This article was last updated on February 28, 2024, to reflect Illinois’ latest laws.

Want to learn about Illinois’ emotional support animal laws? This guide will provide you with important information about your rights and legal obligations. Keep this page bookmarked to stay informed about any updates or changes.

ESA Rights Under the Assistance Animal Integrity Act 

The rights of emotional support animal owners in Illinois are protected under the Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act (310 ILCS 120) and federal Fair Housing laws. The Assistance Animal Integrity Act was signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker in 2019.

Here are the key rights granted to ESA owners in Illinois:

  • The right to live in no-pet housing developments, including apartments and condos, without facing discrimination
  • Exemption from pet fees, including deposits, monthly fees, and application charges
  • Protection against breed and size restrictions

These laws are designed to ensure that individuals with ESAs in Illinois are not discriminated against in housing situations.

ESA Letter Requirements Under the Assistance Animal Integrity Act (310 ILCS 120/10)

To qualify for an ESA in Illinois, you must obtain an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional. This letter serves as proof that the person has an eligible mental or emotional health condition and that their ESA provides necessary support.

Under Illinois law, the ESA letter must:

  • be in writing;
  • be made by a person with whom the individual requesting an accommodation has a therapeutic relationship; and
  • describe the individual’s disability-related need for the assistance animal.

Note that the ESA letter does not need to contain a specific diagnosis or medical history. 

An emotional support dog housing at home in Illinois
For an emotional support animal to live with their owner in Illinois an ESA letter must follow the requirements set by Illinois state law.

Provider Requirements Under the Assistance Animal Integrity Act (310 ILCS 120/5)

Under the Illinois Act, an ESA letter must come from:

  1. A physician or other medical professional
  2. A mental health service provider (like a therapist or counselor) or 
  3. A non-medical service agency or reliable third party who is in a position to know about the individual’s disability (like a social worker)

The provider must have a “therapeutic relationship” with the ESA owner. That means the therapist should be involved in “the provision of medical care, program care, or personal care services” with actual knowledge of the person’s disability. 

Illinois law makes clear that “therapeutic relationship” does not include a company that issues a certificate, license, or similar document that confirms, without conducting a meaningful assessment, that a person has a disability or needs an assistance animal.

To summarize, you can’t just buy a certificate or license online to qualify for an ESA in Illinois. You need a doctor, licensed mental health professional, or someone like a social worker to confirm your need for an emotional support animal. Using an online therapist or doctor is perfectly fine. 

If you use ESA Doctors, you’ll work directly with an independent Illinois licensed healthcare professional that specializes in ESA evaluations. 

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Landlord Protections Under the Assistance Animal Integrity Act (310 ILCS 120/15)

The Animal Integrity Act also contains protections for landlords in Illinois. For example, many landlords are worried about potential liability from tenants with ESAs. They can take comfort in knowing, however, that under Section 15 of the Act, housing providers are given immunity for the actions of emotional support animals. 

The law states that housing providers shall not be liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s emotional support animal permitted on their property as a reasonable accommodation. 

The Illinois Act also allows landlords to reject an emotional support animal if the animal:

  1. poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others (that can’t be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation); 
  2. causes substantial physical damage to the property (that can’t be reduced or eliminated by another reasonable accommodation); or 
  3. has engaged in a pattern of uncontrolled behavior that its owner has not taken effective action to correct.

The law also allows landlords to request the tenant pay for the costs of any repairs for damage to the property caused by the animal (other than reasonable wear and tear). 

FAQ About Illinois ESA Laws

  1. What privacy rights do I have as an ESA owner in Illinois?
    Under Illinois law, while a housing provider can request documentation proving the need for an ESA, they cannot demand a specific diagnosis (310 ILCS 120/10).
  2. Can my Illinois landlord require a specific form for my ESA request?
    In Illinois, a housing provider can ask a person to make their ESA request on a standardized form, but cannot deny the request because the person did not use the form to submit documentation. That means if you submit a valid ESA letter to your landlord, they can’t demand that you use their alternative form. 
  3. Is ESA registration, ID, or certificate required in Illinois?
    No, Illinois law does not require an ESA to be registered or to have an ID or certificate. The necessary documentation is an ESA letter from a licensed healthcare professional.
  4. Can I bring my ESA to public places in Illinois?
    No, Illinois law does not grant ESAs the same access rights to public places as service animals. ESAs are primarily recognized for housing accommodations.
  5. Can I have more than one ESA in Illinois?
    Yes, Illinois’ ESA law allows a tenant to have more than one ESA. However, each animal must be covered by one or more ESA letters.