Colorado is the place dogs must dream about, with its clear skies, mountain landscape, and endless space to run free. Ask any local from Colorado, and they’ll tell you that it is the ideal place to have a dog. Winning top spots as one of the nation’s best and dog-friendliest states makes it all the more convenient to get an ESA in Colorado.
For people with emotional support animals (ESA), Colorado is an accommodating environment. And if your ESA is a dog, the state provides a variety of places where a dog can be a dog.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal (ESA) is a dog or any other kind of animal that offers companionship, comfort, and a feeling of safety to someone with a mental or emotional condition. For an ESA to be legal, an ESA letter by a licensed mental health professional provides proof. Unlike service animals, an ESA does not require training to perform a specific task, and access rights of an ESA are a little more limited.
Emotional Support Animals are protected by two federal laws:
- Fair Housing Act, individuals who own Emotional Support Animals cannot be discriminated against by landlords. A building’s policies and restrictions that apply to other pets do not apply to ESAs.
- Air Carrier Access Act, an ESA can accompany their handler in the cabin of the aircraft.
What Is An ESA Letter?
An ESA letter provides documentation that an animal functions as part of the handler’s emotional or mental health treatment. The ESA letter differentiates an animal from other pets and allows them to enter more public areas and live in homes that have no-pets policies.
Who can write an ESA letter?
The person writing the ESA letter must be a licensed medical healthcare professional (LMHP). This includes health professionals such as
- licensed clinical social workers (LCSW),
- psychologists, and
- licensed nurses and practitioners.
An ESA letter can be obtained both in-person and online. If you are already seeing a therapist, and believe an ESA could be beneficial, discuss with your LMHP. They will be able to assess your situation and recommend an ESA or not.
If you currently have no therapist or your doctor is out of state, online services are also available. Though many are reputable and legitimate, you may have to be careful about which service you choose. Do a bit of homework before you commit, and make sure to check their credentials.
Should you decide to use an online ESA service, make sure that you are connected with an LMHP licensed in the State of Colorado.ESA Doctors, est. 2015
Laws about getting an ESA In Colorado
Although it’s always essential to ensure your emotional support animal is valid, in Colorado, an invalid ESA is breaking the law! Colorado’s House Bill 16-1426, signed into on June 10, 2016, criminalizes the intentional misrepresentation of an assistance or service animal. Fines are issued, with an increase in fees for every subsequent offense.
Where You Can Go With Your ESA
An ESA needs no specialized task training, but they do need to be well-behaved and safe when out in public. Although many business owners may be lenient about their attitudes towards assistance animals, the areas in which an ESA is allowed are narrow.
The current ADA and Fair Housing law only allow ESAs in:
- Housing with no pets policies
- The cabin of an aircraft with its owner or handler
- College dorms
- Places you can adopt an ESA, such as animal shelters
Where You Can Adopt an ESA in Colorado
PawsCo is a popular Colorado non-profit, with animals available for adoption. They work closely with their animals to ensure that they are properly socialized and adoption-ready.
South Platte Valley Humane Society
This Humane Society animal shelter in Littleton, Colorado always receives excellent reviews for their caring staff and well-socialized animals.
All Breed Rescue and Training
The All Breed Rescue and Training center, located near Colorado Springs, is the place to go if you want a socialized and trained dog. They ensure that their rescues are adoptable and sociable.
Where You Can Take Your ESA for Exercise, Especially Before a Flight
ESA’s need to be relieved, especially before long flights. Failing to do so can cause discomfort to those around you and your animal. The following are top-rated dog parks near Denver International Airport.
Denver International Airport Dogpark
One of the best things about Denver International Airport (DIA), is that it has its very own state of the art dog park and hotel. Most airports are obligated by law to provide areas where pets can “do their business.” The DIA goes above and beyond by offering an on-airport pet resort hotel.
SingleTree Dog Park
Don’t let the name fool you; the dog park has a ton of trees. It’s also located only a few miles outside of the Denver International Airport and is a park within a park. You can walk your dog on a leash in the park, or let your dog run wild within the dog park itself.
The Lowry Dog Park
Well-loved by locals, the Lowry Dog Park is located near Denver International Airport. Although the park is roomy, the dog park is a distance from the parking lot, so bring a leash!
Your ESA in Colorado
Although Colorado loves their dogs, they do frown upon “fake” assistance animals.
A recent expose by the KOAA local news team showed how easily an ESA letter could misrepresent the need for an animal. The crew used the ESA letter and took a potbelly pig to a Starbucks, Subway, and movie theater–areas where an ESA is not typically allowed.
It’s crucial, of course, not to abuse the system. Because misrepresentations can cause problems for those who legitimately need an emotional support animal. That said, Federal Law protects ESAs with legitimate ESA letters through Civil and Disability Rights laws.
For all involved, it’s vital to remember that emotional support animals serve an essential and life-giving function for those who need it.