There’s more to the Keystone State than food, though it’s hard to deny the draw of Philly cheesesteaks and Hershey bars. If you’re in Pennsylvania, you’ll find many pet-friendly restaurants, so you and your pet can enjoy Pennsylvania’s famous food together! Pennsylvania’s diverse landscape and balanced mix of rural and populous city areas give it a wholesome atmosphere. Anyone with an emotional support animal (ESA) will find Pennsylvania’s friendly and open culture ideal for pets. 

How does Pennsylvania Define an Emotional Support Animal?

In Pennsylvania, an emotional support animal is not a service animal. A service animal receives training specific to fulfill a task to assist their owners. For instance, dogs who warn their owners of impending seizures spend years learning to do so.

On the other hand, ESAs don’t require any specialized training. Instead, their presence allows their owners to feel security and warmth, helping them to manage their mental or emotional disorders. 

An emotional support animal is an animal that can be most any species that provides emotional support to a person with a mental or emotional disability. The State of Pennsylvania further defines an ESA as “an animal, other than a service animal, that qualifies as a reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act”.

Laws that Protect Emotional Support Animals in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act makes it illegal to discriminate against people who use emotional support animals or guide dogs for a disability, or against trainers or handlers of support animals or guide dogs.

The Air Carrier Access Act and Fair Housing Act protect ESA owners federally. Because ESAs have this protection, ESA owner’s must have a valid ESA letter to apply to the law. 

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What is an ESA Letter? 

An ESA letter offers evidence that an emotional support animal is a necessary part of a person’s mental or emotional wellness plan. It lets others know that the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), Fair Housing Act (FHA), and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) apply to the animal and must be followed. A legitimate ESA letter allows emotional support animals to be in transport areas and live in homes that typically don’t allow pets in rental properties in all of Pennsylvania.

The ESA letter attests that the ESA is an invaluable part of the owner's wellbeing.
The ESA letter attests that the ESA is an invaluable part of the owner’s wellbeing.

Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Pennsylvania? 

A valid ESA letter in Pennsylvania needs to be written by a licensed medical healthcare professional. A few roles that fall under this category are:

  • psychiatrists
  • licensed nurse practitioners
  • licensed clinical social workers (LCSW)
  • psychologists
  • mental health counselors

ESA letters can be obtained online or in-person, though they do need to be written by a licensed healthcare professional licensed to practice in Pennsylvania. 

A valid ESA letter must be issued by a healthcare professional who is licensed to practice in Pennsylvania.

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Where You Can Take Your ESA in Pennsylvania

In short, ESAs have the right to be in the following areas: 

Though many people believe emotional support animals can go with their owners anywhere, the fact is that ESA access rights are only slightly different from those of regular pets. This means you cannot take your ESA into restaurants, businesses, grocery stores, etc.

An ESA can stay in housing with their owner despite no-pets policies.
An ESA can stay in housing with their owner despite no-pets policies.

Where You Can Adopt an ESA in Pennsylvania

For people who are searching for an ESA in Pennsylvania, the following are popular adoption sites for furry friends.

All 4 Paws

All 4 Paws Rescue, Pennsylvania

Located in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, All 4 Paws rescue was started in 2009 and has since rescued over 10,000 animals. As a foster-based rescue, All 4 Paws houses their animals in foster homes. This allows their animals to receive socialization and care 24 hours a day, preparing them to be adoptable pets. 

Wet Nose Rescue

Wet Nose Rescue, Pennsylvania

Started in 2008 and located in Southampton, Wet Nose Rescue is another non-profit, all-breed dog foster-based rescue center. Their adoption center offers dog training to new pet owners and sells supplies such as crates, collars leashes, and dog beds. They currently develop a new program called “Grey Nose Society,” promoting Senior dogs for Senior Citizens.

To Love a Canine Rescue, Inc. 

To Love A Canine Rescue (TLC), Pennsylvania

To Love a Canine Rescue, Inc. (TLC) is a foster-based rescue. Located in Chester County, TLC emphasizes honesty in their adoption process, providing owners with all the information they have about each animal. Their team of foster families and trainers also work to make the adoption process successful for each of their animals. 

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Where You Can Take Your ESA for Exercise, Before a Flight out of Philadelphia, PA

Anytime an ESA travels it’s essential to make sure they get exercise and relieve themselves beforehand. Doing so helps prevent accidents and keeps dogs well-behaved. 

The following are popular Pennsylvania dog parks located in Philadelphia: 

Seger Dog Park

Seger Dog Park is a favorite of local dog-lovers. The park boasts well-maintained grounds and beautiful scenery. The Seger Dog Park also hosts community events and regular community clean-ups, helping to connect Seger Dog Park with the surrounding neighborhoods. 

Seger Dog Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
1001 Rodman St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (map)

Piazza Dog Park 

The Piazza Dog Park boasts brand new canine-friendly turf grass, perfect for dog owners who don’t want dirt or sand on doggy paws. The park contains wide, shady trees and comfy benches for humans to wait while dogs romp.

Piazza Dog Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
156 W Wildey St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (map)

Schuylkill River Park Dog Run

The Schuylkill River Park Dog Run also boasts a canine-friendly turf grass courtyard, though this park overlooks a river. With sections for large and small dogs and clean drinking fountains, it’s perfect for most dogs. There’s also a train track near the park, where dogs love to bark at passing trains. This park, however, isn’t recommended for dogs who are sensitive to noise! 

Schuylkill River Park Dog Run, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
300 S 25th St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (map)

Pennsylvania ESA News 

In January of 2019, Pennsylvania’s Morning Call featured an emotional support alligator. Though alligators are not usually recommended as ESA, Wally, the alligator, was adopted as a baby and raised by his owner. He accompanies his owner to schools and facilities, educating people about alligators. Wally likes to sit on people’s laps and be petted—and is never hostile—though not all people are receptive! 

If the LMHP you are working with is not familiar with ESA regulations, you may qualify for an ESA letter online from an LMHP licensed in Pennsylvania. Click “Get Started Now” below to apply.

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