Emotional Support Animals Laws: Arizona Expert Guide

By providing companionship to their owners, emotional support animals can alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses as part of an ongoing treatment plan. The law recognizes their invaluable assistance and affords them legal protections and rights that ordinary pets do not receive.

There are no restrictions on what species an emotional support animal, or ESA, can be. A pet does not need formal training to qualify as an ESA, nor do they need to perform specific tasks.

Instead, emotional support animals are responsible for providing their owners with affection, companionship, and unconditional positive regard. Dogs and cats are the most common form of ESAs in the United States, but any domesticated animal can be registered.

Each state has its own laws around ESAs. In Arizona, protections for emotional support animals are limited to housing.

ESA Rights

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) distinguishes between service animals and emotional support animals.

The Definition of Service Animals

Service animals are:

  • Any type or species of dog
  • Trained to perform a specific task related to someone’s disability

A handler may suffer from depression and use both a service animal and an emotional support animal for treatment. An emotional support dog would help their handler through affection, while a service dog could be trained to remind their handler to take their medication frequently.

Service dogs do not need to be certified nor do they need to wear equipment or clothing that identifies their status. Many service dogs are trained by their owners, not formal organizations.

Although the ADA’s definition of a service animal limits it to dogs only, it has more recently introduced a specific provision for mini-horses. If a mini-horse has passed certain criteria to qualify as a service animal, businesses are legally required to make reasonable accommodations for their usage.

The Different Types of Service Dogs

Service dogs can be trained to perform different tasks for their handler. Training is very intensive and requires the right temperament from the dog–many service dog prospects end up “flunking” and going off to live happy lives as regular pets!

The definition of a service dog is simultaneously broad and strict. Essentially, so long as a dog has been trained to perform a task related to your disability, they’re considered a service dog. Because of this, the list of tasks a service dog could be trained to perform is extremely long, and dozens of different types exist.

Guide Dogs

The most famous and visible profession for a service animal, these dogs help blind or low-vision handlers navigate the world. They usually wear a jacket with a special harness attached to the back.

Guide dog work can be especially challenging because it requires the dog to practice “selective disobedience.” This means that they ignore commands if they feel that it puts them and their handler at risk.

Allergy Detection Dogs

By using their famously sensitive sense of smell, allergy detection dogs can alert to the presence of peanuts, gluten, or other foods that pose a risk to their handler.

Because their noses are so much more sensitive than ours, allergy detection dogs can alert their handler to an allergen before they come in contact. This gives handlers greater independence and peace of mind.

Hearing Dogs

Much like guide dogs, hearing dogs help their deaf or hard-of-hearing handlers respond to appropriate audio cues, such as smoke or fire alarms. Their work allows their handlers to navigate the world with greater agency while remaining safe.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Similar to emotional support animals, getting a psychiatric service dog requires a prescription from a licensed mental health professional testifying that you need support with a major life task. Psychiatric service dogs can be trained to perform deep pressure therapy to minimize anxiety, alert handlers to oncoming panic attacks, and lead handlers to safe locations.

The Definition of an Emotional Support Animal

The primary benefit of emotional support animals is companionship. The responsibility of caring for your ESA’s needs can provide structure, motivation, and give you the opportunity to go outside, exercise, and socialize.

Nearly any animal can be registered as an ESA. Because service animals are legally classified as medical equipment, they are exempt from restrictions on where they can and cannot go; ESAs exist under the same rules as normal pets.

Not all pets qualify as emotional support animals. While you may love your pet, their presence may not provide therapeutic benefits. Furthermore, a qualified mental health professional must certify that you have a psychiatric or emotional disability that is mitigated by the presence of your ESA.

Everything You Need to Know About Emotional Support Animals in Arizona

With the exception of housing, Arizona does not grant emotional support animals any additional rights or privileges.

Getting Housing With an Emotional Support Animal in Arizona

The Fair Housing Act prevents landlords from discriminating against tenants for multiple reasons, including disabilities.

Because emotional support animals are considered a legitimate treatment for psychiatric disabilities, landlords cannot deny or restrict housing due to their presence. Instead, they must provide reasonable accommodations, which can vary based on size, species, and other considerations.

Your landlord is allowed to ask you to provide an ESA letter as well as documentation for your disability. They can also ask that you provide proof of vaccination for your ESA. They cannot:

  • Demand to see training certifications or qualifications
  • Deny the ESA based on breed, size, or weight
  • Request that the ESA wear any specific harness or clothing that identifies it as an ESA

As long as your request does not create hardship for your landlord or other tenants, you can keep an emotional support animal. If you feel that your landlord is denying your request for reasonable accommodation, you can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to open an investigation.

Because an emotional support animal is not legally considered a pet, your landlord cannot charge a pet fee. In 1990, a HUD judge ruled that an assistance animal was needed for a tenant to have the opportunity to use and enjoy a unit, and that charging an additional pet fee was unlawful.

Landlords are also not allowed to increase the security deposit in response to an emotional support animal needing accommodation. However, if your ESA causes any damage, your landlord is entitled to withhold part or all of your security deposit in recompense.

Exceptions to the Fair Housing Act in Arizona

The Fair Housing Act does not apply to owner-occupied buildings with less than four units. It also doesn’t apply to private owners of single-family housing rented without the use of a broker, so long as they own less than three houses total.

Other exceptions exist as well. Because they are exempt from the Fair Housing Act, these landlords may deny a tenant based on the presence of an emotional support animal.

Landlords are also able to remove ESAs under certain, explicit circumstances.

  • If the tenant is unable to maintain their home in a sanitary fashion
  • If the ESA poses a danger to other tenants
  • If the tenant is unable to care for their ESA or is neglecting them
  • If other reasonable accommodations for a tenant’s disability exist

However, these cases are very rare.

Flying With an Emotional Support Animal

In 2020, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) amended the Air Carrier Access Act to allow airlines to classify ESAs as pets. Fraudulent ESA letters along with unruly or misbehaving pets led airlines to lobby the DOT for a way to curb abuses of the system.

Each airline now has the ability to decide on a case-by-case basis if an ESA can be classified as a pet or an assistance animal. Delta, American Airlines, United, JetBlue, and some other airlines have announced that people traveling with ESAs must pay a pet fee.

If you’re not sure about your airline’s policy, check their website or call their customer service department to get the most recent, up-to-date information.

Small dogs can fly in the plane cabin as long as they can fit in a carry-on stowed underneath the seat in front of you. Some breeds are not allowed to fly due to health concerns. Finally, airlines tend to limit the amount of pets that can fly at the same time, so make sure that you book you and your ESA’s ticket early.

Transporting an Emotional Support Animal in Arizona

Cabs, buses, and other modes of public transportation in Arizona have the right to refuse access to emotional support animals. The best way to get around this is to be proactive and train your ESA to be calm, well-mannered, and nonaggressive in public settings. You can also consider carrying a copy of your ESA letter with you.

Public Access With an Emotional Support Animal

While service dogs can accompany their handlers pretty much anywhere they go, emotional support animals must obey the laws and regulations that apply to pets in Arizona.

However, even service dogs must be housebroken, under their handler’s control, and well-behaved. Emotional support animals are no different; if they are out of control or disruptive, businesses have the right to withdraw access and ask them to leave.

Arizona also does not allow dogs to accompany their owners to restaurants, even locations that have access to outdoor dining spots. Some restaurants may be more flexible than others. Call ahead to make sure your ESA will be allowed.

Taking an Emotional Support Animal to Work in Arizona

Arizona allows employers to decide on a case-by-case basis if you can bring your emotional support animal with you to work. You must provide your company with an ESA letter that confirms your disability.

Although the ADA states that employers cannot discriminate against you due to a disability, ESAs do not receive any special protection. If your business decides against allowing your ESA to accompany you during the day, you must abide by their decision.
lab sitting with blind woman

Obtaining an ESA Letter in Arizona

You can receive an ESA letter from any doctor or mental health professional licensed to work in Arizona. The ESA letter outlines:

  • The disability that the ESA is prescribed for
  • How the ESA positively affects your mental health

ESA letters can be issued by psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors, social workers, and doctors. They must write the ESA letter on their letterhead and provide details about their own license in order to demonstrate legitimacy.

Getting More Than One ESA in Arizona

If you feel that you need more than one emotional support animal, the mental health professional issuing you your ESA letter must write a note supporting your claim. Each animal must alleviate a symptom of your disability.

Fake Service Animals in Arizona

Although it may be tempting to fraudulently pass your ESA off as a service animal, do not do this. Not only is it unethical and potentially harmful to others, but Arizona has passed a law making service dog fraud illegal. Each violation carries a penalty of up to $250.

However, law enforcement officers and businesses must be careful not to infringe on the rights of people with disabilities. The following are commonly cited reasons for questioning whether an animal is a service dog or not:

  • No obvious disability: Not all disabilities are visible.
  • Not performing an expected task: The ADA does not specify what tasks a service dog must perform, only that it assists with a disability.
  • Not the right breed or size: Service dogs come in all shapes and sizes.
  • Refusal to provide registration or certification: The ADA stipulates that businesses cannot ask this of service dog handlers.
  • No service dog vest: The ADA specifies that service dogs are not required to wear any equipment indicating their status.
  • No professional training: The ADA does not dictate how a service dog is trained. Many handlers train their dogs themselves.
  • The dog is still in training: Arizona law includes service dogs-in-training as part of its definition of service dogs, giving them the same rights and privileges.
  • More than one service animal: Handlers may choose to have multiple service animals.

It is also common for handlers to be unclear about the difference between service animals and emotional support animals. In this case, they are not deliberately misleading anyone by representing their ESA as a service animal.

The only two questions a business can ask is:

  • Is the dog a service animal required for a disability?
  • What task does your service dog perform?

Should a public place or business unlawfully deny a service dog and their handler access, Arizona law classifies that as a class 3 misdemeanor with a fine of up to $350 per violation.

The Benefits of Emotional Support Animals in Arizona

In 2020, participants in an online survey reported that their emotional support dogs had improved their quality of life by:

  • Increasing their feelings of security and independence
  • Helping improve their sleep
  • Increasing energy levels

Another 2020 study found that participants considered their pets, regardless of species, a considerable source of support during the COVID-19 pandemic. These animals helped mitigate the effect of isolation and loneliness during quarantine and lockdowns.

Interacting with pets and ESAs can:

  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Alleviate some of the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Improve social skills of children

A review conducted in 2018 concluded that pets provided significant amounts of companionship and distracted their owners from dwelling on negative thoughts and experiences.

Get an Emotional Support Animal Legally in Arizona

Service dogs are a testimony to the adaptability of canines and their capacity to learn and work, showing just how much dogs are capable of doing. However, emotional support animals demonstrate that, just by being themselves, they can relieve psychiatric ailments, reduce stress, and lower depression and anxiety.

With the information above, you’re well-equipped to find out if you qualify for an ESA in Arizona and to enjoy the legal and emotional benefits of living with a valid ESA.