If you’re new to the Peach state, you’ll find that Georgians love the outdoors. And what’s not to love? As far as beautiful landscapes go, Georgia has it all. From blue Atlantic Ocean beaches, green farmland, to multicolored Georgia mountains, it’s hard not to be in awe of Georgia’s natural beauty.
Because of Georgia’s abundant outdoor options, residents in the state also value having pets to share the fun. The state boasts thousands of dog-friendly restaurants, parks, and day trip adventures. If you plan on moving to Georgia, you’ll find that it’s an ideal setting for an emotional support dog. Even if you already live in Georgia, but are wondering where you can find an emotional support animal (ESA), the following information can help you find the right dog.
How does Georgia Define Emotional Support Animals?
Georgia defines an emotional support animal (ESA) is an animal that provides emotional help to an individual with emotional or mental health concerns. Very often, people confuse the names “ESA” and “service animal”, or believe that an ESA and a service animal do the same jobs. The truth is that although they’re both equally important, they don’t perform the same tasks.
A service animal receives specific training to help a person with a disability accomplish a necessary daily task. An ESA, on the other hand, doesn’t undergo specialized training to perform their jobs. However, an ESA does help fill an emotional or mental health need in someone with a disability.
Federal law protects ESAs. Because of this protection, an ESA must have a valid ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional to be legal.
What is an ESA Letter?
An ESA letter offers documentation of an animal’s participation in a person’s emotional or mental health therapy. The ESA letter legitimizes an animal’s role as more than a pet. With an ESA letter, an animal may enter transportation areas and reside in homes that typically do not allow pets. To be valid, an ESA letter must come from a licensed healthcare professional and must state that the animal is needed for the owner’s emotional or mental health treatment.
Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Georgia?
Only individuals who are “licensed healthcare professionals” may write an ESA letter. Those who fall under that title include:
- licensed clinical social workers (LCSW),
- licensed nurses,
- psychiatrists, and
Many licensed healthcare professionals in Georgia can assist with obtaining a valid ESA letter. If you are unable to visit a licensed healthcare professional in person, you may be able to get your ESA letter online from a remote therapist.
ESA letters can also be acquired online through telehealth with a licensed healthcare professional who is licensed within the state of Georgia.ESA Doctors, est. 2015
Where You Can Take Your ESA in Georgia
An ESA needs to be safe around other people and animals. Due to their exposure to a variety of situations, ESAs must be well-behaved and socialized. The ADA and Fair Housing law allow ESA access into:
- Housing with no-pets policy
- College dorms
- Inside the cabin of an aircraft
All other public places and establishments, such as restaurants and hotels, are not required to accept ESA. Nevertheless, many establishments are kind enough to allow ESAs. Therefore it’s always best to check with the establishment beforehand to make sure bringing an ESA will not cause any problems.
Where You Can Adopt an ESA in Georgia
Paws in Atlanta is a no-kill animal shelter whose animals are well-socialized and housebroken. You’re bound to find your forever fur friend in this nurturing environment!
Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends
The Atlanta Animal Rescue Friends (AARF) links animals with forever homes through a strong community presence. They work hard on socializing their pets before adoption.
Atlanta Humane Society
One of the largest and most popular pet adoption sites in Atlanta, the Atlanta Humane Society, also attempts to engage with the local community by sponsoring contests and activities like the “Georgia’s Cutest Pet” contest.
Where You Can Take Your ESA for Exercise Before a Flight from Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Before embarking on a long flight or trip, an ESA will need to “go to the bathroom” and find an area to run around. Relieving pent up energy before a flight will help both the dog and owner rest comfortably on the trip. The following are some top-rated parks for dogs in the Atlanta area:
Piedmont Dog Park
The Piedmont Dog Park features a beautiful three acres of leash-free fun for a dog. It also boasts dog-friendly concession stands offering popsicles and snacks for dogs!
Centennial Olympic Park
This park has 22 acres of green space in the middle of metro Atlanta! Open since 1996, when Atlanta hosted the Olympic Games, Centennial Olympic Park offers a dog water play station called the Fountain of Rings.
Your ESA in Georgia
Georgia’s emotional support animal laws remain in alignment with the federal ADA and Fair Housing laws. Even universities, like Georgia Southern University, have seen a rise in emotional support animals within their dormitory students. The university started allowing ESAs in 2013 and has seen a steady increase every year since. ESAs help college students with emotional or mental health concerns to adjust to college life, allowing them to flourish. The acceptance of ESAs into university life goes to show that an emotional support animal can increase a handler’s mental health in any environment!