The hustle and bustle of big city life aren’t just for people — man’s best friend can also enjoy the benefits. Whether taking a stroll down Canal Street or enjoying the sun in Central Park, there are tons to do with an emotional support animal in New York City. 

How does NYC Define an Emotional Support Animal?

An animal that provides affection and security and alleviates symptoms of a mental or emotional disability is called an emotional support animal (ESA). Although an ESA is often confused with a service animal, the service animal has a specific task and receives detailed training. An ESA, however, doesn’t have to receive formal training. Any pet, such as dog, cathamsterrat, rabbitiguana, or even fish, can become an emotional support animal, provided the owner’s therapist attests that an ESA will be beneficial to the pet owner’s emotional or mental disability.

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What Is An ESA Letter? 

An ESA letter is a written document that verifies an animal is an ESA that can improve the symptoms of a person’s emotional or mental disability.  A legitimate ESA letter designates the animal as more than a pet. An ESA letter provides protection under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), it allows them to live with their emotional support animal in housing that typically do not allow pets. 

How to Get an ESA Letter in NYC

Only “licensed healthcare professionals” may write an ESA letter. Roles that fall under that title include:

  • licensed clinical social workers (LCSW)
  • licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT)
  • licensed nurses
  • physicians
  • psychiatrists
  • psychologists

To obtain an ESA letter, you can go online or do an in-person visit to a licensed healthcare professional within New York state.

The licensed healthcare professional must be licensed within the state of New York to issue an ESA letter that is valid in New York City.

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Where You Can Go With Your ESA in NYC

When taking your ESA out in public, remember that your ESA is subject to most pet laws and rules. The only area you are allowed to have your ESA by federal law is in housing with a no-pets policy.

However, one of the perks of living in NYC is that various establishments are pet-friendly and welcome your ESA. The following are just a few pet-friendly restaurants and stores for you to enjoy with your four-legged friend: 

Barking Dog

Located on the Upper East Side in NYC, The Barking Dog is a favorite with the locals. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the restaurant offers a broad selection of dishes. The restaurant’s canine theme welcomes furry friends. Menu items range from breakfast frittatas to dinner Maine lobster wraps. 

Barking Dog, ESA friendly restaurant, New York City

Dog & Bone

Dog & Bone’s slogan is “Sit, Stay, Eat,” and their atmosphere reflects this saying. Located on East 25th Street, Dog & Bone’s British pub-inspired motif comes from their manager, Winston, the English Bulldog. You can share fish n’ chips or biscuits indoors with your ESA. 

Dog & Bone, ESA friendly restaurant, New York City

Pig Beach 

Located in Brooklyn, Pig Beach offers some of the best barbecue fares in NYC. Bring your ESA to their outdoor seating and enjoy tasty and reasonably priced pulled pork or ribs. Your ESA will be in doggy heaven! 

Pig Beach, ESA friendly restaurant, New York City

Where You Can Adopt an ESA in NYC

If you’re looking for your fur-ever friend, NYC offers many animal shelters and rescues. The following are some highly-rated adoption centers within the Big Apple. 

Animal Haven

Animal Haven, Shelter, NYC

Animal Haven serves the NYC and Tri-State area. They shelter and provide homes for cats and dogs. They also provide behavior intervention strategies for their animals, ensuring that they can find—and remain—in loving homes. Animal Haven’s community outreach program addresses this important behavior component with pets, giving pet owners vital behavior training for their cats snd dogs when needed. 

Best Friends Life Saving Center

Best Friends Shelter, New York City

Located in SoHo, the Best Friends Animal Society is a no-kill shelter that aims to make New York City a no-kill city. You’ll love the shelters’ bright and playful gallery-style method of showing their ready-to-adopt animals. The novel and fun environment facilitate interactions between visitors and animals, increasing the likelihood that animals will find their forever homes. 

City Critters

City Critters, Shelter, New York City

If you love felines, City Critters may be your best bet. City Critters shelters homeless and abandoned cats from all over NYC. Although they don’t have a central location, City Critters is happy to respond to potential cat-parents. Be prepared for an extensive interview process! City Critters takes their felines’ safety seriously and only allows serious and caring pet-parents to take their cats home.

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Emotional support dog visiting a coffee shop
Many establishments in New York City welcome your emotional support animal.

Where You Can Take Your ESA for Exercise

City animals can be just as happy as country animals. A loving home and some exercise are all they need to be satisfied. Here are a few dog parks favored by NYC locals to allow your canine some zoomie time. 

Chelsea Waterside Dog Run 

The Chelsea Waterside Dog Run is one of four dog parks located near the Hudson River. This fenced dog park allows dogs of all sizes and holds a regular cleaning schedule of twice a day — so the park is well maintained. 

Chelsea Waterside Dog Park, New York City
557 W 23rd St, New York, NY 10011 (map)

Madison Square Dog Park aka “Jemmy’s Dog Run” 

Madison Square Dog Park was named Best Dog Park in NYC in 2015. This dog park offers a large and open atmosphere to let dogs be dogs. The park is kept clean and is beloved by both pet owners and dogs alike. Just be careful on rainy days; the area can become slushy… though the dogs don’t seem to mind! 

Madison Square Dog Park, New York City
11 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010 (map)

Your ESA News and Laws in NYC

ESAs and the Fair Housing Act in NYC

The Fair Housing Act recognizes ESAs in their housing laws, which is honored in New York City. According to the New York Attorney General,

“Animals that provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA but may qualify under the Fair Housing Act. This is not limited to dogs; any animal may qualify.”

Therefore, an ESA living in New York City is protected under federal housing regulations and may reside with their owners in “no pets allowed” housing units. 

Legislation prohibiting discrimination against ESAs in NYC

In August 2020, Governor Cuomo signed legislation (S6172/A7331) prohibiting discrimination by housing providers against people who require animals for assistance or emotional support. 

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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 NYC. Click “Get Started Now” below to apply.

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