Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Chicago, IL

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 16, 2021

emotional support animal in chicagoPeople with mental health problems will benefit from getting an emotional support animal in Chicago. If you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, for example, you might be eligible as an ESA owner. Getting a support dog is a great idea. Not only will your wellbeing improve by being with a company, but you will also be protected by two ironclad federal laws.

Keep reading to know what your rights and obligations are as an ESA owner in Chicago.

Emotional Support Animal in Chicago: Specific Protection

Getting an emotional support animal in Chicago is hassle-free and you’ll be protected by two laws. This means that you can fly and live in a rented unit with your ESA with no added pet charges. The Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act will be your best friends.

Definition of Assitance Animal

Assistance animals help humans in their day-to-day lives. Because emotional support animals provide mental health support, they are considered assistance animals. They help veterans all across the country, for example, to cope with their PTSD.

Service dog in Chicago, IL opening door for a woman on a wheelchair

However, you shouldn’t mistake service dogs for service animals. The former are trained to perform tasks, such as turning on and off a light switch or opening doors. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, don’t have to be trained at all. This means that service animals are protected by very different laws than ESAs.

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal in Chicago: CertaPet’s simple 5-minute process

A woman plays with her ESA cat at home in Chicago

If you’ve made the decision of getting an emotional support animal in Chicago, you’re probably wondering “how?” Luckily, we handle all the paperwork so you don’t have to stress about it. The first step is knowing whether or not you’re eligible to be an ESA owner.

Take CertaPet’s free 5-minute pre-screening now!

After that, if you pass the test, we’ll put you in touch with a licensed mental health professional in your area. They will be the ones to write you your ESA letter. You should receive it very shortly — sometimes the whole process only takes 48 hours!

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

If you’re flying with your emotional support animal in Chicago, you’ll be allowed to do so without being charged an extra fee. This is true for a Chicago-based airline and any other national airline. This is all thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act.

To be protected by this federal law, you need to do some things and turn in a few documents:

  • Notify your airline within at least 48 hours before your departure.
  • Show them your ESA letter, as issued by a licensed mental health professional.
  • Check with your airline to see if they ask for any other documents.

As long as you do these things and guarantee your ESA will not be a nuisance to other passengers and flight attendants, you’ll have a pleasant plane ride.

Employment Laws

Because emotional support dogs are not service animals, employers are not obligated to provide reasonable accommodation for your ESA. This also applies to people getting an emotional support animal in Chicago. While service animals are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), emotional support animals are not.

However, you could argue that having your ESA with you with be beneficial to your mental health and work productivity. Since you have a mental illness, not allowing comfort animals into the workplace could be considered discrimination. Arguing will be based on a case-by-case basis, so don’t forget to bring your ESA letter with you.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

Emotional support cat in Chicago lies in a box with keys on a wooden floor

Are you getting an emotional support animal in Chicago and living in a rented unit? If so, we have good news.

According to the Fair Housing Act, ESAs can live with their owners in rented houses and apartments. The law also states that your housing provider can’t deny you accommodation or charge you a pet fee. The FHA also applies to places that have a no-pets policy.

To be covered by this law, you need to carry your emotional support letter with you. Not all landlords will ask for the letter, but if they do, you need to show it to them.

ESA Campus Housing

Students in on-campus housing who are getting an emotional support animal in Chicago can rest assured. University-owned accommodation is also covered by the Fair Housing Act. Therefore, you should show your residence hall your ESA letter. If you do, you won’t have to pay a fee or be denied housing.

Exception to Rules

Having an emotional support animal in Chicago is not all about having rights, you’ll also have responsibilities. There are some instances when the FHA and the ACAA will not apply to you and your ESA:

  • Not showing an airline or a landlord your ESA letter means you won’t be covered by the FHA or the ACAA.
  • You can be evicted or be denied housing if your ESA is aggressive or bothers other people.
  • If you neglect your ESA, the state can intervene and take them away.
  • Boarding with an ESA on a cross-country flight is almost always allowed. However, there are some destinations that do not let you bring your company animal. Contact your airline for more information.

Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal

It’s not illegal to pass off a pet as an emotional support animal in Chicago. However, in many other states and cities, it can be classified as a misdemeanor and carry a fine of up to $500! It’s not that difficult of a process to get an ESA, why not do it the legal way?

5 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

There are some pieces of information you should learn before getting your emotional support animal in Chicago. They are:

  1. ESAs are granted to people who have a mental disability.
  2. Emotional support animals don’t have to be just dogs. They can be cats or even miniature horses!
  3. There’s no such thing as an ESA certification or an ESA registration. Only an ESA letter will hold up in court.
  4. Emotional support animals are neither service animals, therapy animals, or pets.
  5. You can’t take your ESA to a public place unless they’re dog-friendly or the owner gives you permission.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

The best part of this whole process is choosing a comfort animal that suits your needs. Since the ESA letter is awarded to the patient, virtually any animal can be an ESA! Not all animals are recognized as ESAs, though, so keep this in mind.

If you already have a pet, they could become your new support animal. If you don’t, there are always shelters looking for new owners for their animals. You can go to an anti-cruelty society or a no-kill shelter and find your new furry friend there!

Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal

There are plenty of places to bring your emotional support animal in Chicago. It is such a big city and there are tons of dog-friendly establishments!

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

Bring your emotional support dog to one of these parks. They’ll get plenty of exercises and you’ll both catch some fresh air in the bustling city of Chicago.

  • Montrose Dog Beach
  • Winnemac Park
  • Jackson Bark

Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars

If you’re going out for a bite or a drink, these are the places to go to with your puppy.

  • Harry Caray’s Tavern Navy Pier
  • O’Brien’s Riverwalk Cafe
  • Cody’s Public House

Resorts, Fitness, and Spas

Going on holiday is always best when you can bring your furry best friend with you. Luckily, you can! If you’re visiting Chicago, these are some of the many hotels that welcome emotional support dogs:

  • Hotel Palomar Chicago
  • Kimpton Hotel Monaco Chicago
  • The Palmer House Hilton
  • Westin Michigan Avenue Chicago


Chicago is the perfect city to own an emotional support animal. There are so many events going on year-round that are open to dogs and their owners. It’s the right place to make new friends, pet some adorable dogs, and overall have a great time!

A simple Google or Facebook search will show you just how many interesting upcoming events there are around you. We guarantee you that both you and your ESA will have a blast.

ESAs in Chicago, IL: How to Get Connected with an LMHP in your State Today!

Here at CertaPet, we care a lot about our clients’ needs and wellbeing. This is why we handle the most stressful part of the process for you. After completing your pre-screening test, we’ll put you in touch with a licensed mental health professional. From here, they’ll take care of issuing an emotional support letter and send it to you.

Getting an emotional support animal in Chicago has dozens of advantages and it’s a hassle- and stress-free process!

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