As a resident of the Buckeye State, did you know that you have legal rights as the owner of an emotional support animal (ESA)? Emotional support animals give support to people who suffer from psychiatric conditions like depression, severe anxiety, PTSD, phobias, and learning disorders. 

Emotional support animals are recognized under federal law as a type of assistance animal for people with mental health conditions. Housing providers must reasonably accommodate emotional support animals in their buildings, even if they have a strict ban on pets. ESA owners are also exempt from paying fees and deposits related to their animals and are not subject to breed/size restrictions. 

This article will explore what an emotional support animal is and how you can properly qualify for one if you live in Ohio.

What Is an ESA?

An ESA or emotional support animal is a small, domesticated pet—not only a dog or cat—that provides emotional support to individuals suffering from mental and emotional health issues. Although many people think the terms “emotional support animal” and “service animal” are interchangeable, they are different classifications of assistance animals.

A service animal undergoes specialized training to fulfill a task or job relating to an individual’s disability. In contrast, an ESA is not specifically trained to provide a service. They do, however, play an important role in the health of their owners by providing invaluable support and comfort. ESAs help their owners through difficult times just through their presence and by being reliable companions.

What Rights Do Emotional Support Animals Have in Ohio?

The federal Fair Housing Act protects ESA owners in Ohio. Emotional support animals must be reasonably accommodated even if the building has a ban on pets. ESAs are not considered pets; they are exempt from building rules that apply to pets. That means a landlord cannot restrict an ESA solely because it is a certain breed or size, and they cannot charge any pet fees or deposits. 

To benefit from these protections and qualify for an emotional support animal, you must have an ESA letter to submit to your housing provider.

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How Is an ESA Letter Defined in Ohio? 

In Ohio, a valid ESA letter is a signed document from a healthcare professional licensed for Ohio that recommends an emotional support animal to help alleviate symptoms of the owner’s mental health condition.

Under Fair Housing rules, an ESA letter is the only documentation that proves someone has a valid emotional support animal. Contrary to popular misconception, you do not need to register or “certify” an emotional support animal to qualify for one.

Who Can Write an ESA Letter in Ohio?

ESA letters must be written by an Ohio licensed healthcare professional. Healthcare professionals that write ESA letters include: 

  • licensed clinical social workers (LCSW)
  • psychologists
  • licensed nurses practitioners
  • physicians
  • psychiatrists

Valid ESA letters can be obtained either online or in person. If you are already seeing a professional for your mental health issues, you can inquire with them about the benefits of an emotional support animal. However, not all healthcare professionals are familiar with ESAs. It’s helpful to work with someone that is familiar with ESAs and has experience writing ESA letters.

When deciding on which online ESA letter service to use, make sure that you are working with an LMHP licensed in the State of Ohio.

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How to Fly With an Esa or Psychiatric Service Dog From Ohio

Before 2021, ESAs were allowed to board flights free of charge. That ended with regulatory changes from the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

The only mental health assistance animal now allowed on flights is psychiatric service dogs (PSDs). PSDs can board flights free of charge and are exempt from many airline rules applicable to pets, such as restrictions on size and weight. 

The main difference between an ESA and a psychiatric service dog is that PSDs must be individually trained to perform a task or job relating to the handler’s mental health disability. A licensed mental health professional can evaluate whether you have a qualifying disability for PSD ownership and give you a PSD letter.

For a detailed guide on how to travel with a psychiatric service dog, check out this link.  

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

How To Get a PSD Letter - Three Easy Steps - ESADoctors
PSD Letter
Emotional support animals are allowed to stay in housing with no-pets policy. - ESADoctors
Emotional support animals are allowed to stay in housing with no-pets policies.

Where You Can Adopt an ESA in Ohio 

Columbus Humane

The Columbus Humane facility features a newly renovated state-of-the-art animal shelter. The new structure encourages increased socialization and decreases stress in their animal population.

Columbus Humane Ohio

Canine Collective 

Ohio’s Canine Collective is a no-kill dog shelter that aims to match dogs with their forever homes. Canine Collective tries to make adoption as straightforward as possible. They offer pre-approval for adoptions, so excited puppy-parents-to-be don’t have to wait long once they see the dog that melts their heart.

Canine Collective Ohio

Louie’s Legacy Animal Rescue

Named after the founder’s dog, Louie’s Legacy Animal Rescue offers adoptions, medical, and transport arrangements. They work with other animal rescue services in the Ohio area, facilitating care and connecting animals to their forever homes. 

Louie's Legacy Ohio

Where You Can Take Your ESA in Cleveland for Exercise

If your ESA is a dog, you know how vital it is for your canine to receive enough activity. Dogs who don’t release their energy can become anxious or depressed. The following are top-rated dog parks in the Cleveland area that can give dogs an area to play with other dogs: 

Make sure your emotional support dog gets plenty of exercise. - ESADoctors
Make sure your emotional support dog gets plenty of exercise.

Downtown Cleveland Dogpark

The Downtown Dog Park offers 3,500 square feet of fenced area for dogs. A play structure allows dogs to show off their agility, and seating for humans allows owners some time for themselves. 

Downtown Cleveland Dogpark, Ohio
1505 Merwin Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113, United States (map)

Bow Wow Beach 

Bow Wow Beach features a whopping 7 1/2 acres of fenced-in fun for dogs. Immediately next to the dog area is a 5-acre lake that dogs like to jump in.

Bow Wow Beach, Ohio
5027 Stow Rd, Stow, OH 44224, United States (map)

Your ESA in Ohio

ESAs can be a wide variety of animals as long as they are small, domesticated animals typically kept in a home. Dogs, cats, gerbils, rabbits, fish, birds, turtles, and other small animals can make perfect ESAs. Pigs, on the other hand, may cause some issues. 

Recently, an ESA pig and its owner were cited as violating the state’s residential ordinances — whereas pigs are not allowed in zoned residential areas. ESA owners with larger animals or more “exotic” pets should be aware that they may run into issues with local ordinances, and wary landlords

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 Ohio. Click “Get Started” below to apply.

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