New York ESA Laws – Emotional Support Animal Legal Summary

New York emotional support animal laws

New York ESA Laws

Emotional Support Animal Laws
Photo Credit: @luna_exploregonOpens in a new tab.

Quick snapshot of New York ESA Laws

  • Emotional support dogs (ESAs) are not service dogs
  • Mental health professionals can write a prescription for an emotional support animal under the law to be utilized by someone with a disability or mental health condition
  • Airlines are no longer required to accommodate emotional support animals in the cabin, but they can still fly as a pet
  • ESAs are not given public access rights in the U.S. and can be excluded from public places and businesses
  • Someone with an emotional support animal (ESA) can make a request for a “reasonable accommodation” to a housing and/or workplace environment and, if granted, the ESA will be allowed with that person in those environments
service dog vs emotional support dog
“Trained” refers to an animal being task-trained for a specific person’s disability characteristics.

New York ESA Laws – What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is exactly what it sounds like, an animal that is helping somebody with emotional support, companionship, or comfort, with its mere presence.

Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog
Goldendoodle Autism Service Dog “Piper” @bri.and.piperOpens in a new tab.

Why ESAs Aren’t Service Dogs

ESAs are not service dogs because ESAs are not individually trained for a particular person’s disability like service dogs are.

Service dogs do certain work or tasks that are specific to a disability. Emotional support animals don’t normally do this work or tasks above basic dog training.

Public Access Rights & Emotional Support Animals New York

No public access rights for ESAs

ESAs do not have public access rights in New York under the ADA Americans with Disabilities Act.Opens in a new tab. In other words, they can be excluded from public places where service dogs are normally allowed. However, emotional support animals may still be welcomed anywhere that is considered pet-friendly. Individual businesses may vary.

 Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?

No.  These terms are used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person.  Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.  However, some State or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places.  You may check with your State and local government agencies to find out about these laws.

Americans with Disabilities Act – Frequently Asked QuestionsOpens in a new tab.

New York ESA Laws – Housing

People who use ESAs are offered certain accommodations under federal law in the areas of housing. This is under the the Fair Housing ActOpens in a new tab..

There are different laws around service animals and emotional support animals.

The Fair Housing Act definition of “assistance animal” includes ESAs

What Is an Assistance Animal?

An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person’s disability. An assistance animal is not a pet.

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development 

Service Animals & ESAs are Both “Assistance Animals” Under This Definition

In other words, service animals and emotional support animals are both covered under this definition of “assistance animal” for housing under the Fair Housing Act.

Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers may not discriminate against someone due to a disability when they are attempting to obtain housing.

  • Pet bans or restrictions are waived for people who have a prescription for an ESA
  • People with ESAs cannot be charged a pet deposit for having their ESA live with them

ESA for Housing May Require a Prescription

Emotional Support Animal Doctor Letter Prescription

People with emotional support animals do not need to obtain a fancy letter from the internet. They merely would need to speak with their doctor and obtain a prescription saying that the animal is necessary. No personal information about a disability is required to be disclosed to housing providers.

Requesting reasonable accommodation for housing

Someone with a disability can request a “reasonable accommodation” for an ESA in a housing situation, and housing providers need to be accommodating unless they can show that allowing an ESA would be an undue burden on its operations.

  • ESA’s do not need to be specially trained in order to qualify for a reasonable accommodation for a housing situation
  • Animals other than dogs may also function as emotional support, therapy or assistance animals in housing situations under the Fair Housing Act (I think that is why ESAs are called “ assistance animals,” not “service dogs” under this particular Act)
  • Payment may be required for any specific damage done to the premises by an ESA
  • It is illegal to charge someone with a disability an extra fee to keep a guide or service dog or an emotional support, therapy or assistance animal (ESA)
Blue Heeler Puppy
Blue Heeler “Snow Leopard” @snow_leopard_81Opens in a new tab.

Emotional Support Animal Certification and Registration New York

Legitimate emotional support animal registration and certification is not a thing, even though you may find website online trying to sell these “documents.” ESAs are not allowed in public places like service dogs are, nor airplane cabins.

ESAs can be requested as a reasonable accommodation for housing and for employment situations. However, all that is needed is a doctor’s letter/doctor’s prescription stating the animal is necessary for a disability.

Emotional support animals do not need to be registered for any reason. No legitimate ESA registration system exists. By the way, websites selling service animal papers online are not recognized by the Department of JusticeOpens in a new tab. nor the ADA

Purchasing one of those piece of papers from the internet does not give someone any special rights. What is needed for housing and/or employment is a letter from a doctor or other medical professional merely stating the animal is required.

Emotional Support Animals and Air Travel New York

ESAs no longer included

Several years ago, emotional support animals were included in the definition of service animal for air travel. So, ESAs were permitted in the cabin of air planes with their handlers.

Psychiatric Service Dog
Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge” @sarge.in.serviceOpens in a new tab.

Recently, the ACAA or Air Carrier Access Act has been updated to exclude emotional support animals

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) a service animal means a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.  Animal species other than dogs, emotional support animals, comfort animals, companionship animals, and service animals in training are not service animals.

U.S. Department of Transportation 

Individual airlines may vary

Individual airlines may vary, so do check it out if you would like to travel somewhere by air with your emotional support animal. ESAs are generally still able to travel as pets.

Emotional Support Dogs Allowed In NYC Restaurants?

Restaurants have the right to refuse emotional support dogs and therapy dogs, since these are not service dogs. Emotional support dogs are only allowed in NYC restaurants that are willing to allow them on an individual basis, or if their premises is already “pet/animal friendly.” You can always ask.

Multipurpose Service Dog NY
Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedogOpens in a new tab.

Emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs, since they haven’t been specially trained to help a person with their specific disability. Read more about service dogs vs emotional support dogs.Opens in a new tab.

New York service dog laws, along with the ADA, protect people who use service dogs.

Please note the difference between an emotional support dog and a psychiatric service dog.

  • Psychiatric service dogs are service dogs (individually trained for an individual person’s disability)
  • Emotional support animals are not service dogs (provide comfort just by being there)
  • Therapy dogs are not service dogs (visit many different people to provide comfort and other benefits)
Therapy Dog New York
Therapy Dog @eddieandboomerOpens in a new tab.

In order to qualify to bring your ESA (emotional support animal) into a housing situation, you need to follow the steps here:

  1. Qualify for an emotional support animal by obtaining a letter; this could be your family doctor, therapist, or another professional who knows you
  2. Let your housing provider know that you have an emotional support animal. This gives them some time to make any special preparations for you and your animal
  3. Submit your letter to your landlord, HOA or co-op
  4. Talk with your landlord to address any concerns they may have. Remember that you do have a right to privacy about your health condition(s)
Service Dog Certification Registration

Can A Landlord Deny An Emotional Support Animal In New York?

Fair Housing Act Emotional Support Animal New York

Housing providers must permit residents to keep emotional support animals as a reasonable accommodation for a disability. This includes shelters and other forms of temporary or supportive housing. The only exception is if it would cause an undue hardship to the housing provider.

Housing providers are not required to allow any kind of animal. Certain categories of animals are prohibited under the Public Health Code. Emotional support animals may be excluded if they cause damage or disruption that creates an undue hardship for the housing provider.

Border Collie Service Dog NY
Border Collie Service Dog @celestialbordercolliesOpens in a new tab.

If a resident’s disability or need for an emotional support animal is not readily obvious to a housing provider, the housing provider can request confirmation from a treatment provider. This is to confirm that:

(1) The person has a disability and

(2) The animal would help treat the disability

Housing providers can not require disclosure of the specific underlying disability, or reject accommodation requests based on rigid requirements, like requiring a specific form or type of documentation. Nor, that the documentation be dated within a certain time of the request for accommodation.

For more information, contact NYC Commission on Human Rights Bill de Blasio, Mayor | Carmelyn P. Malalis, Commissioner/Chair NYC.gov/HumanRightsOpens in a new tab. | @NYCCHR

If you have been a victim of discrimination, please call the Commission’s Info-line at 212-416-0197 to report it.

Service Dog Laws Housing New York
Psychiatric Service Dog “Sarge” @sarge.in.serviceOpens in a new tab.

Conclusion

Emotional support animals can benefit many people, especially in this complicated world that we live in nowadays. While they don’t have public access rights under the ADA laws, nor air travel rights under the ACAA (air travel) laws, emotional support animals can be requested as a reasonable accommodation in housing and workplace environments.

Housing providers and employers will need to be accommodating unless there is a valid reason to avoid the accommodation. ESAs do not need to be specially trained, as they provide comfort and emotional support by their presence to people who need it.

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Sam Nelson

Sam is an experienced writer, advocate for people with disabilities and mental health, dog lover, artist, philosopher, and generally complicated human being.

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