Wisconsin categorizes service animals, therapy animals, and emotional support animals very differently. Service animals are specially trained to perform a job or task for their owners. Therapy dogs are trained to provide therapy to other people in crises (sometimes in group settings).
Emotional support animals (ESA), on the other hand, are animals that provide comfort and support to their owners just by being present. Although these animals are not necessarily specially trained, they are still considered a vital tool for those who suffer from many mental illness forms.
Emotional support animals can be a wide variety of animals and exist to provide their owners with friendship, companionship, and unconditional support.
If you are an ESA owner in Wisconsin, you have legal protections under the law. In this article, we’ll explain the benefits of being an ESA owner and the procedure to qualify for an emotional support animal in the Badger State.
If you believe an emotional support animal would be beneficial in your life, complete the questionnaire in the link below, and a healthcare professional licensed for Wisconsin will assist you with the process.
If you believe an emotional support animal would be beneficial in your life, complete the questionnaire in the link below and a licensed therapist in Wisconsin will assist you with the process.
Who Is Eligible for an Emotional Support Animal in Wisconsin?
To qualify for an emotional support animal, you need to have a mental or emotional health disability. This includes (but is not limited to) conditions such as severe anxiety, PTSD, phobias, social anxieties, and depression. The mental or emotional health condition must “substantially limit one or more major life activities.”
A licensed healthcare professional is best qualified to address whether you meet the criteria for having a mental health disability. To take advantage of the benefits of being an ESA owner, you need to have a signed recommendation letter from a licensed professional — known as an ESA letter.
An ESA letter establishes that a person has a mental or emotional health disability and that an emotional support animal relieves symptoms of this condition. An ESA letter must come from a licensed healthcare professional such as a therapist or doctor, and if you live in Wisconsin, they need to be licensed to practice in your state.
ESAs in Apartments and Rental Units
In Wisconsin, owners of emotional support animals have the right to live with their ESA even if their building doesn’t allow pets. Landlords and building managers cannot discriminate against people that need an ESA.
They also cannot charge the tenant any extra fees or deposits to house the emotional support animal. ESAs are also exempt from property rules that restrict animals of a certain size or breed. Under federal Fair Housing rules, housing providers must “reasonably accommodate” tenants with emotional support animals.
There are some limitations, of course, as the accommodation must be “reasonable.” A landlord does not have to allow for an emotional support animal if, for example, the ESA has demonstrated dangerous behavior or is a health risk to others.
However, a landlord cannot categorically discriminate against an ESA solely because it is a certain breed or they have preconceived notions about the particular animal. There has to be real evidence the ESA poses a direct threat to the safety or health of others.
The ESA Letter
If you plan to bring home an emotional support animal and live in a no-pets building, your landlord is entitled to see proof that you have an ESA. That proof comes in the form of an ESA letter written by a licensed healthcare professional.
An ESA letter should be on the professional’s letterhead and contain their license and contact information. The letter should establish that you have a mental or emotional health disability that is assisted by an emotional support animal.
If you need a licensed healthcare professional who specializes in ESA recommendations, ESA Doctors can connect you to one who is licensed to practice in Wisconsin.
Did you know that Wisconsin allows you to get an ESA letter online?
Do I have to register my Emotional Support Animal?
No! ESA registration is not recognized by the law. If your landlord requests your “registration number,” they are misinformed about emotional support animals’ laws. Online registries have no ties to any governmental agency or official database. The only valid proof to demonstrate that you own a real emotional support animal is an ESA letter.
Emotional Support Animals Flying to and from Wisconsin
You may have already heard that emotional support animals are no longer allowed to board flights due to regulatory changes that went into effect in 2021. The only type of mental health assistance animal that can board flights without a fee is psychiatric service dogs (PSDs).
To qualify for a psychiatric service dog, you need to meet two major requirements:
- The handler of the PSD must have a mental health, emotional, or learning disability. A licensed healthcare professional is best suited to assess whether an individual meets these criteria and can also issue a PSD letter to qualifying clients.
- A psychiatric service dog must be fully trained to perform at least one job or task that assists with the owner’s disability. A PSD that is in the process of being trained is not yet considered a full-fledged service animal.
PSD owners can board flights as long as they submit the DOT’s Service Animal Air Transportation Form to the airline before departure. The DOT form requires the passenger to certify that they have a fully trained service dog that is needed to assist with a psychiatric disability.
How to Get your Psychiatric Service Dog Letter online from ESA Doctors
Emotional Support Animals in the Wisconsin Workplace
Unfortunately, there is no defined rule or law in place in Wisconsin when it comes to ESAs in the workplace. However, since these animals are not viewed as service animals, you will likely not be allowed to bring your emotional support animal to your place of employment.
Most workplaces do not accommodate ESAs, but you may want to see if your employer or HR department has a policy regarding assistance animals.
Don’t live another moment with a mental or emotional health issue when an ESA may be the answer to your problems. Having an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional will give you the protections afforded to ESA owners under federal housing rules.