As you may or may not be aware, emotional support animals (ESAs) aren’t federally covered under the American Disability Act (ADA). Therefore, each state has different laws regarding ESAs. This article will discuss how to get an ESA letter in Ohio and which rules you are protected under.
Having an emotional support animal in Ohio can mean you have plenty of questions regarding federal laws, Ohio laws, employment laws, whether housing providers can deny your ESA if they have a no-pet policy, and more. Read on for answers regarding you and your furry friend.
What Is an ESA Letter?
An ESA letter is an official document that shows a person’s need for a support animal to treat their disability. An ESA letter must be written and signed by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state. The owner can secure ESA access to housing with a valid ESA letter, regardless of pet policies or fees.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal?
An ESA is any animal that provides emotional or mental support alleviating one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s emotional or mental disability. Anyone can qualify for an ESA, which can be of any species, as long as it provides support and comfort to its owner.
ESAs provide companionship but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. Instead, they serve as emotional companions to help their owners overcome difficult times or negative thoughts. ESAs provide therapeutic benefits that can help an individual have good health, mentally and emotionally, while they do day-to-day tasks.
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal in Ohio
Suppose you feel as though you could benefit from having an emotional support animal. In that case, you first need to determine if you are legally qualified to have an ESA based on your mental or emotional condition. Here is how to potentially certify an animal as an ESA in the state of Ohio.
Step 1: Pay your doctor a visit
The first step to seeing if you qualify for an emotional support animal is scheduling an appointment with your doctor. Being open and honest about your mental health and what you’ve been struggling with is essential. From here, your doctor will refer you to healthcare professionals who will evaluate your condition and determine if you can benefit from an emotional support animal.
If you don’t have a doctor to refer you, you can use simple and accessible services such as Pettable to locate and connect with LMHPs near you. It’s worth noting that an ESA letter in Ohio must be written and signed by an LMHP to be valid.
Step 2: Complete the assessment with your physician
Before curating a valid ESA letter, the law in Ohio requires that an LMHP complete a live consultation with the patient. This appointment can be conducted in person, via phone call, or by video chat. This evaluation aims to discuss your situation and symptoms so the licensed mental health professional can diagnose your condition and give feedback on whether having an emotional support animal is best for you.
If you already have a therapist or other licensed physician treating your mental or emotional disability, you can talk to them about the possibility of obtaining an emotional support animal. However, it’s important to note that not all licensed mental health professionals know emotional support animals.
Step 3: Make sure you get your ESA letter
Once your licensed mental health professional qualifies you for an emotional support animal, they will write and sign a valid ESA letter. For this document to be correct, it must meet the following requirements:
- Your full name and a diagnosis of your disability must be included in the letter.
- It has to be written on your healthcare provider’s official letterhead.
- Your physician’s full name, license number, and specialty must be included.
- Your physician must sign and date the letter.
- Some states, including Ohio, require the letter to include details about the recommended ESA, such as species and breed.
Be aware that letters that fail to meet these conditions may not be eligible for housing or travel providers. Once you obtain your official ESA letter, you officially have a certified emotional support animal! Emotional support animals do not need to go through any training or registration. If any organizations offer to register your ESA, be mindful that it is most likely a scam.
Emotional support animals don’t require special training. However, it can be helpful to ensure they behave well in public spaces, especially a public gathering where multiple people may be around. ESAs don’t have to wear special vests or collars, but doing so may help others be aware of your animal’s status as an ESA.
ESA Laws in Ohio
While specific ESA laws can vary in different states, Ohio does not provide legal protection for emotional support animals as they are only federally protected under housing laws. Here are more descriptions of Ohio’s laws regarding ESAs.
The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects Ohio residents who have an emotional support animal. This Act prevents landlords from discriminating against anyone with a disability and ensures that individuals with an ESA have equal access to fair housing. Rental establishments cannot require a pet fee or pet deposit and must accommodate emotional support animals.
However, suppose your ESA is a direct threat to other residents or is destructive of the property. In that case, the landlord can request monetary compensation and evict you if you do not comply.
Other lodging establishments, such as hotels, may have regulations regarding ESAs. However, they must offer reasonable accommodations for your ESA if they do not allow pets.
Transportation & Air Travel
Since emotional support animals are not federally covered under the American Disability Act, they can be refused entry on public transportation such as buses or trains. However, many places allow small pets, so depending on your animal’s size, you should be fine on most forms of public transport.
When it comes to air travel, ESAs are also not allowed. Emotional support animals were once permitted to fly in the cabin of airplanes thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA); however, as of 2021, the Act has been modified so that only service animals are offered protection.
Specific public transportation terminals may be detrimental to your ESA. Still, assistance dogs, such as hearing dogs for Deaf people or seeing dogs for blind people, can alert them when an alarm is going off or when it is time to board a train.
While employment is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, only service animals are protected under this law.
If you have an ESA letter and believe you need their presence, you could still make a case with your employer in Ohio. While this is up to the discretion of your workplace, they may be accommodating to your requests. However, if your employer strictly decides against having an ESA in the workplace, there isn’t anything you can legally do to combat their choice.
In Ohio, as well as in most other states, emotional support animals are not allowed to accompany their owners in public areas that are otherwise off-limits to pets. Only service animals have complete access. Therefore, public establishments have the right to refuse entry to you and your ESA or to charge you pet fees.
Public establishments such as places for recreation — recreational facilities like convention centers places, parks, libraries, sports stadiums, gyms, drink stations, restaurants, and more — may all have their regulations regarding an animal assistant.
It’s also worth mentioning that falsely identifying your ESA as a service animal is a crime. If caught doing so, you could receive a sizeable fine starting at $500.
How Do You Qualify for an ESA in Ohio?
To qualify for an emotional support animal in Ohio, a licensed mental health professional must diagnose you with a mental or emotional disability. Below are a few mental health conditions that medical professionals may diagnose you with. These mental health issues can all benefit from animal assistants.
Someone with depression may feel lonely or tired, have bursts of irritability, and even struggle with insomnia. People living with depression could greatly benefit from the company of an ESA as they can help a person overcome these negative feelings by offering companionship during times of hardship.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD can cause a person to suffer through flashbacks, severe anxiety, or uncontrollable thoughts and feelings. Symptoms of emotional disorders such as PTSD can negatively affect a person’s mental and emotional health. An emotional support animal can offer companionship and a calming presence to help a person work through these difficult emotions.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
ADHD can hinder a person’s ability to focus or sit still for long periods. Someone with ADHD may also exhibit struggles with self-control and may experience impulsiveness, trouble multitasking, disorganization, and stress-related effects. An animal companion can help people calm down, stay focused, and lower stress levels.
People with bipolar disorder can feel many things, including guilt, anxiety, general discontent, hopelessness, loss of interest, mood swings, apathy, or apprehension. An emotional support animal can provide feelings of ease and companionship to combat negative thoughts and emotions from bipolar disorder.
Symptoms of schizophrenia can range from person to person, but sometimes someone with schizophrenia can experience delusions, mood swings, hallucinations, or a lack of motivation. Psychiatric service animals are typically trained to help people with schizophrenia. Any animal can give structure and routine to a person’s schedule, allowing a person with schizophrenia to stay calm and organized.
Panic disorder (with or without agoraphobia)
Panic disorder is a medical condition characterized by sudden and severe feelings of intense fear, often accompanied by physical symptoms. A person with panic disorder may feel dizziness, shortness of breath, a quickened pulse, and chest pains during an episode. Those who suffer from agoraphobia deal with panic episodes when they encounter open or crowded spaces. An emotional support animal can help a person feel grounded and calm during manic episodes.
A person could develop chronic stress if they experience pressures in their home life or work life or if they experience a traumatic event. Because chronic stress is a mental health disability, sometimes people with chronic stress may experience headaches, fatigue, irritability, or even changes in appetite. Emotional support animals can help a person feel calm, relieve stress, and lower blood pressure and heart rate.
People with social phobia feel intense judgment and anxiety in social situations. Everyday social interactions cause irrational fear, hopelessness, embarrassment, and self-consciousness. Social phobia can sometimes feel paralyzing, and an emotional support animal can help by offering feelings of love, care, and comfort.
There are lots of other mental disorders that may qualify a person for an ESA. If you think an emotional support animal can help with your mental health issues, you must reach out to a licensed mental health professional. These physicians can help you cope with your symptoms and provide relief, whether with an ESA or another form of treatment.
Emotional Support Animal vs. Service Animal
Emotional support animals and service animals are vastly different from each other.
Emotional support animals, also known as assistance animals, can be any animal species, as long as they are proven to provide emotional comfort to a person with a disability, generally through their presence and companionship. ESAs don’t need to go through any training or registration process.
On the other hand, a service animal is typically a service dog or miniature horse and can be certified as a service animal. Animals qualify as service animals if they undergo extensive training to perform specific tasks, such as retrieving items, opening doors, etc.
While a service animal is protected under the ADA, support or assistance animals are not. Under federal law, a service animal can travel anywhere with their owner, while an assistance animal may not be permitted in certain areas.
Emotional Support Dog vs. Psychiatric Service Dog
Psychiatric service dogs are considered service animals. Therefore, they are also covered under the ADA.
Emotional support dogs are ESAs, which are only protected under federal housing laws.
Psychiatric service dogs assist people with psychiatric disabilities and perform safety checks or room searches for individuals with PTSD, blocking those in dissociative episodes from wandering into danger and preventing impulsive or destructive behaviors, such as self-mutilation. You need to contact a physician for a psychiatric service dog letter to obtain a psychiatric service dog.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are still curious about emotional support animal laws in Ohio or own a support animal in Ohio and have questions, we provided a list of frequently asked questions regarding Ohio ESA laws.
How Do I Get an ESA Letter in Ohio?
You can obtain an ESA letter through an in-person or online appointment with a licensed mental health professional. Once the licensed physician provides a mental or emotional disability diagnosis and verifies that you could benefit from an ESA, they will write and sign an ESA letter for you and your companion.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Ohio?
Emotional support animal letters must be written by an Ohio licensed healthcare professional. Licensed professionals that can write and sign ESA letters include psychologists, therapists, licensed clinical social workers, certified nurse practitioners, and physicians.
Does Ohio State Allow Emotional Support Animals?
Under the Fair Housing Act, colleges must permit service and emotional support animals in their dormitories, including Ohio State. However, universities can still deny ESAs, or assistance animals, in classrooms or around campus unless it’s considered a reasonable accommodation.
Can a Landlord Deny an ESA in Ohio?
In Ohio and across the country, it’s illegal for a person with a disability to be evicted or denied housing because of their emotional support or assistance animal, even if the landlord or property manager has a no-pet policy or charges a pet fee.
Can a Doctor Refuse to Write an ESA Letter?
Suppose your physician concludes that you don’t suffer from an emotional or mental disability or that you don’t need to have an emotional support animal. In that case, they have every right to deny you an ESA and may recommend other treatment methods.