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Emotional Support Animal Laws: Utah ESA Guide

Known for its stunning landscapes, multiple national parks, snowy ski slopes, and the world-famous Sundance Film Festival, Utah has quite a lot to offer to the average pet owner.

Whether you’re interested in moving to Utah or are already a resident, we can help you navigate public access laws and laws protecting your ESA’s housing rights.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal, or ESA, provides their owner with relief from symptoms associated with psychiatric disability through companionship alone.

Unlike service dogs, an ESA does not need to have received specific training related to their owner’s disability. There are also no restrictions on an ESA’s species or breed–virtually any animal that gives their owner affection, unconditional positive regard, and companionship qualifies as an ESA.

All your ESA needs is a letter from a licensed mental health professional confirming that your animal is part of a treatment plan for an emotional or mental disability.

Pet owners have always extolled the benefits of companion animals for managing symptoms related to depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.

The science is on their side. A UK study found that many people forced into isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic found solace and companionship in their pets. The study found that pets staved off or otherwise mitigated the negative psychological effects of quarantine.

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers legal protections and rights for service dogs that grant them privileges not available to regular companion animals. The ADA does not extend these rights to emotional support animals, so it’s important to be clear on the difference between service animals and ESAs.

Each state has its own set of laws and regulations as well, making navigating the laws around emotional support animals more complex.

Service Animals vs. Therapy Animals

The ADA defines “service animal” very strictly.

  • Service animals must be dogs.
  • Service animals can be any breed of dog and any size.
  • Service animals must be trained to perform a task related to the handler’s disability.

There are some special exemptions for miniature horses. However, by and large, most service animals are dogs. This already makes them distinct from ESAs–although most emotional support animals are dogs or cats, they do not face any species restrictions.

Legally speaking, service dogs are considered necessary medical equipment, and they are subsequently afforded access into locations typically off-limits to ordinary pets. However, businesses have the right to ask a handler to remove their service animal if their dog is:

  • Not housebroken
  • Out of control, and the handler is unable to regain control

Another type of assistance animal is therapy or comfort animals. Therapy animals are often found in institutional or clinical settings where they provide patients with emotional, social, psychological, or physical support. Comfort animals are deployed during active crises where they help calm down survivors and victims.

Although therapy and comfort animals have often undergone extensive training to acclimate them to these settings, they are not required to have been trained to perform any specific tasks related to their function. This brings them closer in alignment to emotional support animals, not service dogs.

The Legal Rights of Emotional Support Animals in Utah

Utah does not offer additional protections for emotional support animals outside of what is already mandated by federal laws.

Housing Access

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), landlords cannot deny housing to you based on physical or emotional disability. Courts have maintained that waiving a “no pets” clause in a lease is considered reasonable accommodation for a disability.

This means that you are permitted to keep or add an emotional support animal to your household even if your building does not allow pets. However, certain restrictions apply.

Not all landlords are required to obey the FHA.

  • Owner-occupied buildings with less than four units are exempt.
  • Single-family homes rented without a broker, so long as the owner owns less than three units, are exempt.

Before submitting an ESA letter to your landlord, make sure they don’t fall into either of these categories.

Although your landlord cannot deny you an emotional support animal, they can reject your request if:

  • Your ESA is a health or safety risk to other tenants.
  • Your ESA is damaging the property.
  • You are unable to provide your ESA with proper care.

Although your ESA can be any species, your landlord may be able to demonstrate that allowing certain species to live on their property would cause undue hardship. For example, it is highly unlikely that a miniature horse would be accepted in an apartment complex, both for the safety of other tenants and the horse in question.

The FHA also prohibits your landlord from charging you with a pet deposit or pet fee in response to your ESA letter.

Air Travel Laws

In December 2020, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that it would no longer recognize emotional support animals as service animals. The new rules and regulations were outlined in the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), effective January 2021.

The biggest takeaway from this change is that airlines are no longer required to allow ESAs to ride in the main cabin. Airlines are now also permitted to charge pet fees.

Every airline has specific breed, weight, and size restrictions. Before flying, make sure to familiarize yourself with your airline’s requirements before boarding your flight.

Prior to the ACAA’s changes, airlines were required to allow any animal classified as an ESA to board a flight. This resulted in several infamous stories of kangaroos, lobsters, and horses being brought onboard. Now, if an animal does not meet an airline’s requirements to ride in a carry-on bag, they must fly in the cargo hold for an additional fee.

Airlines reserve the right to remove an ESA from the flight if they display unacceptable behaviors such as:

  • Displaying aggression to the other guests or crew members
  • Causing significant disruption at the gate or on the flight

The ACAA does permit service dogs, including psychiatric service animals, to fly in the cabin.

woman standing with spaniel puppy

National Parks in Utah

Utah boasts five beautiful national parks within state borders: Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, and Zion National Park.

Don’t let your dog off-leash just yet–strict laws govern where you can take your pet. US national parks generally categorize emotional support animals as regular pets.

Before traveling to a national park, check their website for park-specific rules for pets and emotional support animals.

  • Pets must be kept on a six-foot leash at all times or confined in some manner.
  • Pets are not permitted inside public buildings, public transportation, at swimming beaches, or anywhere with a sign designating it as off-limits.
  • Pets cannot be left unattended or tied to an object.
  • Pets cannot make unreasonable amounts of noise and frighten wildlife.
  • Pet waste must be bagged and disposed of according to park rules.

Pets are absolutely not permitted to harass or kill wildlife in national parks. Park rangers take this rule very seriously.

Many parks do not allow pets on hiking trails, or severely limit which trails they are allowed on. Always do your research beforehand. Some parks are more dog-friendly than others.

Public Access Laws

Utah does not grant ESAs any additional rights or privileges. Emotional support animals cannot accompany their owners into locations marked as off-limits to pets.

However, many businesses have a flexible pet policy and welcome friendly, well-behaved animals. If you’re unsure, call ahead and ask. Although it may be tempting to pass your ESA off as a service animal, Utah specifically classifies this as a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail or $750 in fines.

Although service dogs have public access rights, they receive extensive training to make sure that they are polite and focused on their handler. If you’re interested in training your ESA to become a psychiatric service dog or just want to increase your chances of being allowed to remain in a dog-friendly area, look into training the following skills.


Train your ESA to lie down next to you and remain calm and quiet in the face of distractions.


Train your ESA to move under a table, bench, or other object, keeping their body tucked as much as possible. This keeps your ESA out of the way, allows them to remain unobtrusive, and can make travel easier.

Leave It

Practice “Leave It” around not just food but other dogs and strangers to discourage inappropriate social behavior, scavenging, or engaging with distractions. Remember that although a business may allow dogs, your ESA should still avoid being disruptive to other patrons.

Heeling or Loose Leash Walking

Train your dog to walk without pulling you behind them or choking on the leash. This allows you to maintain control of your ESA even in the face of distractions.

House Training

Your ESA cannot eliminate their waste indoors. Remember: Even service dogs can be removed for inappropriate pottying. Make sure your ESA’s house training is rock solid before taking them into public settings.

All of these public access skills can take a long time for a dog to master. Get started on them as early as possible to set your ESA up for success. You can practice them at home and transition to different environments, slowly ramping up in difficulty as your ESA develops their public access skills.

Employment Laws

Because the ADA does not categorize ESAs as service animals, your place of work is not legally required to accommodate your request for your ESA to accompany you.

However, if you have an ESA letter, you may be able to negotiate an exemption for yourself. Bear in mind that the ESA letter does disclose details about your disability. If you are not comfortable revealing this information to your employer, you may be better off not bringing your ESA to your workplace.

As always, your employer can refuse your request if it causes “undue hardship.” Although they may permit your ESA, if a coworker has allergies or is otherwise uncomfortable, they can legally revoke your ESA’s access.

However, under the ADA, service dogs have greater protections. In this case, a mild allergy is not considered sufficient reason to remove a service dog, especially if the allergic coworker can be placed further away or avoid interaction.

Identifying Your ESA

Contrary to popular belief, assistance animals do not need to wear harnesses, vests, or other equipment identifying them as such. This applies to service animals, therapy animals, and emotional support animals.

In private businesses, staff can only ask two questions:

  • Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Please answer these questions honestly. It is entirely possible to require more than one service animal simultaneously, as each dog may be trained to perform a different task.

Neither service dogs nor ESAs are required to provide training certifications. In many cases, this is impossible–it is very common for service dogs to be owner-trained, and ESAs often do not receive specialized training.

Obtaining an Emotional Support Animal Letter in Utah

Legitimate ESA letters have only a few requirements.

  • The letter must be written by a licensed mental health professional in Utah.
  • The letter contains a brief outline of your disability.
  • The letter describes how your ESA positively affects your symptoms.
  • The letter is written on their letterhead.

An ESA letter can be delivered electronically or by mail.

A major reason for the increased restrictions on ESAs and the loss of privileges (such as the impact of the AACA) is due to fraudulent ESAs and the rise of ESA letter scams. Getting a legitimate ESA letter shouldn’t be a complex process, especially when it helps secure housing. is happy to offer ESA letters for qualified individuals. We set you up with a consultation with a licensed mental health professional who determines your eligibility. Registration is risk-free–if you’re denied an ESA letter, you will not be charged. Our process can be completed in two easy steps.

  1. Call to schedule a consultation.
  2. Meet with a vetted doctor in our network to confirm your prescription.

Once you’re approved, your ESA letter arrives immediately via email for submission to your landlord or any other relevant parties.

The Benefits of an Emotional Support Animal in Utah

The presence of animals, especially dogs, helps humans increase dopamine production in their brains. Or, more simply put, animals make us happy. And happy people are generally calmer, more secure, and more confident.

ESAs are so common on planes in part because of aerophobia, or fear of flying. Aerophobia is incredibly common, affecting more than 25 million people in the United States.

Although psychiatric service dogs can and do perform specific tasks related to stopping panic attacks, even the basic companionship and trust of an ESA can halt people’s anxiety.

Finally, ESAs are a recognized part of legitimate mental health treatment. Often prescribed as part of cognitive behavioral therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy treatment plans, ESAs are a crucial part of the struggle to overcome mental illness.

While securing an ESA letter and understanding your legal rights may seem like a lengthy undertaking, we have simplified the process as much as possible. Then, you can focus on what matters most: your health and well-being.