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Emotional Support Animal Laws: Ohio Legal Facts

Emotional support animals can impact your life in a way that you didn’t think was possible. They will keep you calm during intense situations, make you feel comfortable at home, and even help you overcome panic attacks.

That said, understanding what an emotional support animal is will help you know if it’s right for you in Ohio. When considering an emotional support animal (ESA) it’s also important to consider the laws that pertain to them. There are state and federal laws that you must understand before bringing your ESA around with you in public.

This may all seem overwhelming but we’re here to help. We’ll help you understand what an ESA is, cover the laws about ESAs in Ohio, and show you how to get one.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

Emotional support animals are exactly as the name implies: Animals that provide emotional support. ESAs provide support to people by comforting them when they’re out and about, traveling, or at home.

When you want to bring an emotional support animal into your life, you need to have something called an ESA letter. Legitimate ESAs letters are written by a mental healthcare professional licensed in your state of residence. These letters are what give you the right to have your companion in an apartment that’s not pet-friendly.

Emotional support animals don’t have to go through any kind of training to be considered legitimate ESAs – just their presence is enough to be comforting. All you need is your ESA letter. However, if you’re thinking about having your ESA be a dog, you’ll probably want to complete obedience training.

Before diving into ESA laws in Ohio it’s important to know the differences between an ESA and service dog.

What’s the Difference Between an ESA and a Service Dog in Ohio?

Service dogs and emotional support animals are similar but there are a handful of differences. Knowing these differences will make your ESA experience smoother because you won’t have to worry about getting in trouble or taking your ESA somewhere it shouldn’t be.

There are two primary differences to consider when comparing an ESA and a service dog. First and foremost, a service dog is trained to help someone by learning a specific task related to the handler’s disability. This task can include things like fetching medication, medical alert, or behavior interruption, based on the needs of its owner.

Service dogs tend to be expensive to train. However, this training means that public access is protected under the ADA. This means that they can go anywhere with their owners, even in places where dogs aren’t usually allowed. ESAs, on the other hand, do not have public access rights.

Another key difference is that emotional support animals can be any type of animal. So, you don’t have to just have a dog. Instead, you can have a cat or rabbit become an emotional support animal in Ohio. Depending on the type of animal, though, your chances of getting approved for an ESA letter may vary.

Never pose your ESA as a service dog. Doing so will result in fines and other penalties.

Does an Emotional Support Animal Have to Be a Dog?

No, emotional support animals don’t have to be dogs. An ESA can be any type of animal in Ohio as long as it has the right temperament and helps with your mental health disorder.

Whether or not you get an ESA letter can depend on the type of animal, though, so be mindful of your choices.

Now that you know what an emotional support animal is, it’s time to look at the laws about ESAs in Ohio.

What Are the Emotional Support Animal Laws in Ohio?

Several federal and state laws apply to ESAs in Ohio that focus on housing, travel, and employment. We’ll cover the Americans with Disabilities Act, among others. Depending on your situation, some of the laws within these acts will make an impact.

Therefore, it’s important to consider how these state and federal laws impact your ESA in Ohio.

What Are the Emotional Support Animal Laws for Housing in Ohio?

Like other states in the US, emotional support animals are protected by housing laws that fall under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The FHA protects people who have disabilities from being discriminated against when looking into housing. This applies to renting apartments, townhouses, and some other renting situations.

The Fair Housing Act states that people who have verified ESAs can have their pets on properties that are otherwise not pet-friendly. This means that if you have an ESA letter you can stay at a home or apartment even if the landlord doesn’t allow pets.

The key here is that you need a legitimate ESA letter for proof. Without a legitimate letter, you won’t be approved for this housing. Be warned that putting your pet in an ESA vest or other ESA accessories to try and circumvent getting a legitimate letter can result in fines or other legal repercussions.

It’s also important to note that landlords in Ohio do have some rights when it comes to an emotional support animal. While they have to let you stay there, the pet’s behavior will influence how long you can stay.

Simply put, if your pet begins to misbehave, attack other residents, or cause other problems, they won’t be able to stay. This can result in you or your ESA being removed from the property.

What Are the Emotional Support Animal Laws for Public Access in Ohio?

Public access laws in Ohio refer to places that the public can visit freely. In Ohio, this includes the following places:

  • Public parks
  • Museums
  • Places of worship
  • Arboretums
  • Some businesses
  • Sidewalks
  • Parking lots
  • Roadways
  • Entertainment venues (theaters, amphitheaters, sports stadiums)

Depending on your county some of these rules and places may change, but for the most part, these are the most common public access locations in Ohio.

Under the ADA, service dogs have public access rights. This means that service animals have unique privileges that allow them to visit and stay at the above locations, even if pets aren’t normally allowed. There may be some exceptions, like some places of worship, but for the most part service dogs are allowed.

However, ESAs don’t fall under the same protections in public access locations. Therefore, business owners and public property managers can have ESAs removed from the premises, even if they’re not being disruptive.

If you want to take your emotional support animal to a public location, look into their rules first. Many parks and venues are open about their rules for dogs and other pets. You can also bring your ESA letter with you to see if someone will allow you on the premises with your ESA.

What Are the Emotional Support Animal Laws for Travel in Ohio?

When getting an emotional support animal in Ohio you also have to consider travel laws. In Ohio, travel laws for an ESA refer to places where you travel and the transportation that you travel on. This means that you’re looking at airports and airlines, buses and bus stops, and train stations and trains.

The good news is that most types of public transportation in Ohio are pet-friendly. This means that you can bring your dog or cat with you in a carrier if you need to. Some larger dogs may not be allowed based on their height and weight, so it’s important to look at your county’s laws before taking your big dog on a bus or train.

Another thing to note is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). This act applies to air travel for service dogs and emotional support animals.

The ACAA used to cover ESAs, but unfortunately, the laws changed in 2020. Even with an ESA letter airlines have the right to not allow your dog on the plane with other passengers. However, they can still fly in a different section of the plane.

Service dogs are still protected under this law, so they can travel with their owner on the plane.

Still, it’s possible to write a letter to the airline expressing your need for the dog or to bring a small pet like a small dog or cat as carry-on luggage. You can also present your letter to the airline and see if they’ll make an exception for your case.

What Are the Emotional Support Animal Laws for Employment in Ohio?

The state of Ohio doesn’t have unique protections in place for ESAs in employment.

However, the Americans with Disabilities Act can sometimes be referenced to have your pet with you in the workplace. Unfortunately, this is usually up to the discretion of the employer.

That said, that doesn’t mean all hope for an ESA is lost. In fact, many employers are lenient when it comes to allowing ESAs into workplaces. This is especially true if you work in a place that services the public and your pet brings in some foot traffic. For this reason, it’s worth it to provide your employer with an ESA letter and ask if you can take them with you.

If your employer says no you don’t have many options. The best thing you can do is apply for a different job. To increase your chances of success, make sure you contact the employer first and notify them that you have an ESA. Then, only pursue the position when you know that having your pet is allowed.

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

There are several penalties that you can face if you don’t follow ESA laws in Ohio.

The biggest issue is using your ESA as a service dog. This includes using a service dog vest on your ESA and lying about its status as a service dog. The penalty for this violation can range from $45 to $500.

Other penalties can lead to misdemeanor offenses, especially if your ESA attacks someone. Keep this in mind when bringing your ESA out in public. Repeat offenses will lead to larger fines and eventually, you may have your ESA privileges revoked.

What Are the Laws for Service Dogs in Ohio?

Service dogs are not the same as emotional support animals and abide by different laws. Most of the same acts do apply to service dogs but in different ways. For example, service dogs can accompany people where pets or ESAs can’t go.

We’ll highlight some of the key laws and guidelines about service dogs in Ohio below.

  • According to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords can’t discriminate against service dogs and must allow them to stay, just like ESAs.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers more protection for service dogs and allows them to go with people into public access spaces, on transportation, and more.
  • The ADA also protects people who need service dogs in the workplace depending on the job.
  • Service dogs are usually treated as members of society, so they can do most things a person can.

These are some of the basic laws that apply to service dogs. Unlike emotional support animals, service dogs have more liberties on public transportation and in public places. This is because of their intense training.

Knowing the emotional support animal laws in Ohio is important but what’s the point if you don’t know how to get one? Learn about how to get an ESA in Ohio next.

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal in Ohio

Emotional support animals don’t have to be challenging to get. In fact, acts like the Americans with Disabilities Act have made it easy to get an ESA letter when you follow the appropriate measures.

The process usually involves answering questions about yourself and your pet, speaking with a licensed mental health professional, and waiting for your ESA letter to arrive in the mail.

Learn more about this process in more detail below.

What Is an ESA Letter?

An emotional support animal letter (ESA letter) is a document that’s signed by a licensed mental health professional. Within this document, the condition you struggle with is outlined as well as your need for an ESA.

These documents must be provided to landlords if you want to bring your pet with you to a place that isn’t pet-friendly. Furthermore, these letters can be presented in public spaces to help your pet accompany you outside the house.

ESA letters are to be adhered to by law in Ohio but that doesn’t mean they’re ironclad. For example, they can be voided if your pet doesn’t have a calm temperament or if they hurt someone. This applies to landlords and public access locations.

Answering Questions About Yourself and Your Pet

The first part of the ESA letter process is answering some questions about your pet. These questions are based on the following:

  • The type of pet you have
  • How the pet makes you feel
  • The weight and height of the pet
  • How long you’ve had the pet
  • The temperament of the pet
  • What you intend to do with the pet
  • Where you intend to go with the pet

Some additional details will be required if you have a unique animal that most people don’t register as an emotional support animal.

As for the personal questions, these are standard questions that you’ll find on most other forms. They include:

  • Your first and last name
  • The year you were born
  • Why you think you need an ESA
  • Contact information like your email or phone number
  • Your address
  • The mental health conditions you have

Depending on how you answer the questions you can then schedule a call with a licensed mental health professional. Be prepared for these questions when speaking with a professional as well and make sure you answer honestly for the best results.

Speaking With a Licensed Mental Health Professional

The most important part of the ESA letter process is speaking with a qualified mental health professional. Some therapists or counselors have a license to practice therapy or medicine.

They must have a license or else they can’t prescribe you an emotional support animal as a type of treatment for your condition. The best way to get in touch with one is online but it’s also possible to visit a therapist’s office in person.

When it comes to contacting a licensed mental health professional, many websites have networks with people who reach out and give the calls. So, you answer some questions online, schedule a call with a licensed mental health professional, and jump on the call.

During the call, you’ll be asked questions about your background, mental health issues, and some details about your pet. Some of these questions might pry a little, so be prepared for the call.

The same process happens when you go through these steps in person but you’re sitting face-to-face with a therapist. This is the best method for some people but too much pressure for others. Both options are viable, so it comes down to preference in most cases.

Waiting for Your ESA Letter to Arrive

An ESA letter can arrive in less than one day when you speak with a licensed mental health professional. However, it usually takes a bit longer, especially if you choose to see someone in person. Still, you have some options to speed up the process. For example, it’s possible to spend some extra money on a rush fee to get your letter within 24 hours.

Also, some websites allow you to download your ESA letter online. This can help you print the letter on the same day once you’re approved. Approval varies based on the mental health professional who interviews you. For this reason, make sure you go through a reputable agency that’s known for expediting the ESA letter process.

How Much Does an ESA Letter Cost?

An ESA letter varies in price depending on where you get it from. If you don’t go through a resource that specializes in providing people with ESA letters the cost can be high.

This is because you’ll have to schedule a time to meet with a licensed mental health professional and that’s not always cheap. Unfortunately, it can run you between $200 and $300 from start to finish depending on the number of sessions it takes.

Thankfully, you don’t have to go this route. Getting an ESA letter online is more affordable. In most cases, it only costs you about $100 to $150. Factors like if you need it fast can influence this cost. Just be sure that the company you choose is reputable, as there are unfortunately many scam ESA letter mills preying on vulnerable individuals.

Overall, the process of getting an emotional support animal in Ohio isn’t challenging if you follow the appropriate laws and use the proper channels.

Get an ESA in Ohio Today!

An emotional support animal is possible if you have a mental health disability. Depending on how your interview with a licensed mental health professional goes, you can have an ESA letter in less than two weeks. In many cases, there are even methods to help you rush your approval for a slight fee.

When applying for an ESA letter always make sure you follow federal and state laws in Ohio. Therefore, make sure you don’t lie about the status of your dog and call it a service dog. Doing so can result in harsh penalties.

Also, make sure you call businesses in advance to prevent any complications when you take your ESA in public. Still, you can get a unique ESA vest if you prefer to have one.

Regardless of why you need one, getting an ESA can improve your mental health situation without side effects. Apply today and be prepared to change your life with an emotional support animal.