Are you interested in certifying an emotional support animal (ESA) in Arkansas? You’ll need to catch up on a key piece of news affecting your rights.

Every ESA owner is safeguarded by federal laws applicable across all states. However, did you know that in Arkansas, there are additional state laws concerning ESAs?

A significant update to Arkansas’ ESA laws was launched in August 2023, transforming the ESA qualification process. For instance, a new 30-day waiting period for obtaining a new ESA letter for dogs has been introduced.

Feeling lost amidst these legalities? Fear not – we’ve got you covered.

This article deciphers the current regulations in Arkansas and what you must know about qualifying for an ESA in The Natural State. We’ll also highlight the substantial rights ESA owners enjoy under Arkansas law, such as no pet fees or breed limitations.

What does the new law for emotional support animals in Arkansas entail?

The Arkansas legislature passed a new act specifically pertaining to emotional support animals in 2023. The law takes effect on August 1st, 2023, and applies to all residents and businesses in Arkansas. 

The law’s two primary objectives were:

  1. To prevent ESA owners from trying to pass their ESA off as a service animal, and
  2. To ensure ESA owners obtain legitimate ESA documentation.

It’s crucial to remember that emotional support animals never had the same rights as service dogs. ESAs are a unique kind of assistance animal, requiring no specialized training.

Service dogs are rigorously trained to perform tasks for disabilities, whereas ESAs provide comfort to people suffering from mental illnesses by simply being there. The new law penalizes anyone attempting to pass off their ESA as a service dog, but ethical and informed ESA owners never had this issue.

How do the new 2023 ESA laws in Arkansas work?

Arkansas’ new ESA law has two core components. The first relates to notices that businesses selling emotional support dogs and ESA accessories must provide buyers.

The second part, which you should pay particular attention to if you’re seeking an ESA, is that the new law completely revamps the process of obtaining an ESA letter in Arkansas from a licensed healthcare professional.

Arkansas Emotional Support Animals Laws 2023 - Infographic

Arkansas ESA Qualification Changes

The new ESA law in Arkansas will impact all licensed healthcare professionals issuing ESA letters. To show that you have an emotional support animal, you need to provide your landlord with an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional.

Under the new Arkansas law, the healthcare professional must:

  • Hold an active, valid license and include the effective date, license number, jurisdiction, and type of professional license in the ESA documentation.
  • Be licensed to provide professional services within the license’s scope in the jurisdiction where the documentation is provided.
  • Establish a client-provider relationship with the individual at least 30 days before providing the ESA documentation.
  • Complete a clinical evaluation of the individual concerning the need for an ESA.
  • Provide written or verbal notice to the individual, similar to the sales notice mentioned below.

One standout feature of the new Arkansas law is the new 30-day requirement. If you’re getting an ESA letter for a dog for the first time, you must have established a relationship with the healthcare professional for at least 30 days. 

Before this law, healthcare professionals had substantial discretion on how rapidly they could issue a new ESA letter, provided they were acting within their professional duties. The new law restricts their ability to provide ESA letters quickly to clients they deem to be in urgent need.

There is an exception in Arkansas for individuals who are homeless. Homeless individuals in Arkansas are exempt from the 30-day waiting period. Oddly, people without housing have a different standard for mental health services than those housed, but the exception follows a similar bill in California. 

Concerned or baffled by all these new requirements? If you need an ESA letter in Arkansas, don’t worry. The licensed professionals that work with ESA Doctors are well-versed in these new rules and can provide a fully compliant ESA letter.

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Emotional Support Dog Sales Notice

Individuals and businesses selling or providing a dog as an emotional support dog must offer written notice stating that the ESA does not have the training to qualify as a service dog. They also need to provide notice that misrepresenting an animal as a service animal may subject a person to a civil penalty under Arkansas law. 

Bear in mind, you don’t need to purchase an animal specifically meant to be an ESA. Emotional support animals don’t require any specialized training. 

The necessity of this law is a bit strange given that the vast majority of people do not buy a designated emotional support animal – they qualify their existing pet as one by obtaining an ESA letter. 

Notice from businesses that sell ESA paraphernalia

Anyone selling a certificate, ID, tag, vest, leash, or harness for an emotional support animal in Arkansas must give buyers written notice that these items do not qualify an ESA as a service dog. The notice must also state that misrepresenting an animal as a service dog can subject them to civil penalties. 

ESA paraphernalia was never a substitute for properly qualifying for an emotional support animal. To qualify for an ESA, you need an ESA letter. Only after obtaining an ESA letter should you consider obtaining ESA accessories. 

Annual Renewal

The new Arkansas law also imposes a new requirement that clients with emotional support dogs be evaluated by the healthcare professional at least once a year. The healthcare professional should review the need for the emotional support dog to renew the ESA letter on a yearly basis. 

Emotional support cat in a small garden of Arkansas home
Pay attention to the new Arkansas ESA laws on getting and renewing your ESA letter, so your animal can remain to live with you without interruption.

Arkansas Emotional Support Animal Rights

Arkansas residents who need an emotional support animal have the right to live in apartment buildings and homes that prohibit pets. Not only are they exempt from no pet restrictions, but they are also exempt from paying pet rent and pet deposits. ESAs in Arkansas are also exempt from breed and size limitations that are part of a building’s pet ownership policies. 

Final Thoughts

ESA owners should feel further affirmed by the new law passed in Arkansas, which recognizes their right to an emotional support animal at the state level. It’s important for residents and businesses to be aware of these new ESA rules, as violations can result in civil penalties and fines. 

If you’re confused by these new laws in Arkansas and don’t know where to turn for help, ESA Doctors has your back. You can feel confident that you’ll work with an Arkansas-licensed healthcare professional that understands how to navigate these new rules. ESA Doctors will also send you reminders so you don’t forget about the yearly renewal required in Arkansas for ESA letters. 

Make sure your ESA is always by your side — start the process with ESA Doctors today.

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