Animals can be domesticated pets, but they can also provide emotional support to their owners. An emotional support animal (“ESA”) is used to provide a therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability. The difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal is that the service animal usually performs a task that helps a person with a disability whereas the ESA is not specifically trained to provide assistance to the owner.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), which is the federal law that covers service animals, does not consider emotional support animals as service animals because they do not perform a task. Additionally, the only animals that are specifically named as service animals are dogs and miniature horses. This does not necessarily prevent other animals from being considered service animals, but those other animals might not be provided the same benefits as a dog or miniature horse. The only requirement for service animals per the ADA is that they be leashed or restrained as long as the harness does not interfere with the dog’s ability to perform its task.
State laws and local county and municipalities may allow for other animals to be used as service animals. New York State follows the federal law when it comes to ESAs and service animals. Service animals do not have to be registered in New York, but they are required to perform a specific task. Emotional support animals are not considered service animals so they are not afforded the same rights as services animals, such as being admitted into public places.
It is important that when considering getting an emotional support animal that you learn the laws of your state and local municipality regarding ESAs. Rincker Law, PLLC is prepared to help you navigate the laws of where you reside to determine what rights your emotional support animal has.