• 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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14 Comments

  1. peggy December 5, 2019 at 6:55 am - Reply

    will this letter from your company be questioned by the airlines,
    AND do I have to get a letter every year?
    because I do fly home every year

    • ESA Doctors December 8, 2019 at 3:29 pm - Reply

      If you qualify, the ESA letter written by the licensed mental health professional you work with will contain the LMHP’s licensed and contact information which the airline can use to verify the letter. ESA letters for air travel expire in one year and must be renewed annually.

  2. barb February 14, 2020 at 11:05 am - Reply

    How can landlord make sure ESA letter is official and not just a fake?

    • ESA Doctors February 20, 2020 at 1:54 am - Reply

      A valid ESA letter will come from a licensed health care provider, contain the LHCP’s license number and be signed and dated by the professional. You may find this article helpful to learn about how to differentiate between legitimate and fake ESA letters: https://esadoctors.com/dont-be-scammed-fake-esa-letters/

  3. Stefanie February 27, 2020 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Hi I already have a letter from my psychiatrist for my ESA cat. All I need is a collar indicating that she is an ESA animal. So I just need to know how much the colors are and also I need to know where I can register her for a decent price as an ESA animal. Please get back to me as soon as possible thank you Stefanie Acker

    • ESA Doctors March 1, 2020 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      If you have an ESA letter from your psychiatrist that is all you will need to request reasonable accommodation from your landlord. You do not need a collar, vest or ID for your emotional support animal. These items do not confer any official status on an animal.

  4. Carmella Siegel February 28, 2020 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    I own a hair salon in Kansas, what are the guidelines for letting clients bring dogs in without a vest.
    Service dog, therapy dog ? To protect yourself & your business from getting fined because of no dogs allowed policy ?

    • ESA Doctors March 1, 2020 at 9:13 pm - Reply

      ESAs do not have an automatic right to be in a hair salon. Service animals however must be given access to places where other members of the public are allowed, such as a hair salon. If it is not immediately apparent the animal is a service animal, you can ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

  5. Barkley's Pup Store March 20, 2020 at 9:41 am - Reply

    I think emotional support animals do not have as many rights as service animals, they do have rights when it comes to air travel and housing.

    • ESA Doctors March 28, 2020 at 4:08 am - Reply

      That is correct, ESAs have more limited rights than service animals. ESAs have rights when it comes to housing and air travel only.

  6. Debra Gonzalez March 28, 2020 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    So an ESA animal can be denied entrance into a grocery store?

    • ESA Doctors March 29, 2020 at 6:49 am - Reply

      Yes, ESAs do not have a legal right to be in grocery stores. A grocery store may have their own policy regarding pets or ESAs and allow them, but they are not obligated to.

  7. Dan April 9, 2020 at 2:30 am - Reply

    I’m currently dealing with my condo association. They are telling me that I can’t walk my dog outside in front of the condo buildings and on the parking lot and that I MUST walk him behind the building in the grassy area. The issue is that the grass in our complex is treated with a bad pesticide that is toxic for animals. My pup is only 7 months old and I do not want to put him in harms way. We have a note that he is currently an ESA from our doctor. Is there anything I can do to say “no I’m not walking my dog back there?”

    • ESA Doctors April 13, 2020 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      ESAs generally must be allowed in common areas where other tenants are allowed to go.

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