceed the “footprint” of the passenger’s seat.

  • Associated items include a kennel, blanket, toy, food or similar item

Passengers traveling with emotional support or psychiatric service animals must complete the required paperwork.  Customers traveling with a trained service animal are encouraged to submit vaccination records prior to travel.

  • Download Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animal Required Documentation
  • In My Trips,  attach your documentation to the Accessibility Service Request form

NOTE: If you encounter any issues with your service animal while at the airport or on board, please ask to speak to a Complaint Resolution Official (CRO). These trained Delta representatives are ready to assist passengers with accessibility needs and protect your rights when you travel by air.

 

Delta Air Lines

Frontier Airlines

We accept therapeutic/emotional support animals in the cabin of our aircraft under the conditions below.

  • A hard copy of a written statement, one per animal, current within one year, on letterhead from a mental health professional is required if you wish to travel with a therapeutic/emotional support animal. The statement must:
    • Include the date and type of the mental health professional’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued
    • Include documentation that the individual providing the written statement is a licensed mental health professional and that you are under their professional care
    • Verify that you have a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—Fourth Edition (DSM IV)
    • Include documentation that having your therapeutic/emotional support animal accompany you is necessary to your mental health, treatment and/or to is needed to assist you during travel
  • Your animal(s) must fit under the seat or on your lap, one animal per lap. We will make every effort to accommodate the space needed, however in accordance with FAA regulation you may be required to purchase an additional seat. You may not be seated in an emergency exit row
  • A health certificate is not required for therapeutic/emotional support animals unless mandated by the jurisdiction of your destination
  • We do not accept unusual or exotic animals including but not limited to rodents, reptiles, insects, hedgehogs, rabbits, sugar gliders, non-household birds or improperly cleaned and/or animals with foul odor

Your therapeutic/emotional support animal must remain under your control for the duration of the flight(s).

Note: The behavior of any animal traveling on Frontier will assessed at the airport. This is to ensure the safety of all passengers is met prior to travel. We reserve the right to refuse to accommodate an animal in the cabin if requested documentation is not available or if the animal is considered aggressive or disruptive.

Frontier Air

JetBlue

Service animal travel

JetBlue welcomes service and emotional support/psychiatric service animals in the cabin at no additional charge. You will be asked at the airport to verify the service the animal provides.

Definition of animal roles:

Service animals: A service animal has been trained to perform a specific task to assist the customer traveling such as path finding, retrieval of objects, providing stability, alerting to sounds, etc.

Emotional Support Animals: An emotional support/psychiatric service animal provides comfort to you in support of your diagnosed mental or emotional disorder. Your animal must behave appropriately in a public setting and have required documentation noted below.

If you are traveling with more than one animal, JetBlue will make every reasonable effort to accommodate the space needed. If your animals are too large to fit in a single foot space in accordance with FAA safety regulations, you may purchase a second seat to guarantee travel or wait for a flight that has empty seats available.

Travel requirements:

  • Please add the animal to your reservation when booking on line or notify JetBlue at 1-800-JETBLUE (538-2583) of the animal’s travel.
  • All animals must remain on the floor unless the animal can fit completely and comfortably in your lap
  • No animal is ever allowed to be placed on a seat.
  • Service animals in training are not accepted for travel on JetBlue.
  • Animals that provide comfort for others or skills like drug or bomb detection will not be accepted on JetBlue.
  • JetBlue does not accept the following animals as service or emotional support/psychiatric service animals. These animals pose unavoidable safety and/or public health concerns and will not be allowed on JetBlue flights.
    • Hedgehogs
    • Ferrets
    • Insects
    • Rodents
    • Snakes
    • Spiders
    • Sugar gliders
    • Reptiles
    • Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game bird, & birds of prey)
    • Animals improperly cleaned and/or with a foul odor
    • Animals with tusk

Emotional support/psychiatric service animals documentation requirements

In order to travel with an emotional support/psychiatric service animal, you must provide current documentation (i.e., no older than one year from the date of the scheduled initial flight) on letterhead or prescription pad from a licensed mental health professional or physician* stating the following:

  • The customer traveling has a mental health-related disability or diagnosed mental health condition.
  • The animal accompanying the customer is necessary to the customer’s mental health or treatment.
  • The number and type of animal(s)
  • The individual providing the assessment of the customer is a licensed mental health professional and the customer is under his or her professional care and treatment or a physician specifically treating the mental health disorder.
  • The physician or mental health professional’s license number OR the type of license, the issue date and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.

Please note: Required documentation for Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animals must always accompany the animal when traveling and is to be presented upon request to JetBlue personnel for review. JetBlue accepts documentation in the following electronic forms:

  • Gallery photo of hard copy letter or a PDF file

The behavior of the animal will be assessed at the airport to ensure safety requirements are met before approving the animal for travel.

*Any licensed mental health professional (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker) including a medical doctor who is specifically treating a customer’s mental or emotional disability.

Additional documentation required:

Pet relief area accommodation:

Upon request, assistance will be offered by JetBlue crewmembers to and from the Airport Pet Relief Areas. Please ask an airport crewmember for directions to the relief area.

Flying on Mint

JetBlue permits Service Animals/Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animals to accompany you in any seat unless the animal obstructs an aisle or other area that must remain unobstructed in order to facilitate an emergency evacuation. In JetBlue’s Mint seating, you will forfeit the reclining feature in order to accommodate your animal on the floor. Animal carriers are not permitted in Mint seating during critical phases of flight (taxi, take-off and landing) and must be stowed in the overhead compartment. If your animal is small enough to sit comfortably on your lap, the reclining feature may be used. If your animal(s) are of a size that prevents an adjacent customer from utilizing the amenities of their seat, the customer traveling with the animal(s) may need to be re-accommodated in another seat.

jetBlue

Southwest Airlines

Trained service and emotional support animals

Booking a reservation

When booking a new reservation, Customers may use the “Add/Edit Disability Options” (situated on the Enter Traveler Info page) to indicate that he/she will be traveling with a fully trained service animal and/or an emotional support animal. When booking online, Customers may notice that there is a link (identified with a question mark) that directs the user to the details of our policy for assisting Passengers with disabilities and the appropriate indicators can be added here. After selecting an option(s), click “Continue” and complete the booking process.

If a reservation has already been created, simply click on the “FLIGHT | HOTEL | CAR” link located on the top of our home page.  Then, select “Manage Reservations” from the “Flights” column, input the required information, and select “Continue.” From that page, click on the “Add/Edit” Disability Options link. After selecting an option(s), click “Continue” and the information will be saved to the reservation.

Customers may also advise us of any disability-related travel needs at the time of booking by telephone or, if a reservation has already been made, by calling 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792) prior to travel.

If your animal does not meet the qualifications to travel as a fully trained service or emotional support animal, we encourage you to review our pet page for additional information on our Pet Policy.

 

At the airport

Southwest Airlines welcomes fully trained service animals and emotional support animals accompanying a Customer with a disability on our flights. As our requirements for transporting each type of animal are different, our Employees are trained to ask some factfinding questions to determine which classification applies to a Customer’s animal. We can’t ask a Customer to specify his/her disability, nor can we ask for “proof” of a disability. However, it is acceptable for our Employees to ask some factfinding questions to ascertain what assistance an animal provides.

Service and emotional support animals must be trained to behave in a public setting. If an animal behaves poorly, it may be denied boarding.

NOTE: Southwest Airlines does not accept therapy dogs for transportation. We also do not allow Customers to travel with unusual or exotic animals (including, but not limited to: rodents, ferrets, insects, spiders, reptiles, hedgehogs, rabbits, or sugar gliders) acting as assistance animals or emotional support animals.

 

Onboard

In accordance with federal safety regulations, the animal must be positioned so as not to obstruct Customers’ expeditious evacuation in the unlikely event of an emergency. In addition, Customers traveling with a fully trained service animal or an emotional support animal cannot sit in an emergency exit seat. Service and emotional support animals can be placed on the aircraft floor or on the Customer’s lap (provided the animal is no larger than a child under the age of two). Southwest Airlines does not allow the animals to be placed on an aircraft seat.

Customers are not required to transport fully trained service animals or emotional support animals in pet carriers. However, if a Customer opts to carry his/her fully trained service animal or emotional support animal in a pet carrier, the carrier must be properly stowed for taxi, takeoff, and landing.

 

International travel

Service animals will be allowed to travel on flights to/from all domestic and international destinations, but many destinations have country-specific regulations. Customers traveling with trained assistance and emotional support animals on an international itinerary are solely responsible for researching and complying with applicable laws, requirements, and/or procedures of each country on the Customer’s itinerary with respect to the acceptance of trained assistance and emotional support animals.

 

Service Animal Relief Areas

We share our Service Animal Relief Area locations on our Airport Information Page. Specifically, you can find details of the Service Animal Relief locations by selecting the Station and clicking on the “+” next to the Station’s name.

 

Documentation requirements for emotional support animals

In order for a Customer to travel with an emotional support animal, the Customer must provide to a Southwest Airlines Employee current documentation (not more than one year old) on letterhead from a mental health professional or medical doctor who is treating the Customer’s mental health-related disability stating:

  1. The Passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition (DSM IV)
  2. The Passenger needs the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger’s destination
  3. The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional or medical doctor, and the Passenger is under his or her professional care AND
  4. The date and type of mental health professional’s or medical doctor’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued

Printable instructions for Traveling with an Emotional Support Animal (PDF).

 

Southwest

Spirit Airlines

Can I bring my service, emotional support, or psychiatric service animal on my flight?

Yes, we welcome service animals , emotional support , or psychiatric service animals on our flights, but require the following guidelines be met

Service Animals Only

We accept service animals, or those trained to lead the hearing or visually impaired or trained in special assistance for the disabled, as long as any of the following are provided as evidence that the animal is a service animal:

  • Identification cards;
  • Written documentation regarding the medical need for the presence of the animal in the cabin;
  • The reasonable credible verbal assurance from the individual with the disability using or accompanying the animal;

For international flights, we, or your travel agent, may be able to help you find out what the requirements are for your destination. But remember, it’s up to you to follow any applicable regulations.

Please view additional guidelines that are required when bringing a service animal with you.

Emotional Support and Psychiatric Service Animals

We accept emotional support and psychiatric service animals as long as you have current documentation (no older than one year preceding the date of your scheduled initial flight) which must meet the following criteria:

On letterhead of a licensed mental health professional including a medical doctor specifically treating the passenger’s mental or emotional disability (e.g. psychiatrist, psychologist, or licensed clinical social worker) stating the following:

  • You have a mental health related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition (DSM IV);
  • You need the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at your destination;
  • The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional and the passenger is under his or her professional care; and
  • The date and type of the mental health professional’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.

For international flights, we, or your travel agent, may be able to help you find out what the requirements are for your destination. But remember, it’s up to you to follow any applicable regulations.

Please view additional guidelines that are required when bringing an emotional support or psychiatric service animal with you.

 

Additional Guidelines

  • Please plan to check in 90 minutes before the check-in time for the general public for document verification.
  • Please contact us via phone for how can I contact spirit airlinesat least 48 hours prior to your scheduled departure if you’re traveling with an emotional support or psychiatric service animals.
  • As part of the DOT’s regulations under 14 CFR, Part 382, we do not require a health certificate as a condition of transporting service animals, but please read the additional health documentations please read the additional health documentations here.Opens a New Window.
  • The animal must remain with you at all times.
  • The animal is seated on the floor at your feet and cannot block an aisle or other area that must remain clear for emergency evacuation.
  • You may choose to sit anywhere you wish with the exception of emergency exit rows.
  • Animals with pet carriers may not sit in the first row.
  • If your emotional support and/or service animal must sit in your lap, you may not occupy any seat equipped with an inflatable seat belt. While these are perfectly safe for you, it could put your animal’s well-being at risk if the seatbelts were to inflate. Please see the chart below of the seats with inflatable seat belts.
  • Service and emotional support animals can be placed on the aircraft floor or (provided the animal is no larger than a lap child & there’s no inflatable seat belt) on the customer’s lap. No animals or any part of the animals can be placed on an aircraft seat at any time.
  • If traveling with more than one emotional support animal, your required letter must list each emotional support/psychiatric service animal.
  • Spirit does not accept snakes, other reptiles, rodents, ferrets, and spiders.
  • As part of the DOT’s regulations under 14 CFR, Part 382, for other unusual animals, several factors determine whether an animal can travel in the cabin as a service animal. These factors include: the animal’s size, whether the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, whether it would cause a significant disruption of cabin service, and whether if the animal is prohibited from entering a foreign country. If you have any questions, please contact us at www.spirit.com/help.

Spirit Airlines

United Airlines

Beginning March 1, 2018, United will require additional documentation for customers traveling with emotional support animal or a psychiatric service animal. In addition to providing a letter from a licensed medical/mental health professional, customers will need to provide a veterinary health form documenting the health and vaccination records for the animal as well as confirming that the animal has been trained to behave properly in a public setting.

This change only applies to emotional support and psychiatric service animals.

Helpful travel reminders

  • The animal is expected to be seated in the floor space below your seat
  • The animal should not extend into the aisles
  • The animal must behave properly in public and should follow directions from its owner
  • When traveling with an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal, you’ll need to submit all three forms together to the Accessibility Desk at least 48 hours before your flight
  • Contact the United Accessibility Desk at 1-800-228-2744 if you have any questions or special requirements

Trained service animals

Trained service animals are animals that receive specific training to perform life functions for individuals with disabilities. Examples include animals that assist with visual impairments, deafness, seizures and mobility limitations.

Trained service animals are accepted in cabin for qualified individuals with a disability. A service animal should sit in the floor space in front of the customer’s assigned seat but cannot protrude into the aisles. Customers may use an approved in-cabin kennel for smaller animals provided its use meets stowage requirements. Exit row seating is prohibited. Documentation may be required for an animal traveling to international destinations.

Emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals

Emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals that provide emotional, psychiatric or cognitive support for individuals with disabilities, but may or may not have task-specific training with respect to a disability.

Emotional support and psychiatric service animals are also accepted in cabin for qualified individuals with a disability if certain information and documentation are provided in advance of travel. These animals must be trained to behave properly in a public setting. United will consider all relevant information, including information from the required documentation, when determining whether an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal may safely travel in the aircraft cabin.

Additional documentation beyond United’s requirements may also be required for an animal traveling to an international destination, Hawaii and other locations. Please note that not all international destinations allow the entry of animals, and restrictions vary by country. Customers should contact the appropriate consulate or embassy to make sure that all necessary procedures are followed.

An animal must sit at the customer’s feet without protruding into the aisle or other area that must remain unobstructed to comply with safety regulations. Customers may elect to use an approved in-cabin kennel for smaller animals. Exit row seating is prohibited. Refer to the U.S. Department of Transportation 14 CFR Part 382 or contact United for additional information.

Customers traveling with an emotional support animal or a psychiatric service animal must provide the required documentation at least 48 hours before the customer’s flight by email ([email protected]). If we are unable to validate the documentation, if the customer does not provide completed documentation, or if advance notification is not given, customers may be required to transport the animal as a pet, and pet fees may apply. Contact the United Accessibility Desk at 1-800-228-2744 if you have any questions about this process or are booking a flight within 48 hours of the departure time.

Service animals in training

United only recognizes service animals which have been trained and certified. Animal trainers are permitted to bring one service animal that is training to assist disabled passengers onboard free of charge. These service animals must not occupy a seat. Trainers transporting service animals in the ordinary course of business or service animals who are not in training must check these animals.

Therapy animals

Therapy animals, which are pets that have been trained and registered by a therapy organization in order to visit nursing homes, hospitals, schools and other facilities, are not considered to be service animals. When traveling with a therapy animal, standard pet-related regulations and restrictions will apply.

Destination-specific information

United States

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires all dogs entering the United States to be immunized against rabies. Proof of vaccination is required before air travel begins.

Hawaii

There are restrictions regarding the entry of service animals into Hawaii. Customers planning to travel to Hawaii should contact the Hawaii Animal Quarantine Branch manager directly for quarantine requirements. The 24-hour phone number is 1-808-837-8092. You may also view animal quarantine information at the Hawaii Department of Agriculture website

Republic of Ireland

Customers traveling with a service animal to Dublin, Ireland should review the entry requirements at www.agriculture.gov.ie/pets/. Significant advance notice is required.

United Kingdom

United is approved under the United Kingdom’s Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) to accept service animals on flights to the UK. Review the entry requirements on the gov.uk website. Please provide a minimum one-week advance notification. Additional fees may apply.

Service animal policy and location
DestinationService animal policy
Edinburgh, ScotlandNotify the Border Inspection Post at Edinburgh Airport at [email protected] or +44 (0) 131-317-7277.
Glasgow, ScotlandContact Pets on the Move at [email protected] or +44 (0) 156-382-9262.
London HeathrowNotify the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre through their website. Visit the City of London Corporation website for more information.
ManchesterNotify Pets on Jets at [email protected] or +44 (0) 161-209-7670.

Other international destinations

Restrictions on the entry of animals vary by country. Customers should contact the appropriate consulate or embassy at least four weeks before departure to make sure that all necessary procedures are followed.

Once customers receive approvals from the respective authorities, please provide a minimum 48-hour advance notification to the United Accessibility Desk at 1-800-228-2744 from within the United States or Canada, or from elsewhere call the United Customer Contact Center and ask to be connected to the Accessibility Desk. Please also fax or email the required documentation to 1-872-825-0208 or [email protected].

 

United Airlines

For housing or domestic air travel purposes, emotional support animals are not pets

Emotional support animals have limited civil rights against discrimination and harassment

At the national level, qualifying Americans with mental disabilities utilizing prescribed emotional support animals have civil rights protections against discrimination and harassment under the following laws:

  • Fair Housing Act (FHAct) of 1968, Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988
    42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., 24 CFR Parts 100 et seq.
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (also known as the Rehab Act)
    42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq., 24 CFR Parts 100 et seq.
  • Air Carrier Access Act  (ACAA) of 1986
    49 U.S.C. § 41705, 14 CFR Part 382

U.S.C. refers to the United States Code. CFR refers to the Code of Federal RegulationsFR refers to the Federal Register.

Emotional support animals are not granted rights for public access like Americans using task-trained service dogs to mitigate their disability.  ESA benefits extend to domestic air travel, qualified housing and public transportation only. 

In all other locations, they can legally be banned from entry or charged additional fees like any family pet.  This includes retail stores, restaurants and hotels.

We're not breaking the law, but you might be

Why these legal definitions matter to everyone

Because there a multiple active applicable laws to protect disabled Americans from discrimination and harassment, we are left with multiple legal definitions of who qualifies as a disabled person and what civil rights are being protected.  It’s important that both the disabled individual and the general public understand each of these legal definitions because they could unintended breaking a law if they don’t.

Today, the law most commonly discussed for disability civil rights in the United States is the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that was updated with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act of 2008.  However it was preceded by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the Rehab Act of 1973 and the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, which are concurrent active laws.

Fair Housing Act

"Handicap" under the Fair Housing Act

42 U.S.C. 3602

The text of the Fair Housing Act continues to use the imprecise term “Handicap” instead of the modern “disability”.  With respect to a person–

  1. a physical or mental impairment that substaintially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities,
  2. a record of having such an impairment, or
  3. being regarded as having such an impairment, but such term does not include current, illegal use of or addiction to a controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802)).

"Assistance Animal" under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

24 C.F.R. 5.303, 73 FR 63833, FHEO-2013-01

The text of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) does not define service animals, service dogs or medical assistance animals.  The FHA is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  HUD has established and published regulations for “animals that assist, support or provide service to persons with disabilities” that apply to locations under its administration.  HUD has taken a passive approach to further definitions.

According to HUD, “An assistance animal is not a pet.  It is an animal that works, provides assistance, or  performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person’s disability.   Assistance animals perform many disability-related functions, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals who are blind or have low vision, alerting individuals who are dead or hard of hearing to sounds, providing protection or rescue assistance, pulling a wheelchair, fetching items, alerting a person to impending seizures, or providing emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support.   For purposes of reasonable accommodation requests, neither the FHAct nor (Rehab Act) Section 504 requires an assistance animal to be individually trained or certified.  While dogs are the most common types of assistance animal, other animals can also be assistance animals.”

The Rehabilitation Act

"Disability" under the Rehab Act

29 U.S.C 701, 29 U.S.C. 794

Congress stated in the Rehab Act that “individuals with disabilities constitute one of the most disadvantaged groups in society.”  Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. The nondiscrimination requirements of the law apply to employers and organizations that receive financial assistance from any Federal department or agency.  As such, each federal agency is responsible for enforcing its own Section 504 regulations and there is no shared definition of “service dog”, “service animal” or “medical assistance animal”.

The Rehab Act defines a “disability” as a natural part of the human experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to live independently, enjoy self-determination, make choices, contribute to society, pursue meaningful careers and enjoy full inclusion and integration in the economic, political, social, cultural and educational mainstream of American society.  Individuals with Disabilities are any person who (a) has physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person’s major life activities, (b) has a record of such an impairment, or (c) is regarded as having such an impairment.

For purposes of employment, qualified individuals with disabilities must also meet the normal and essential eligibility requirements such that with a reasonable accommodation they can perform the essential functions of the job for which they have applied or have been hired to perform.

Section 504 may be enforced through private lawsuits in a court with federal jurisdiction.  It is not necessary to file a complaint with a specific agency or deliver a “right-to-sue” letter before filing a case.

Air Carrier Access Act

Discrimination against handicapped individuals under the Air Carrier Access Act

49 U.S.C. § 41705

In providing air transportation, an air carrier, including any foreign carrier may not discriminate against an otherwise qualified individual on the following grounds:  (1)  the individual has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, (2) the individual has a record of such an impairment, or (3) the individual is regarded as having such an impairment.

The Secretary for the Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for the administration of the Air Carrier Access Act.  Unlike other disability laws, only the DOT can take action against a carrier for a violation of the ACAA.   Individuals can file reports (preferably in writing) of discrimination with the carrier or the DOT, but may not open a legal action in any court under ACAA protections.

"Service Animal" according to the Department of Transportation

14 C.F.R. Part 382 Subpart H

According to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), air carriers must permit a service animal to accompany a passenger with a disability for all domestic flights.

International travel, originating or terminating in the United States, can also covered subject to applicable local laws.  For example, the United Kingdom places specific restrictions on all in-bound animals including micro-chipping, passport and quarantine for up to 4 months.  Disabled passengers using service animals should contact the United States embassy at their destination prior to scheduling any travel to avoid problems.

Service animals must be allowed in-cabin at the seat with the disabled passenger unless the animal obstructs the aisle or emergency evacuation.

As evidence that an animal is a service animal, carriers must accept identification cards, other written documentation, presence of harnesses, tags or the credible assurances of a qualified individual with a disability using the animal.

Psychiatric service animals are not required to travel in-cabin unless the passenger provides current documentation (no older than one year from the date of the flight) on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional stating the passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders and the passenger needs the psychiatric service as an accommodation for air travel and/or activity at the destination.

The DOT does not limit a service animal to a specific species (d0g), but a carrier is never required to accommodate certain unusual service animals (snakes, reptiles, rodents, spiders).  Foreign carriers are only required to carry dogs as service animals.

Americans with Disabilities Act

Equal opportunities for individuals with disabilties

42 U.S.C. Chapter 126

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protections for employment (Title I), public services (Title II), public access (Title III) and miscellaneous provisions (Title IV).   The ADA defines the term “disability ” with respect to an individual who (a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (b) has a record of such impairment; or (c) being regarded as having such an impairment.

The ADA requires that the definition of a disability be construed in favor of broad cover of individuals to the maximum extent of the law.

Reasonable accommodations for service animals in the workplace

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits private employers, State and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including State and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations.

How do I know if I am protected by the ADA? To be protected, you must be a qualified individual with a disability. This means that you must have a disability as defined by the ADA. Under the ADA, you have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity such as hearing, seeing, speaking, thinking, walking, breathing, or performing manual tasks. You also must be able to do the job you want or were hired to do, with or without reasonable accommodation.

What are my rights under the ADA? The ADA protects you from discrimination in all employment practices, including: job application procedures, hiring, firing, training, pay, promotion, benefits, and leave. You also have a right to be free from harassment because of your disability, and an employer may not fire or discipline you for asserting your rights under the ADA. Most importantly, you have a right to request a reasonable accommodation for the hiring process and on the job this includes the use of a service animal.

What should I do if I think my ADA rights have been violated?  You should contact the nearest office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Someone will help you determine whether you should file a charge of discrimination. Charges may be filed with the EEOC in person, by mail, or by telephone.

There are strict time frames for filing charges of employment discrimination. In most states, you have 300 days from the time the alleged discrimination occurred to file a charge, but in some states you may have only 180 days. The EEOC field office nearest you can tell you which time period applies to you. However, you should file a charge as soon as possible after you believe the discrimination occurred.

To contact the EEOC, look in your telephone directory under U.S. Government or call 1-800-669-4000 (voice) or 1-800-669-6820 (TTY).

Service Animals according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section

Many people with disabilities use a service animal in order to fully participate in everyday life. Dogs can be trained to perform many important tasks to assist people with disabilities, such as providing stability for a person who has difficulty walking, picking up items for a person who uses a wheelchair, preventing a child with autism from wandering away, or alerting a person who has hearing loss when someone is approaching from behind.

The Department of Justice continues to receive many questions about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to service animals. The ADA requires State and local government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations (covered entities) that provide goods or services to the public to make “reasonable modifications” in their policies, practices, or procedures when necessary to accommodate people with disabilities. The service animal rules fall under this general principle. Accordingly, entities that have a “no pets” policy generally must modify the policy to allow service animals into their facilities. This publication provides guidance on the ADA’s service animal provisions and should be read in conjunction with the publication ADA Revised Requirements: Service Animals.

"Service Animal" as defined by the U.S. Department of Justice

Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

What does "do work or perform tasks" mean?

The dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. For example, a person with diabetes may have a dog that is trained to alert him when his blood sugar reaches high or low levels. A person with depression may have a dog that is trained to remind her to take her medication. Or, a person who has epilepsy may have a dog that is trained to detect the onset of a seizure and then help the person remain safe during the seizure.

Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?

No.  These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person.  Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.  However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places.  You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.

Can people bring more than one service animal into a public place?

Generally, yes. Some people with disabilities may use more than one service animal to perform different tasks. For example, a person who has a visual disability and a seizure disorder may use one service animal to assist with way-finding and another that is trained as a seizure alert dog. Other people may need two service animals for the same task, such as a person who needs two dogs to assist him or her with stability when walking. Staff may ask the two permissible questions (See Question 7) about each of the dogs. If both dogs can be accommodated, both should be allowed in. In some circumstances, however, it may not be possible to accommodate more than one service animal. For example, in a crowded small restaurant, only one dog may be able to fit under the table. The only other place for the second dog would be in the aisle, which would block the space between tables. In this case, staff may request that one of the dogs be left outside.

Does the ADA require that service animals be certified as service animals?

No.  Covered entities may not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal, as a condition for entry.

There are individuals and organizations that sell service animal certification or registration documents online. These documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and the Department of Justice does not recognize them as proof that the dog is a service animal.

Do apartments, mobile home parks, and other residential properties have to comply with the ADA?

The ADA applies to housing programs administered by state and local governments, such as public housing authorities, and by places of public accommodation, such as public and private universities.  In addition, the Fair Housing Act applies to virtually all types of housing, both public and privately-owned, including housing covered by the ADA.  Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers are obligated to permit, as a reasonable accommodation, the use of animals that work, provide assistance, or perform tasks that benefit persons with a disabilities, or provide emotional support to alleviate a symptom or effect of a disability.  For information about these Fair Housing Act requirements see HUD’s Notice on Service Animals and Assistance Animals for People with Disabilities in Housing and HUD-funded Programs.

Do commercial airlines have to comply with the ADA?

No.  The Air Carrier Access Act is the Federal law that protects the rights of people with disabilities in air travel.  For information or to file a complaint, contact the U.S. Department of Transportation, Aviation Consumer Protection Division, at 202-366-2220.

Civil monetary penalties

28 C.F.R. Parts 36 and 85

On March 28, 2014, the Department of Justice issued a Final Rule that adjusts for inflation the civil monetary penalties assessed or enforced by the Civil Rights Division, including civil penalties available under title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).   For the ADA, this adjustment increases the maximum civil penalty for a first violation under title III from $55,000 to $75,000; for a subsequent violation the new maximum is $150,000.  The new maximums apply only to violations occurring on or after April 28, 2014.

This Final Rule is a non-discretionary agency action made pursuant to Section 4 of the Federal Civil Penalties Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended (Adjustment Act), which mandates the Attorney General to adjust for inflation the civil penalties assessed or enforced by the Department of Justice.  The amounts of the adjustment were determined according to a specific mathematical formula set forth in Section 5 of the Adjustment Act.  The previous adjustment under the ADA occurred in 1999.

Open a discussion with your employer

Emotional support animals in the workplace

The Americans with Disabilities Act Title I covers the majority of employers in the United States.  The daily administration of the Title I falls to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) who has adopted the Department of Justice’s definition of “service animals” for accommodation of medical assistance animals in the workplace.   As such, emotional support animals disabled handlers do not have any legal rights or protections in the workplace.

Any emotional support animal disabled handler can make a voluntary request of their employer to bring their animal to work as a pet.  It would be totally the employers discretion to approve or deny the request as it has no legal requirements.  Many businesses have made news recently with their dog friendly or pet friendly policies for employees including Google, Kabbage, Amazon, Ticketmaster and Glassdoor.