Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Colorado

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Getting an emotional support animal in Colorado is not complicated, but does involve following certain protocol. Learn all about how to get an emotional support animal, as well as where you’ll be able to take it once you have one!

Emotional Support Animal in Colorado: Specific Protection

There are three main pieces of legislation that will support you in getting an emotional support animal in Colorado. These are the Fair Housing Act, the Air Carriers Access Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. You can find a comprehensive overview of the three Acts here.

These acts protect the rights of people with disabilities in public places, employment, and on airplanes. The Acts allow individuals with disabilities to bring service animals into places where pets are not usually allowed.

Definition of Assistance Animal

Before getting an emotional support animal in Colorado, you’ll need to brush up on the terminology. Some people use the term assistance animal as a catch-all for any animal that helps people, including service animals, therapy animals, and emotional support animals. However, there is a difference between these three types of assistance animal, and the legislation reflects this distinction.

A service animal is highly trained and performs a specific task for a person with physical disabilities. This might be a guide dog helping a person who is visually impaired. Service dogs can also predict fits or help with mobility-related tasks for wheelchair users. Most service animals are dogs.

Emotional support dog sitting on a couch with owner at a house in Colorado

An emotional support animal, also known as a psychiatric service animal or companion animal, is not specially trained. An ESA offers support to people with mental, emotional or psychiatric disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks or depression. An emotional support animal can be any kind of animal, including dogs, cats, miniature horses, birds or rodents.

Some of the legislation relating the Acts mentioned above relates only to service animals, and some of it also applies to ESAs.

How to get an Emotional Support Animal in Colorado: CertaPet’s simple 5 min process

  1. The first step to getting an emotional support animal in Colorado is to read up on what emotional support animals are, what they do, and whether one is for you! See our complete guide to ESA.
  2. Next, you need to see if you qualify for an ESA. Certapet has a free 5-minute screening process that will help you see if you are eligible for an emotional support dog.
  3. If you are eligible, Certapet will connect you with a licensed mental health professional in Georgia (or any other state!) and you could have your ESA letter within 48 hours. It’s that simple!

An emotional support letter is an official document that proves your need for an ESA. It must be less than a year old and on letterhead paper or a prescription pad from a licensed medical doctor or mental health professional. The ESA letter must state the following:

  • That you have a diagnosed mental health condition or mental health-related disability
  • The emotional support animal accompanying you is necessary for your mental health or treatment.
  • The type of animal you are bringing, and how many
  • That the issuer of the letter is a licensed medical doctor or mental health professional, and that you are under their treatment or care for a mental health disorder
  • The issuer’s license number, type of license, the license issue date, and the state or jurisdiction where it was licensed.

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) legislates on both service animals and emotional support animals. It protects the owners of both from discrimination by commercial airlines. The ACAA allows owners to bring their ESAs in the cabin of a commercial aircraft free of charge, even if the airline does not usually permit pets.

Recently, many airlines are tightening their rules from bringing emotional support animals on board. Most airlines now require the passenger to bring an ESA letter with them when traveling, and some require additional medical information. The passenger must often submit this documentation 48 hours in advance. For more information on ESA letters, see below.

Employment Laws

The Americans with Disabilities Act states that employers may not discriminate against individuals with disabilities. As part of this, employers must allow service dogs into the workplace, and make reasonable accommodation to support them. The legislation does not explicitly say that this condition covers ESAs too, with an ESA letter most employers will accept an emotional support animal in the workplace on a case-by-case basis.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

The Fair Housing Act protects people with disabilities in accessing housing, including owners of emotional support animals and service dogs.

The Act prevents landlords from discriminating against tenants with disabilities. However, landlords may require an ESA letter before allowing the tenant to keep an emotional support animal.

ESA Campus Housing

ESA dog on legs of female student doing homework on bed in dorm in Colorado

The Fair Housing Act also covers university campuses, so university housing is applicable. Any student with an emotional support animal is protected against discrimination. Many university residence halls will require an ESA Letter.

Exception to Rules

Emotional support animals do not have the same legal protection as service animals in many places. There are certain exceptions to the rules mentioned above.

Firstly, private businesses are not obliged to let emotional support animals in.

Secondly, if the emotional support animal acts disruptively (such as barking, growling, or not being house-trained) it may not be permitted in public places or rented accommodation, even with an ESA letter.

Emotional support animals that are not properly cleaned may also be barred. However, landlords and businesses are not allowed to cite this exception just because the animal is large or of a certain breed.

Punishment for misrepresenting an assistance animal

If you’re thinking of getting an emotional support animal in Colorado, take note of the following law. Anyone falsely claiming that their animal is a service animal could face a misdemeanor charge and up to 90 days in jail.

4 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

Before getting an emotional support animal in Colorado, read up on the following facts:

  1. Only a licensed mental health professional can prescribe an emotional support animal. They have a valid license to work in your state, and they must be treating you.
  2. Service animals and emotional support animals are not the same thing! See above for definitions of each one.
  3. ESAs are not obligated to wear vests or harnesses identifying them in public. However, we strongly recommend getting one.
  4. There is no such thing as an emotional support animal certificate or registration! Any service that offers to certify your ESA is basically a scam; the certification is not recognized anywhere. Only an ESA letter as detailed below is accepted as evidence of your need for an emotional support animal.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

You can get an emotional support animal anywhere you would usually get an animal. Rescue shelters are full of loving cats, dogs, rabbits and more that are looking for a good home, and could make excellent ESAs. You could also train a puppy or kitten from a young age to strengthen the human-animal bond.

Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal

After getting an emotional support animal in Colorado, you will want to take it places with you! Here are a few suggestions of dog-friendly locations where you and your ESA can bond.

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

ESA support dog running outdoors at park in Colorado

Dog parks and dog runs are great places to train you ESA, or just let it run around!

  • Chatfield State Park Off-Leash Dog Area in Littleton
  • Lowry Dog Park in Denver, and
  • Cherry Creek State Park Off-Leash Dog Area in Aurora

Dog-friendly restaurants and bars

Colorado has tons of great dog-friendly options for eating and drinking with your pooch.

  • Denver Beer Co. in Denver
  • Avery Brewing Company in Boulder, and
  • Phantom Canyon Brewing Company in Colorado Springs

Resorts, fitness, and spas

A trip away with your emotional support dog can be a great way of bonding. There are lots of dog-friendly hotels and resorts in Colorado, such as:

  • The Village Hotel in Breckenridge
  • Hotel Glenwood Springs in Glenwood Springs, and
  • Hotel Monaco in Denver

Events

Every summer Colorado hosts lots of dog-friendly events, some of which even support dog-related good causes! How about the Annual Hops and Harley, which takes place every June in Berthoud and supports a charity dedicated to eliminating puppy mills?

ESAs in Colorado: How to Get Connected with a LMHP in Your State Today!

If you’re thinking of getting an emotional support animal in Colorado, you’ll need to get an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. Certapet helps connect you with vetted, licensed mental health professional in your state. If eligible, you could get your ESA letter within 48 hours!

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