Emotional Support Animal Laws: Colorado Guide

Colorado is an animal-friendly state with liberal laws about service dogs, general pets, and emotional support animals (ESAs).

That said, it’s not always possible to bring your companion with you into a business or even your home. In fact, many landlords in Colorado may restrict pets if they choose to do so.

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s just not up to you. The good news is that hope doesn’t have to be lost, especially if you have a valid reason for getting a pet. We’re talking about an emotional support animal.

Emotional support animals have legal protections in Colorado that allow them to go places that other animals cannot. Some examples include public places like breweries, pubs, restaurants, and even public transportation.

What’s more, with the right ESA letter you can live with your pet in a home that otherwise wouldn’t allow a pet. Still, exceptions apply, so it’s important to understand emotional support animal laws in Colorado before going through the process.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about these laws and to determine if an ESA in Colorado is right for you.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals provide comfort for their human companions. Their main purpose is to keep someone calm and they’re useful for people who struggle with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.

Emotional support animals don’t require training and any type of animal can become an ESA if it has a mild temperament. ESAs work just by being present.

ESAs don’t need to be registered or wear any type of identifying equipment to be considered legitmate. All you need is a legally valid ESA letter from a medical professional. More on that later.

What’s the Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Dog?

Service dogs and emotional support animals are not the same for a few reasons. The most obvious difference is that ESAs can be any type of animal, while service dogs are limited to, well, being dogs.

Aside from appearance, there are some more differences with the most important one being training. Many service dogs take several years to train, and that training costs upwards of $30,000 in many cases. Service dogs are trained to perform a task, whether that be physical or mental. If the dog can’t perform the task properly it can’t be a service dog.

ESAs, on the other hand, don’t require any type of training to be legitimate. As we’ve said before, their presence alone is comforting enough to dial down stress or other symptoms.

Lastly, the laws pertaining to service dogs and ESAs are different. For example, you can take service dogs on planes and other places where animals aren’t allowed. ESAs don’t have public access rights, so you can only bring them to pet-friendly places.

Can Anyone Get an Emotional Support Animal in Colorado?

No, not everyone can get an emotional support animal in Colorado. This is because the person applying for an ESA must have a valid mental health problem that requires an ESA.

Therefore, only people who consult with a licensed mental health professional can get an emotional support animal. The good news is that as long as you have a valid mental health issue your chances of getting an ESA are high.

Do Landlords Have to Accept Emotional Support Animals?

In most cases, yes, landlords have to accept emotional support animals. According to some federal laws and state laws in Colorado, landlords can’t deny someone of having an ESA. That said, there is a catch. If your ESA is violent to other members of the apartment complex or damages the property, the landlord can restrict you from having an ESA.

Emotional Support Animal Laws in Colorado

Most emotional support animal laws are federal laws but Colorado also has some additional state legislation that impacts ESAs. For this reason, it’s important to understand how federal and state laws impact emotional support animals in Colorado.

We’ll cover the following types of Colorado ESA laws:

  • Employment laws for emotional support animals in Colorado
  • Housing laws for emotional support animals in Colorado
  • Travel Laws for emotional support animals in Colorado
  • Public access laws for emotional support animals in Colorado

Learn more about each group of laws below.

Employment Laws for Emotional Support Animals in Colorado

First and foremost, we’ll start with employment laws. As a pet-friendly state, it’s not uncommon for places of employment to allow pets. In fact, many workplaces allow both employees and visitors to bring their pets.

The catch here is that the establishment prefers that the pet is well-trained, friendly, and potty-trained. Otherwise, you may run into some problems.

The most common rule that companies in Colorado have about ESAs is that they must give due consideration to the ESA. In short, this means that the owner of a company must determine if the dog is a necessary component of the workplace for the employee.

Some factors that an employer will take into consideration include things like the type of work environment and other employees. For example, if you work around dangerous machines it might not be the best place for an emotional support cat.

While these rules apply to emotional support animals, it’s important to note that they’re different for service dogs. Laws outlined in the Americans with Disabilities Act state that service dogs can be in the workplace because they’re trained to help someone with a disability.

Housing Laws for Emotional Support Animals in Colorado

Colorado is subject to laws outlined by the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which is important because landlords can’t discriminate against tenants based on race, sex, or disability.

Therefore, landlords can’t discriminate against someone who has an ESA for their disability because it’s a type of treatment. In addition to living anywhere, even including housing that doesn’t typically allow pets, ESAs are exempt from pet fees, breed restrictions, and size restrictions.

ESAs must remain friendly around other tenants and they also cannot damage property. Failing to abide by these rules can lead to extra fees or the inability to live in a specific apartment.

Travel Laws for Emotional Support Animals in Colorado

Colorado doesn’t have many state laws about traveling with an ESA. However, the state does allow ESAs on public transportation including trains, cars, and buses.

The only issue you might run into is air travel. In the past, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibited airlines from discriminating against people with disabilities, which included their ESAs. Unfortunately, that law was changed in 2020. Now, airlines can prevent you from flying with an emotional support animal.

That said, that doesn’t mean you can’t fly with an ESA – it just means that your ESA will be treated as a pet would. This means you’ll have to pay a pet fee, and your ESA may have to ride in cargo if it’s larger than airline cabin rules.

Public Access Laws for Emotional Support Animals in Colorado

There are several acts, like the ADA, that require businesses and people to allow service dogs on the premises. However, ESAs aren’t the same as service dogs. So, allowance is usually at the discretion of the business owner or the manager of government property (like a park). In Colorado, most public spaces are considered to be:

  • Parks
  • Libraries, museums, historic locations
  • Hotels, motels, and other types of lodging
  • Transportation area, including on buses, trains, and at the stations (train stations and bus stops)
  • Businesses
  • Houses of worship
  • Convention centers
  • Places of entertainment

When going to these locations, it’s always best to contact the manager or owner of the location in advance. Doing so gives you the best chance of getting your ESA on the premises.

What Are the Penalties for Not Following Emotional Support Animal Laws in Colorado?

There are several penalties for not following ESA laws in Colorado. Penalties vary in consequences but they’re all similar.

The main issue that many ESA owners run into is that they might stretch the truth and call an ESA a service dog. Unfortunately, the fine for doing so is hefty because this is a Class 2 Offense under Colorado law. The penalty for a Class 2 Offense ranges from $45 to $500.

Other penalties might not be financial but a landlord can take you to court if you lie about the status of an ESA. Furthermore, landlords may have you evicted if you lie about the status of your pet. For these reasons, it’s best to be open and honest about your pet’s ESA status.

These are the main laws you have to be aware of for ESAs in Colorado. Now that you know the law, it’s time to start the process of getting an ESA.

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal Letter in Colorado

Emotional support animals in Colorado aren’t hard to get when you know where to look. There are several methods to get an ESA and you can do so online or in person. That said, we always recommend getting your ESA letter with us. We’ll take you through the process of getting an ESA with us below.

Answer Some Questions About Yourself and Your Pet

One of the first steps to getting an emotional support animal in Colorado is to answer some questions about yourself and your pet. Whether you work with us online or visit a mental health professional in person, you’ll have to answer some questions. These questions are usually simple and require the following information:

  • The name of your pet
  • The type of pet you have
  • How much the pet weighs
  • A brief description of your pet’s temperament

Aside from these basic questions, additional information like their picture of an in-person visit with the pet may be necessary.

Speak with a Licensed Mental Health Professional

The next step is to speak with a licensed mental health professional. This step is crucial in the process because according to Colorado state laws and federal laws, only a licensed mental health professional can write you an ESA letter.

The good news is that you don’t always have to book an appointment with a therapist in person. You can have a phone call with a mental health professional and get approved for an ESA letter.

Wait for Your ESA Letter

The final part of the process is to wait for your ESA letter. This ESA letter is what gives you the ability to follow ESA laws in Colorado with your pet. It can take a few days or weeks to get approved, depending on how long it takes the licensed mental health professional.

The biggest takeaway is that you have to have a licensed mental health professional approve you for an ESA in Colorado.

Enter the Loving World of Emotional Support Animals in Colorado Today!

Emotional support animals can impact your life in many ways. While they’re not the same as service dogs, ESAs can calm you down at home, in public, and even at work.

When you’re getting your emotional support animal in Colorado make sure you understand all of the laws pertaining to emotional support animals. Moreover, make sure you follow our guidelines and be honest with the therapist when they reach out to you.

Remember, emotional support animals aren’t limited to dogs. As long as the animal is friendly and doesn’t harm people, it can be an ESA. So, even your rabbit, cat, or mouse can be an ESA with the right temperament! Sign up today and get ready to have companionship that goes beyond the walls of your home.