Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Cleveland, Ohio

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 14, 2021

emotional support animals cleveland ohio law guideAn emotional support animal (ESA) can be a life-changing source of comfort and support for people with emotional or mental disabilities. However, there is a lot of confusing information out there on how to go about getting one. Don’t worry though, we’ve broken down the process of getting an emotional support animal in Cleveland, Ohio down into easy steps for you here.

Emotional Support Animal in Cleveland, Ohio: Specific protection

The first thing to know about getting an emotional support animal in Cleveland, or indeed anywhere, is that they are covered by specific legislation that covers many different areas of life, from accommodation to work, travel, and more.

Definition of Assistance Animal

In brief, an assistance animal is any animal that helps people with medical issues. There are many different types, and they help with many different conditions. The legislation on assistance animals varies by type. The three most common categories of assistance animal are as follows:

1. Service animal

  • Typically a dog, though can be other animals too
  • Expertly trained to perform specific tasks for a person with physical disabilities, like an animal assistant
  • Examples of services dogs include a hearing assistance dog to help deaf people, a guide dog that helps someone with a visual impairment, dogs that help with mobility-related tasks for wheelchair users, or seizure assistance dogs that can predict fits
  • Service dogs are covered by all assistance animal legislation, and are the most protected by law.

2. Emotional support animal (ESA)

  • AKA: companion animals, psychiatric service animals
  • Can be any kind of animal: dogs cats, or miniature horses.
  • Do not receive any special training and cannot be “certified” or “registered”
  • Supports people with a mental, emotional, or psychiatric disability: for example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, brain injury or panic attacks.
  • Some, but not all of the assistance animal legislation covers ESAs.

3. Therapy animal

  • May be any kind of animal, but therapy dogs are the most common
  • These animals are used in schools, hospitals, senior housing, and so on, for animal-assisted therapy. May be specially trained, or not.
  • Not covered by any assistance animal legislation

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

Getting an emotional support animal in Cleveland with CertaPet is a quick and easy process.

  1. Read up on what emotional support animals are, what they do and don’t do, and whether you think you could benefit from having one.
  2. Next, see if you would qualify for an ESA with a pre-screening questionnaire. It’s free, and it only takes a few minutes!
  3. If the screening process shows that you could be eligible for an emotional support animal, then CertaPet will connect you with a licensed mental health professional in Ohio (or any other state). After a consultation with the LMHP, you could get your ESA letter in as little as 48 hours!

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) is something we’ve spoken about a lot here at Certapet, as it protects the rights of passengers with disabilities while flying. As part of this, passengers with service dogs and ESAs may bring their animal in the cabin with them on commercial aircraft, free of charge, even on carriers that do not otherwise permit pets on board.

emotional support dog in cleveland airport

However, due to unscrupulous people using this legislation to attempt to pass their pets off as ESAs to have them travel for free, many airlines now require additional documentation for ESAs (but not service animals). This may include an ESA letter (more on them below) and veterinary certification.

Some carriers even require this information to be submitted up to 48 hours in advance of flying, so make sure you leave plenty of time before you fly with your ESA to make sure you have all of the paperwork in order.

Employment Laws

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities in their place of work. While this allows people with service dogs to bring them to work, and for their employers to make “reasonable accommodation” to support them, the legislation does not cover emotional support animals.

If you have an ESA and you wish to bring it to work with you, you will need to agree this with your employer on a case-by-case basis. They may require an ESA letter.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects tenants with disabilities from discrimination by landlords, and this includes protecting their right to keep a service animal or emotional support animal in their rented accommodation. Housing providers or the homeowners association are permitted to ask for an ESA letter in the case of emotional support animals.

ESA Campus Housing

The FHA covers college and university housing, so students with service animals and emotional support animals should be able to keep them in their houses. Again, many housing providers will require an ESA letter.

Exception to Rules

Although ESAs are granted a certain level of protection under the Acts mentioned above, there are certain exceptions. As noted, the Acts do not guarantee that owners of ESAs may bring them into private businesses or their places of work. Furthermore, in the places where ESAs are permitted, they may be refused if they are behaving aggressively or disruptively, or if they are unclean and give off a foul odor.

It is the responsibility of the ESA’s owner to ensure that their animal behaves properly.

emotional support animal in cleveland apartment next to owner

Punishment for misrepresenting an assistance animal

Ohio comes down hard on people both falsely claiming their pet is an assistance animal, and on those who perform a psychiatric service for the sake of convenience.

This includes imitating someone suffering from traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or anxiety in order to obtain an ESA letter. These offenses are classed as Class A infractions under federal law, and are punishable by a fine of up to $10,000.

3 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

  1. Although they are both assistance animals, service animals and emotional support animals are different, and the legislation surrounding them is different too. If you missed it, scroll back up to see the definitions of both.
  2. There is no way to get your pet “certified” or “registered” as an emotional support animal in Cleveland or ANYWHERE. Any service that offers to do this is just a scam! Instead, it is the person that is prescribed an emotional support animal: this is done with an ESA letter (more on them below). Any animal that helps them is an emotional support animal.
  3. There is no law stating that emotional support animals must wear a harness or vest that identifies them as an ESA; however, many owners opt to use one on their animal to avoid distractions and show that the animal is “working”.

What is an ESA Letter?

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

  • That you have a diagnosed mental illness, health condition or mental health-related disability
  • Your emotional support animal is necessary for your mental health or treatment
  • The type of animal
  • 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.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

As we covered above, any animal can be an emotional support animal, as long as it is able to help its owner and behave properly in public accommodation. With that in mind, why not look for an ESA in an animal shelter? They are full of intelligent, kind adult dogs with lots of love to give.

Try the Cleveland Animal Protective League or Cleveland Animal Care & Control for rescue dogs. If you are looking for an ESA other than a dog, try looking up species-specific rescue centers. Hedgehog rescue, anyone?

Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal

Although you are not guaranteed to be able to take your emotional support animal into shops or restaurants with you, there are plenty of pet-friendly businesses that will gladly welcome you and your emotional support animal in Cleveland.

esa in cleveland ohio apartment with owner

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

Even the best-behaved emotional support dog will need to let off some steam and run around with some other dogs sometimes. Luckily, Cleveland has some great dog parks, including Tremont Park and Eastlake Dog Park.

Dog-friendly restaurants and bars

If all that running around has helped you work up an appetite, you might want to try one of Cleveland’s many dog-friendly bars and restaurants. Top recommended spots include

Resorts, fitness, and spas

If you and your emotional support dog are looking to get away from it all, look no further than one of Cleveland’s pet-friendly hotels and resorts. Hotel Indigo Cleveland-Beachwood, the Ritz-Carlton Cleveland and Red Roof Inn Cleveland Middleburg Heights all come highly recommended.


Dog-friendly events can be a great way to meet other dogs and owners. Many of Cleveland’s parks host regular doggy get-togethers, including fancy-dress parades for Halloween!

ESAs in Cleveland, Ohio: How to Get Connected with an LMHP in Your State Today!

If you’re looking to get an emotional support animal in Cleveland, the most important step is to get an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. CertaPet can connect you with an LMHP in your area, and if you are eligible for an emotional support animal, you could get your ESA letter in as little as 48 hours!

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