This article was last updated on April 18, 2024, to reflect Ohio’s latest laws.

Curious about Ohio’s emotional support animal laws? This guide will cover information about your rights and legal obligations as an ESA owner in Ohio. 

ESA Rights in Ohio

The rights of emotional support animal owners in Ohio are protected under federal Fair Housing laws. Although Ohio state law only recognizes service dogs as assistance animals, Ohio ESA owners are still fully protected under federal rules. 

Here are the critical rights granted to ESA owners in Ohio:

  • The right to live in residences, including apartments and condos, that have a policy banning pets. 
  • Exemption from pet fees, including deposits, monthly fees, and application charges
  • Protection against pet breed, weight, and size limitations

These rights are given under federal Fair Housing rules to ensure that individuals who need emotional support animals in Ohio are not discriminated against by landlords. 

Ohio Administrative Code Rule 3344-79-02

The Ohio Administrative Code Rule 3344-79-02 found here is about service dogs which are not the same as ESAs because a service dog is trained to do a specific task to help the owner while an ESA only has to provide emotional support.  

Service dogs provide countless tasks, like helping guide visually impaired people or provide calming pressure during panic attacks.  Service dog owners have some extra rights like where you can bring your animal and the ability to travel together.  For example, you can bring a service dog to restaurants and also in airplane cabins free of charge

If you’re curious about the process to qualify an animal as a psychiatric service dog versus an ESA, please click here

If a landlord fails to respect your protections as an emotional support animal owner in Ohio, they face serious repercussions.  Here’s two examples of legal cases.

Housing Discrimination in a Dormitory 

In one case involving a student in Kent, Ohio, a university agreed to a $145,000 settlement over allegations of discriminating against students with psychological disabilities by denying them the right to keep emotional support animals in university housing. 

The University had a policy that allowed for service dogs, but not support animals. The student and her husband requested permission for an ESA and had a recommendation from a university psychologist. They were denied which caused the student to move out of university housing.

The settlement included compensation for two former students and a fair housing organization, as well as a commitment from Kent State to adopt a new housing policy accommodating the needs of students who require assistance animals​​.

This case demonstrates two important points: 1. As an ESA owner, you can take comfort knowing your rights are protected and 2. As a landlord, you should make sure to have ESA friendly policies that are compliant with federal housing guidelines, or you could face hefty fines. 

Landlord Tried to Evict an ESA Tenant Under No Pets Policy

In Dayton, Ohio, a lawsuit was filed by Dayton’s Human Relations Council and the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center. The suit claimed that a local landlord tried to evict a family because their son had an emotional support animal for his disability. 

The owners argued the family violated their lease by keeping a pet, even though ESAs are not considered pets under Fair Housing rules. The lawsuit sought a $10,000 civil penalty against the landlords. This case again shows that in Ohio potentially running afoul of ESA housing rules can cost landlords large legal expenses. 

Ohio emotional support cat at home
In Ohio, the rights of emotional support animals have been confirmed in several legal cases.

Ohio ESA Letter Requirements 

In Ohio, an ESA letter is what confirms that the individual has a recognized mental or emotional condition and that the ESA plays a critical role in their emotional support and well-being.

For an ESA letter in Ohio to be considered valid, it must meet the following criteria:

  • Written Documentation: The letter should be formally written and signed, clearly stating the necessity of the ESA for the individual’s mental health.
  • Licensed Provider: An ESA letter must come from a licensed mental health professional. That could be someone like your therapist, doctor, or social worker. 
  • Description of Need: The letter should explain why the ESA is needed for the individual’s mental health, without diving into a detailed medical history or providing a specific diagnosis.

For Ohio residents seeking ESA rights, securing a letter from a licensed professional who can attest to their need for an emotional support animal is crucial. If you use ESA Doctors, you’ll work directly with an independent Ohio-licensed healthcare professional who specializes in ESA evaluations. 

FAQ About Ohio ESA Laws

1. Do I need a specific certification for my ESA in Ohio?

No, Ohio does not require a specific certification for emotional support animals. An ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional is sufficient.

2. Can landlords deny my ESA in Ohio?

Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords must provide reasonable accommodations for ESAs and cannot deny them based solely on their presence. Exceptions may apply if the ESA poses a direct threat to the safety and health of others.

3. Are ESAs allowed in public places and workplaces in Ohio?

ESAs do not have the same public access rights as service animals. Access to workplaces and public spaces is at the discretion of the employer or property owner.

4. Can I have more than one ESA in Ohio?

Yes, you are allowed to have more than one ESA. However, each emotional support animal must be covered by one or more ESA letters. Note that landlords can reject an ESA if there are safety or health concerns. So, for example, if you live in a small dorm room with a roommate and want several emotional support animals, that may not be accepted.