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Frequently Asked Questions

QUESTIONS RELATED TO SERVICE ANIMALS, EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS, AND THERAPY ANIMALS

WHAT IS AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL (ESA)?

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is any animal that provides support to an individual that is suffering from anxiety, depression, fears / phobias, or relationship issues.  Common ESA animals include dogs, cats, rabbits, miniature pigs, goats, hoses, guinea pigs, bearded dragons, etc.  Check with your city to determine if there are any zoning restrictions on the type of pet allowed on your property. 

Emotional Support Animals do not require any special training by federal law.   The animal should be well behaved in public locations.

ESA animals are protected in Housing:

Housing:

The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1988 requires landlords to make a reasonable accommodation to allow an ESA animal in pet restricted even if it is a "no pet" building.    The Federal Fair Housing Act applies to properties which are classified as "four units or more" which includes apartments, college dorm, condos, town homes, and mobile home parks.   

The property owner has the right to ask for verification that the tenant needs an ESA by requesting a note from a licensed therapist or medical doctor stating that the presence of the animal is necessary for the tenant's mental health and that they are considered disabled as a result.  The letter must include the therapists address and license number.   Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides on guidance on this topic.

Airline Travel:

Effective January 11, 2021 all major airlines have banned ESAs.  Emotional Support Animals now travel under the same rules as cabin pets. You are required to pay a cabin pet fee and your pet must be in a carrier during the flight.  While ESAs are no longer permitted on flights, the airlines must still allow Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD) to travel in the cabin with their owner. There are some major differences between who is entitled to have a PSD as opposed to an ESA and how a PSD differs from an ESA. If your dog qualifies as a Psychiatric Service Dog, the airline not charge a fee to travel. (see here for qualifications)

WHAT IS A SERVICE ANIMAL?

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government.

Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform. Guide dogs are one type of service animal, used by some individuals who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:

Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to:

  • Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens
  • Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds
  • Assisting an individual during a seizure
  • Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks
  • Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance
  • Helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors
  • Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities
  • Wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments
  • Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone

A service animal is not a pet.

WHAT IS A PSYCHIATRIC SERVICE ANIMAL (PSA)?

A psychiatric service animal is a specific type of service dog trained to assist their handler with a psychiatric disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or schizophrenia. A psychiatric service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate their handler's disability. Their function is not to provide emotional support, but to perform tasks which enable their partner to function in ordinary ways the non-disabled take for granted. Training to mitigate a psychiatric disability may include providing environmental assessment (in such cases as paranoia or hallucinations) signaling behaviors (such as interrupting repetitive or injurious behaviors), reminding the handler to take medication, retrieving objects, guiding the handler from stressful situations, or acting as a brace if the handler becomes dizzy.

Psychiatric service dogs may be of any breed or size suitable for public work. Some psychiatric service dogs are trained by the person who will become the handler usually with the help of a professional trainer. Others are trained by assistance or service dog programs. Assistance dog organizations are increasingly recognizing the need for dogs to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities.

Airline Travel

Airlines must still allow Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD) to travel in the cabin with their owner. There are some major differences between who is entitled to have a PSD as opposed to an ESA and how a PSD differs from an ESA. 

Click here for qualifications.

WHAT IS A THERAPY ANIMAL?

A therapy animal is trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, and to people with learning difficulties and stressful situations such as disaster areas. Many different types of animals are used as therapy animals. The most common are dogs, cats, and horses. They are NOT considered service or emotional support dogs and have absolutely no protections under the ADA.

WHAT SPECIES OF ANIMAL CAN BE AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL?

Any animal can be an Emotional Support Animal. 

Common ESA animals include dogs, cats, rabbits, miniature pigs, goats, hoses, guinea pigs, bearded dragons, etc.  Check with your city to determine if there are any zoning restrictions on the type of pet allowed on your property. 

Emotional Support Animals do not require any special training by federal law.   The animal should be well behaved in public locations.

WHAT SPECIES OF ANIMAL CAN BE A SERVICE ANIMAL?

Dogs and miniature horses can be Service Animals.   Service Animals are protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Any animal can be an Emotional Support Animal.

WHAT SPECIES OF ANIMAL CAN BE A THERAPY ANIMAL?

Any animals can be a Therapy Animal.   Common Therapy Animals include dogs, cats, birds, miniature horses, goats, guinea pigs, bearded dragon, etc.   

Therapy Animals cannot be aggressive.   

WHAT TRAINING IS REQUIRED FOR AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL (ESA)?

The Federal Fair Housing Act of 1988 does not require Emotional Support Animals to have any specific training.   If you take your pet in public it should have good social skills. 

It is the very presence of the ESA that reduces the negative symptoms associated with a person's emotional or mental health disorder/disability.

WILL I NEED A LETTER THAT PRESCRIBES AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL?

Property Managers can ask for a note from a doctor or licensed therapist for both Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals.   

Airlines are not allowed to ask for a note from a doctor or licensed therapist for a Service Animal unless it is a psychiatric Service Animal. 

The therapist or doctor letter must be written on the letterhead of the LMHP, provide a diagnosis, and list the licensing information to be accepted in housing. 

Some airlines require the doctor or therapist to complete their form rather than submitting a letter.   Check with the airline for all Service Animal requirements. 

HOW CAN I TELL IF AN ANIMAL IS REALLY A SERVICE ANIMAL AND NOT JUST A PET?

Some, but not all, service animals wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or certified and have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. However, an individual who is going to a restaurant or theater is not likely to be carrying documentation of his or her medical condition or disability. Therefore, such documentation generally may not be required as a condition for providing service to an individual accompanied by a service animal. You may not insist on proof of state certification before permitting the service animal to accompany the person with a disability.

I HAVE ALWAYS HAD A CLEARLY POSTED "NO PETS" POLICY AT MY ESTABLISHMENT. DO I STILL HAVE TO ALLOW SERVICE ANIMALS IN?

Yes. A service animal is not a pet. The ADA requires you to modify your "no pets" policy to allow the use of a service animal by a person with a disability. This does not mean you must abandon your "no pets" policy altogether but simply that you must make an exception to your general rule for service animals.

WHERE CAN I TAKE MY SERVICE ANIMAL?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities, are prohibited from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The ADA requires these businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed. In addition, these public and private entities may NOT:

  • Charge the disabled handler a fee because of their service animal.
  • Position or seat the handler and service animal away from other patrons to intentionally separate them.
WHAT ARE THE DISABILITY REQUIREMENTS?

The ADA Restoration Act was signed into law September 25, 2008 by President George W. Bush. It went into effect January 1, 2009. The main purpose of the ADARA of 2008 is to correct interpretations of the ADA by the SCOTUS and reassert Congress' original intent, particularly with regard to the definition of "disability". With respect to an individual, the term 'disability' means:

  • A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
  • A record of such an impairment; or
  • Being regarded as having such an impairment

Major Life Activities:

  • Major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.
DOES A SERVICE DOG REQUIRE PROFESSIONAL TRAINING TO BE REGISTERED?

No. Although by definition, a Service Dog/Animal is trained to perform tasks assisting someone who is disabled, that training can be completed by anyone, anywhere. Training does not need to be facilitated by an expert or professional trainer. Many people have trained their own animals or have been assisted by friends and family, and there are numerous resources to help the home trainer. Most important is that the training enables the animal to perform the tasks required to assist its disabled handler and be well controlled in public.

CAN I CHARGE MAINTENANCE OR CLEANING FEES FOR CUSTOMERS WHO BRING SERVICE ANIMALS INTO MY BUSINESS?

No. Neither a deposit nor a surcharge may be imposed on an individual with a disability as a condition to allowing a service animal to accompany the individual with a disability, even if deposits are routinely required for pets. However, a public accommodation may charge its customers with disabilities if a service animal causes damage so long as it is the regular practice of the entity to charge non-disabled customers for the same types of damages. For example, a hotel can charge a guest with a disability for the cost of repairing or cleaning furniture damaged by a service animal if it is the hotel's policy to charge when non-disabled guests cause such damage.

AM I RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ANIMAL WHILE THE PERSON WITH A DISABILITY IS IN MY BUSINESS?

No. The care or supervision of a service animal is solely the responsibility of his or her owner. You are not required to provide care or food or a special location for the animal.

WHAT IF A SERVICE ANIMAL BARKS OR GROWLS AT OTHER PEOPLE, OR OTHERWISE ACTS OUT OF CONTROL?

You may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded. You may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on your past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually.

Although a public accommodation may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the service animal on the premises.

CAN I EXCLUDE AN ANIMAL THAT DOESN'T REALLY SEEM DANGEROUS BUT IS DISRUPTIVE TO MY BUSINESS?

There may be a few circumstances when a public accommodation is not required to accommodate a service animal--that is, when doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the business. Generally, this is not likely to occur in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities. But when it does, for example, when a dog barks during a movie, the animal can be excluded.

ARE THERE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH A BUSINESS CAN ASK ME TO LEAVE WITH MY SERVICE DOG?

Yes, although these are very limited circumstances. A service animal can be excluded from a facility when that animal's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded.

For example, if a disabled handler is not adequately controlling or attending to a misbehaving service animal (who is barking, unruly, defecating or urinating in the area, etc., the handler may be legally asked to remove the service dog.

WHAT CAN A BUSINESS ASK OR REQUIRE WHEN I'M ACCOMPANIED BY MY SERVICE DOG?

By law, public entities (businesses and their representatives) are allowed to question a disabled handler to verify that they qualify to enter with a service animal. The handler may be asked to verbally confirm that he is disabled and that the dog is a service animal. The public entity, may not ask about the person's disability. The handler may be asked what major life task the animal is trained to perform for the handler. 

ARE SERVICE DOGS OR EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS REQUIRED TO WEAR SPECIAL PATCHES, HARNESSES, OR EQUIPMENT?

The ADA does not require any special equipment, clothing, or patches to identify your animal as a Service Dog. We encourage all clients to make their dog look like a legitimate service dog, including an appropriate vest or harness, service animal patches, and the ID card visibly displayed - clipped to the harness or leash.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF REGISTRATION?

The biggest benefit of registering your dog as a Service Dog is that the documentation, photo IDs, and Service Dog patches we'll send you make your disability and Service Dog visibly official. That means fewer businesses will question you, and you'll have documented reinforcement for the ones that do. No more long, drawn out explanations, justifications, or denials.

WHAT ARE THE PET PHOTO REQUIREMENTS?

We need one clear color photo of your Animal. We prefer an image that predominantly shows the animal's head and chest. The image can be emailed to us as an attachment. You can also text the photo to (480) 823-5677. Please include your last name with the text. We prefer large images so we can crop and enhance, as necessary. The email address is photos@registermyserviceanimal.com

MUST A SERVICE DOG OR EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL (ESA) BE CERTIFIED OR REGISTERED?

No. Although service dogs are NOT required by law to be registered, registration eliminates most hassles and confrontations from the public.

WHO DO I CONTACT IF MY SERVICE ANIMAL IS DENIED ACCESS?

You should explain that the ADA (or state law if it provides greater protection) protects your right to be accompanied by your service animal in places of public accommodation. If that doesn't get you admitted, you should ask to speak to the manager or supervisor, and then repeat the explanation to the supervisor. If you are still denied, you can politely offer to call the police to have them explain the law.

If you have further questions about service animals or other requirements of the ADA, you may call the U.S. Department of Justice's toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD).

HOW TO VERIFY REGISTRATION?

To verify a animal's registration, please call our office at (480) 575-5655 or complete the form on the Contact Us page.