• ESA vest

Does my Emotional Support Animal Need an ESA Vest?

Does my emotional support animal (ESA) have to wear a vest? The answer is no.  While the answer may seem simple enough, the laws and rights concerning service and support animals can be confusing.  Many people tend to confuse the roles of emotional support animals and service animals.  While both provide vital services, it is important to understand the differences between the two.  Listed below are the differences between service animals and emotional support animals and the rights they have under the law.

Do you need an ESA Letter? See if you qualify now. 

Service Animal

By the Americans with Disabilities Act, only dogs and miniature horses can be service animals.  Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals with disabilities.  Service animals perform a job and require special training to work with individuals who have a disability.  Under The Americans With Disabilities Act, service dogs must be under control and require harnesses or leashes unless they interfere with the work they are required to perform and in that case, must be controlled by voice or signal commands.  Service animals are allowed to go anywhere the general public goes including restaurants, hospitals, schools and the animal and individual with the disability must not be treated any different.  When it is unclear if it is a service animal an individual can ask two questions:

  • “Is the service animal required because of a disability?”
  • “What work is the animal trained to perform?” 

There are only two circumstances when a service animal can be asked to leave where the general public is allowed to go, and they are:

  • The service animal is out of control, and the individual with the disability does not do enough to take control of the service animal.
  • The service animal is not housebroken.

Some of the jobs that service animals provide include seeing for the blind, hearing for the deaf, help individuals with limited mobility perform tasks, and alert individuals of medical conditions like seizures and changes in blood pressure.  While some individuals prefer to have their service animal wear a vest, it is not required.

Emotional Support Animal

Emotional support animals are companions that provide therapeutic benefits to individuals diagnosed with mental, intellectual, or physical disabilities.  While emotional support animals do provide a benefit to their owners, they are not afforded the same rights as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  To become an emotional support animal, the owner must fit the medical definition of a disability and receive a letter from their physician or mental health provider stating that the animal provides a benefit to the owner due to their disability.  Some of the most common disabilities that emotional support animals provide help with include:

While emotional support animals do not have as many rights as service animals, they do have rights when it comes to air travel and housing.  Under the Air Carrier Access Act individuals who require an emotional support animal are allowed to have their support animal fly in the cabin of the airplane with them, and they are not required to pay any additional fees.  Individuals wishing to travel with their emotional support animal must have with them a letter written by their licensed health care professional on their official letterhead that includes their type of license and their license number.  The letter must also not be over a year old.  Individuals with emotional support animals are encouraged to carry their ESA letter with them at all times. 

Under the Fair Housing Act, individuals who require an emotional support animal cannot be refused to rent even if the property has restrictions regarding size, breed, or species of animals they allow on their property.  Property owners cannot demand fees or deposits for emotional support animals even if the other tenants with animals are required to pay them.

Emotional Support Animal Vest

No Federal law requires either service animals or emotional support animals to wear a vest, clothing or harness that designates them as a service or support animal.  Many individuals do prefer to have their pet wear a vest or harness identifying them as a service animal to avoid confusion in public places. 

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