Getting an Emotional Support Animal in GeorgiaReading Time: 4 minutes
An emotional support animal is more than a pet, it is a companion animal that can help you to feel calmer, safer, and more able to cope with an emotional, mental or psychological disability. Getting an emotional support animal in Georgia is quite straightforward, but you need to make sure you follow all the correct procedures. Read on to learn more about getting an emotional support animal in Georgia.
Emotional Support Animal in Georgia: Specific Protection
The three main pieces of legislation that will affect getting a service or emotional support animal in Georgia are the Fair Housing Act, the Air Carriers Access Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In short, these three pieces of legislation protect the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities in various public places, allowing them to bring service and support animals into places where pets are not usually allowed.
Definition of Assistance Animal
Emotional support animals are often mentioned in the same breath as service animals. As both assistance animals, they are there to “assist” their owner, whether that be for people with emotional/mental disabilities or physical disabilities.
However, the difference is that service animals are specially trained to provide a specific skill to their owner relating to that person’s physical disability. This could be a guide dog helping someone with a visual impairment, detecting seizures, or aiding wheelchair users with mobility tasks. The majority of service animals are dogs.
An emotional support animal, meanwhile, does not need to be specially trained, but rather to provide comfort to people with emotional, mental or psychiatric disabilities such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. Many different animals can be ESAs, including dogs, cats, birds, miniature horses, and rodents.
The federal law reflects these differences, and emotional support animals do not always qualify as service animals in public places. The FHEO Notice: FHEO-2013-01, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, outlines this distinction.
How to get an Emotional Support Animal in Georgia: CertaPet’s simple 5 min process
- The first step to getting an emotional support animal in Georgia is to get clued up on what exactly emotional support animals are, what they do, and whether one is for you.
- The next step is to see if you qualify. Certapet offers a free 5-minute screening process to help you see if you are eligible for an emotional support dog.
- 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!
Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) legislates on both service animals and emotional support animals and protect 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.
However, to travel with your ESA, you need to provide documentation of your disability from a licensed mental health professional in the form of an emotional support animal letter.
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 disability
- The issuer’s license number, type of license, the license issue date, and the state or jurisdiction where it was licensed.
Reminder: Some airlines are requiring additional documentation now such as Veterinary health form, signed testament to their animal’s behavior, and so on, so make sure you’re aware of these specific airline changes! Read our articles on Airline Pet Policy for the biggest (and even smallest!) airlines.
The Americans with Disabilities Act allows service dogs into public places, but emotional support animals do not meet the federal definition. However, employees or job applicants with emotional support animals are arguably covered by the Act, which states that employers must not discriminate against individuals with disabilities, and must make accommodations to support them.
This could be argued to mean that even if animals are not allowed in the workplace ordinarily, employers must make an exception for service dogs and emotional support animals. However, employers may require an ESA letter before allowing the emotional support animal in.
Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)
Similarly to the Air Carrier Access Act, the Fair Housing Act protects owners of emotional support animals and service dogs, preventing landlords from discriminating against people with disabilities. You must provide your ESA letter to your landlord, but it is only up to them if they want to verify the letter. Read our Landlords Rights page for more information.
ESAs and Campus Housing
The Fair Housing Act includes universities, so campus housing is covered. Any student with an emotional support animal is protected against discrimination. Many residence halls will require an ESA Letter.
Exception to Rules
There is little legal protection specifically for emotional support animals, and any disputes are taken on a case-by-case basis. Although the Acts mentioned above to protect the rights of emotional support animal owners, there is a large exception to the rules.
Namely, if the animal is disruptive in any way, it may not be permitted in public places or rented accommodation, even with an ESA letter. This includes an animal that poses a threat to others due to violent or unruly behavior, or one that is not properly house-trained, or any animal that is unclean.
However, the emotional support animal being large or of a certain breed does not allow landlords, employers, or businesses to cite this exception.
Punishment for misrepresenting an assistance animal
Although Georgia has no legal punishment for falsely claiming that your animal is an emotional support animal, note that in other states such as Florida, violators may face a $500 fine and even jail time.
Misrepresenting a service animal in Georgia may still result in eviction from housing, ejection from public places, and even expulsion from universities, though.
Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA
- Only a licensed mental health professional can prescribe an emotional support animal. They must be licensed to work in your state, and they must be treating you.
- An emotional support animal is not the same as a service dog. See above for the definitions of both.
- There is no such thing as an emotional support animal certificate or registration. Services offering to certify your ESA are basically scams, as the certification is not recognized anywhere. Only an ESA letter as detailed above is accepted as evidence of your need for an emotional support animal.
- ESAs do not have to wear vests identifying them in public, but we recommend getting one to save having to explain yourself so often.
Where to Find a Suitable ESA!
A suitable ESA could come from anywhere, as long as the animal is able to behave properly in public, and doesn’t pose a threat to you or other people.
Many wonderful emotional support animals started life as a rescue, though others come from breeders and are trained from a young age. It all comes down to finding an animal that you share a connection with, and one that helps you to feel calm, safe and secure.
Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal
After getting an emotional support animal in Georgia, you’ll want to take it places with you – after all, that’s the whole point!
The rules that protect the rights of emotional support animal owners in their homes, jobs, and while traveling do not apply to private businesses, and some places will not allow you to bring your ESA in, even with a letter.
If in doubt, call in advance to check whether your emotional support animal will be permitted. However, there are plenty of dog-friendly places in Georgia where you and your ESA can enjoy some quality time together to strengthen the human-animal bond.
Dog Parks and Dog Runs
Georgia has plenty of dog parks, which can be great places to socialize your emotional support dog. These include:
- Piedmont Dog Park in Atlanta
- Newton Dream Dog Park in Johns Creek
- Chattapoochee Dog Park in Duluth
Dog-friendly restaurants and bars
Dog-friendly bars and restaurants are becoming increasingly popular, in Georgia as elsewhere. Check out these dog-friendly restaurants and bars!
- The Treehouse Restaurant and Pub in Atlanta
- Lucky’s Burger & Brew in Roswell
- Universal Joint in Decatur
Resorts, fitness, and spas
Georgia’s coast boasts a number of dog-friendly hotels and resorts, such as:
- The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort in Saint Simons Island
- La Quinta Inn & Suites Kingsland/Kings Bay Naval B in Kingsland
- The Hampton Inn & Suites in Jekyll Island
Look out for dog-friendly events near you, especially in the summer. These events can be a great way to meet other ESA owners, swap stories, and get recommendations!
ESAs in Georgia: How to Get Connected with an LMHP in Your State Today!
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