The use of emotional support animals is on the rise. Why? Because more and more people and mental health professionals are realizing the many benefits an animal can have on a person’s psychological and physical health.

What Exactly is an ESA?

An emotional support animal is any small, domesticated pet (dog, cat, bird, rabbit, etc.) that helps alleviate symptoms of a mental illness such as anxiety, depression, phobias, or PTSD.

Federal law that applies to every state in the U.S. gives ESA owners certain legal rights. This includes the ability to live in residential buildings with their ESAs free of charge, even if the property normally bans pets. 

Let’s explore this topic further and answer the question of how to get an emotional support animal in Arkansas.

Emotional Support Animal or Service Animal?

There is sometimes confusion about the difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal.

Both are types of assistance animals that can help with mental health-related issues. However, service animals must be trained to perform a specific task relating to the handler’s disability. 

Emotional support animals do not require any specialized training. They perform their function just by being a reliable presence in a person’s life. Emotional support animals also can be a wide variety of animals in addition to dogs. Emotional support animals have rights when it comes to housing under federal law. ESAs are not able to go everywhere a service dog can. For example, service dogs have the right to board airplanes free of charge — ESAs do not.

Emotional Support Animals in Arkansas Rental Apartments and Condos

Emotional support animals can live with their owners in rental units without paying additional pet deposits or fees, even if they normally do not allow pets. - ESADoctors
Emotional support animals can live with their owners in rental units without paying additional pet deposits or fees, even if they normally do not allow pets.

Did you know that federal law makes it illegal for a landlord to discriminate against a tenant (or a prospective tenant) with an emotional support animal?

Acts that could be considered discriminatory include:

  • refusing to rent out a place solely due to the presence of an ESA;
  • charging a pet deposit;
  • evicting a tenant who decides to get an emotional support animal without cause; 
  • charging a fee to accommodate the ESA. 

The Fair Housing Act makes this possible even in “no pets” policy housing. There are some exceptions to this. For example, owner-occupied buildings with no more than four units and single-family homes sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent in Arkansas are exempt from Fair Housing rules for emotional support animals. 

Emotional support animals are also exempt from building rules that prohibit certain breeds or limit an animal based on its size or weight. If you plan to move in with an emotional support animal, you will need to make a request to the landlord and submit an ESA letter. This request can be made at any time — when applying for an apartment, during the lease signing, or after you move in.

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal in Arkansas

To get a legitimate Emotional Support Animal, you will need a letter from a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). You can see an LMHP in person or connect with one online.

The ESA letter will have the following information:

  • The licensed mental health professional’s (LMHP) name, license number, and the state it was issued.
  • It is written on the LMHP’s letterhead.
  • Contains the signature and the date of issue.

Under Fair Housing rules, an ESA letter is the only documentation you need to present to prove to your housing provider that you need an emotional support animal. You do not need to provide your landlord with medical records or specific details about your condition.

Qualify for an ESA Letter Online


Flying with an Emotional Support Animal from Arkansas

Psychiatric Service Dogs in Arkansas can also fly with their owners in the cabin of the aircraft without having to pay additional pet fees. - ESADoctors
Psychiatric Service Dogs in Arkansas can also fly with their owners in the cabin of the aircraft without having to pay additional pet fees.

Emotional support animals are no longer allowed to board flights due to regulatory changes in 2021. The only mental health assistance animal that can board a flight free of charge is psychiatric service dogs. 

To have a psychiatric service dog, there are two main requirements:

  1. The owner must have a psychiatric disability. A licensed healthcare professional can assess whether an individual meets this criterion and issue a PSD letter to qualifying clients.
  2. A psychiatric service dog must be fully trained to perform at least one task that assists with the owner’s disability. A PSD in training is not considered a fully qualified service animal. 

PSD owners are allowed to board flights as long as they submit the DOT’s service animal transportation form to their airline before departure. 

How to Get your Psychiatric Service Dog Letter online from ESA Doctors

How To Get a PSD Letter - Three Easy Steps - ESADoctors
PSD Letter

A Win for Emotional Support Animal Owners at the University of Arkansas

According to the University of Arkansas newspaper (The Traveler), a student was awarded the ability to keep her Emotional Support Animal — Charli a Maltese dog — on the campus of the University.

A junior at the University, Emalee Babb deals with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, which makes day-to-day living more difficult. In an interview, Babb said;

“Having a dog forces me to get up and get out because I can’t neglect an animal. I take care of her. Sometimes it’s easier for me to take care of someone else than to take care of myself.”

Although the campus does allow certain small pets in their student housing (fish in 20 gallons or smaller aquariums), they look at individuals needing Emotional Support Animals on a case-by-case basis.

Associate Director Laura James said;

“For housing accommodations like living with an animal, students must submit a written request and documentation from qualified health or other providers in support of the request.”

The CEA refers approved requests to the housing department so that a representative can meet with the student to discuss the best fit of animal and living arrangements.

Takama Statton-Brooks (University Housing Director for Residence Education) said;

“Students can make a request for whichever animal they’re wanting. Emotional Support Animals aren’t just dogs or cats, so we have to determine if it’s a fit for the halls.”

Qualify for an ESA Letter Today


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