Emotional Support Animals MN
Service animals and emotional support animals aren’t the same things. In this article, we’ll discuss emotional support animals in MN and their rights in housing and employment situations.
Both service animals and emotional support animals are essential to people who live with physical and/or mental disabilities. Check out our Emotional Support Animal Ultimate Guide to learn more about ESAs in general.
In Minnesota, the Minnesota Human Rights Act helps to ensure people with emotional support animals (and service animals of course) can live with dignity. This includes living their life free from discrimination in housing and employment.
A service animal is a dog (some people use a miniature horse) that is specially trained to perform specific tasks or “work” for someone living with a disability.
Examples are guiding someone who lives with vision impairment, keeping someone safe during a seizure, or waking someone up from a nightmare. Check out our federal ADA service dog laws guide to public access to learn more about service dogs.
Emotional Support Animals
Emotional support animals (sometimes known as “ESAs” or “companion animals”) can be any type of animal; not just dogs. Perhaps a cat. There is at least one man who has an emotional support alligator.
ESAs can help to alleviate the symptom(s) of a person’s disability. It’s common that ESAs support people who live with depression, anxiety, and many other conditions.
Emotional Support Animals in Housing MN
People with emotional support animals in MN have the right to discrimination-free housing.
Landlords in MN may not discriminate against tenants because of a disability. This is under the Minnesota Human Rights Act as well as the federal Fair Housing Act.
Under the Fair Housing Act, both ESAs and service dogs are referred to as “assistance animals.” In many cases, landlords must allow emotional support animals into rental properties.
Pet policies are irrelevant since ESAs are not pets
- Landlords may not demand a pet deposit
- Landlords may not demand monthly pet fees
- Or any other fees for pets
Tenants can be charged for damages only
If an emotional support animal causes any damage above and beyond normal wear and tear, the landlord may require a tenant to pay for the damage. This is acceptable as long as all other tenants are treated in the same way.
Requesting reasonable accommodation
Before a tenant will be able to live with an emotional support animal, the tenant must request reasonable accommodation from their landlord. It’s good to do this in writing and keep a copy in case you need a record of it later.
When requesting a reasonable accommodation, the tenant needs to describe:
- Information about how the disability affects daily life
- How the emotional support animal will offer support
- Must submit reliable documentation to support their request
As per HUD, Documentation About Disability May Include
- A determination of disability from a government agency (federal, state, or local)
- Receipt of disability benefits or services (Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)
- Medicare or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for a person under age 65, veterans’ disability benefits, services from a vocational rehabilitation agency, or disability benefits or services from another federal, state, or local agency
- Eligibility for housing assistance
- A housing voucher received due to a disability
- Information confirming disability from a health care professional – such as physician, optometrist, psychiatrist, psychologist, physician’s assistant, nurse practitioner, or nurse
If a building is “pet-free”, the landlord may require the tenant to submit their reasonable accommodation request before moving in.
The landlord needs to respond to the tenant’s request in a reasonable amount of time.
Denying the request
A landlord can deny a tenant’s request for a reasonable accommodation if the request causes an undue burden.
What is an undue burden?
A request for an emotional support animal may cause an undue burden if:
- It would create a substantial financial burden
- If it would cause a significant administrative burden
- The particular animal poses a threat to the health and safety of others
- The particular animal is likely to cause substantial damage to the property of others
ESAs do not need to be registered
The FHA or Fair Housing Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act do not require emotional support animals to be registered.
Check out my article Which Service Dog Registry is Legitimate to learn more about why service dogs as well as ESAs do not need to be registered for any reason. So think twice before paying for a registration paper online.
Landlords may request documentation
Landlords may request some documents (not a “registration”) as part of the process. This needs to be from a reliable source. The tenant may be required to describe how the animal helps with a disability.
Landlord requests must be reasonable
If the emotional support animal is under control, the landlord’s request to have the ESA spayed (or neutered) so that the animal is more controlled is not reasonable.
Discriminating against an ESA because of the ESAs age is also not reasonable. This is true as long as the emotional support animal is under control and doesn’t show any signs of aggression.
Local licensing and vaccination policies
ESAs must comply with local ordinances that require animals to be licensed or immunized. This can be requested by the landlord.
Tenants must comply with other laws
Tenants need to comply with other local laws or ordinances that forbid certain wild or exotic animals. These are usually due to legitimate safety and public health concerns.
Landlords can not limit the number of ESAs
Landlords may not generally limit the number or type of emotional support animals a tenant can have. This is true unless it would create an undue burden on the landlord.
There are also might be local ordinances that limit or prohibit wild or exotic animals as service dogs or ESAs. There also might be ordinances that limit the number of animals allowed in a home.
If a tenant can show that multiple ESAs are required based on disability-related needs, or if a specific type of animal is needed, the landlord cannot exclude one or more of them simply due to its pet policy. The request can only be denied if it will create an undue burden.
Employees have the right to bring emotional support animals to work
Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, as well as the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) employers must provide reasonable accommodations for people living with disabilities. This includes emotional support animals.
Under federal and state law, employers with 15 or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, including physical and/or mental disabilities.
An accommodation may include:
- A change to the workplace
- A change to the job
- A change to the way the job is done
- A change to the application or hiring process
An employer isn’t always required to grant the exact accommodation the individual requests. They must provide one that effectively accommodates the individual’s disability.
Employees must request a reasonable accommodation
In order for an employee to be able to bring an emotional support animal into the workplace, the employee must first request a reasonable accommodation. Again, it’s best to do this in writing.
Examples of a reasonable accommodation
- Hiring a sign language interpreter for an applicant’s job interview
- Providing regularly scheduled breaks during the day for someone with diabetes to eat and check their levels
- Allowing an ESA into the workplace
- Allowing a person with anxiety to change their working hours to work when the environment is quieter
Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations…
- Under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, an employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation as long as it will not cause an undue hardship
- The employer may not be required to provide the exact accommodation that the employee prefers
- A different accommodation that would enable the worker to perform their job may be offered
- The animal can be denied if it would be causing significant disruption in the workplace environment, such as a serious health or safety risk
- The animal can also be denied if the accommodation would somehow be a significant financial cost to the employer
Assessing the request & collecting information
The employer can collect the same information it usually collects when examining any other type of accommodation request from an employee.
The employer can request that at least some of the information come from a reliable healthcare professional, or it may be a rehabilitation professional.
What an employer may request:
- Documentation that states the employee has a disability – as long as the disability or need for the accommodation is not obvious
- Information showing that the disability requires this reasonable accommodation
- Some information about the ESA to help understand why the animal is needed
- What the ESA does for the employee
- To confirm the animal is well-behaved and will act appropriately in the workplace environment
Public Access with ESAs MN
ESAs can be denied access to public places in MN and in every other U.S. state, as well. This is because only service dogs that are trained for an individual’s disability to do a certain task or “work” are granted public access rights.
ESAs may still visit pet-friendly establishments. And individual businesses may vary, so it’s always an option to ask if you feel you need your ESA at a location where ESAs aren’t permitted.
If you have been discriminated against
If you believe you have been discriminated against, report the alleged discrimination at the MN Department of Human Rights.