Getting an Emotional Support Animal in San Juan, Puerto Rico

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 16, 2021

san juan puerto rico beachYes, you can have an emotional support animal in San Juan, Puerto Rico! Emotional support animals (ESAs) can be of great benefit to someone living with a mental health illness or condition. They’re not a cure, but they can and do form part of the treatment plan for many people managing their symptoms. Read on for more on living with an ESA in Puerto Rico, or taking one there on vacation.

Emotional Support Animal in San Juan: Specific Protection

Because Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, the U.S. federal laws that protect people with emotional support animals from discrimination apply there too. These laws are there to back you if you need an emotional support animal with you in rental housing and during air travel.

If you want to bring an emotional support animal in and out of Puerto Rico there are also local laws that you need to follow.

emotional support dog ready for travel

Definition of an Assistance Animal

In broad terms, assistance animals help individuals to live with physical and/or mental disabilities. Two of the most common types of assistance animals are emotional support animals and service animals.

Emotional support animals are not specifically trained to perform tasks for their owners. Their mere presence is required to negate the symptoms of a mental illness or condition. Any dog (or cat) can be an ESA. All that is required of them is their presence, which provides the owner with calming comfort and emotional support.

Service animals are specifically trained to perform certain tasks. These could be physical tasks that their owner’s disability prevents them from doing on their own. The could be tasks related to mobility, eyesight, hearing, and psychiatric difficulties. Alternatively, they can be trained as alert dogs that alert a person to low blood sugar levels.

Service animals are trained extensively to perform specific tasks and how to behave in public. Service animals are usually dogs. Both the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and local Puerto Rico laws recognize that trained service animals need to be with their handlers in a wide range of public settings.

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) makes provisions for people to fly with an ESA free of charge. This could be because you need the ESA on the flight, or at your destination. Individual airlines do have their own policies and procedures on ESAs. Always check with an airline what their policy is before booking your ticket!

You can fly your ESA into Puerto Rico. However, you will need to let the airport in San Juan know in advance, and ensure you’ve got the following sorted before you leave:

  • Health Certificate:  A veterinarian must certify that your ESA is well enough to enter Puerto Rico and has no infectious diseases. The issue date of the certificate must within 30 days of your arrival. If you live in Puerto Rico and leave with your ESA for more than 30 days, you will need a health certificate to bring your ESA back to PR.
  • Rabies vaccinations: Your ESA must have had a rabies vaccination within the last six months. This applies to both dogs and cats and the vaccination must be the annual type, and not from an area that is under quarantine for rabies.
  • Banned breeds: There are certain dog breeds banned in Puerto Rico. These include Staffordshire bull terriers, American Staffordshire terrier, and American Pit Bull terriers.
  • Identification: A microchip for a dog or cat going to Puerto Rico isn’t compulsory, but is strongly recommended. Your ESA’s health certificate will need a detailed written description from your vet, and your ESA should wear an ID tag with your contact details in case you become separated.
  • Other species: The most recognized types of ESAs are dogs and cats. If you have another type of ESA be sure to check Puerto Rico’s other requirements for import certificates, and tests against diseases.

emotional support animal in san juan airport

Employment Laws

Employers in San Juan aren’t legally obliged to allow you to have an emotional support animal at your workplace. It is entirely up to the discretion of the employer whether or not you are allowed to bring your ESA to the workplace.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects your right to live with an ESA in rental housing in San Juan. A landlord or property owner must make “reasonable accommodation” for people with an ESA. This means they can’t refuse you rental housing on the basis of having a disability (and therefore an ESA) or charge you any extra deposits or pet-fees in advance.

The FHA doesn’t apply to vacation accommodation in San Juan. So if you need to have your ESA stay with you in a home or hotel, look for one with a pet-friendly policy before you arrive!

ESA Campus Housing 

The FHA also applies to on-campus accommodation for an emotional support animal in San Juan. However, individual academic institutions will have their own policies to follow. If you are studying in San Juan, check with the disability office of your school. They will guide you through their policies and procedures for emotional support animals on their campus.

Exceptions to the Rules

Yes, there are exceptions to both pieces of legislation!

  • A request to fly or live with your emotional support animal can be refused. This may be if your ESA poses a health and safety risk to any other people or animals, or financial loss to a provider.
  • Although airlines and landlords can’t charge you fees in advance, they can recoup from you the costs of any damaged caused by your ESA.

Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal

Know the difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal! Also be honest about having a disability that needs an assistance animal. In many States, it is illegal to misrepresent an assistance animal!

Puerto Rico has penalties for not adhering to their laws around animal health and banned breeds. These include a hefty fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months!

5 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

  1. Emotional support animals may alleviate symptoms associated with many emotional and psychological conditions, for example, depression, stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and mood and personality disorders.
  2. ESAs can be a range of different types of animals, but most people opt for a dog or cat.
  3. ESAs do not need any specific formal training. They should, however,  still be toilet trained and respond to your basic instructions. For an emotional support dog, this includes commands such as stay, sit, lie down, settle, and so on.
  4. There are certain dog breeds banned in Puerto Rico. Similar breeds are often banned from airlines as well.
  5. An ESA letter or documentation is vital to support living with your animal rental housing and/or air travel. Keep your ESA letter current, and with you when you travel.

woman cuddling on the couch with her esa in san juan

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal: CertaPet’s Simple 5 Min Process

Certapet has a simple process to establish if you qualify for an emotional support animal.

Disclaimer: CertaPet only has LMHPs in the states.

  • The first step is to complete our free online pre-screening. This takes about 5 minutes and will let you know if you may be eligible.
  • Then, if you want to proceed, we will connect you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state to complete your assessment and ESA Letter.

If you wish to fly to San Juan with your ESA, make sure to check with your airline to see what the restrictions they have.

What is an ESA Letter?

An ESA letter is the formal document you need to verify you qualify for an emotional support animal. This will be issued by the licensed mental health professional (LMHP) we connect you to in your area.

The letter will say that you need your emotional support animal as part of your treatment plan for a disorder or disability. The letter will also include information about your licensed mental health professional such as their name and license details.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

Rescue organizations and shelters looking to re-home animals are great places to look for an ESA! Alternatively, if you have a special breed in mind, look for a reputable breeder!

Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal in San Juan

It’s only natural when you’ve got an ESA that you want to take them places with you! Luckily, there are pet-friendly places in San Juan and other Puerto Rican cities. Some to check out in San Juan are:

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

  • Condado Pet Park
  • Hobie Cat Beach, Isla Verde

Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars

  • The Place on Ashford
  • Pinky’s at Condado Beach

Resorts, Fitness, and Spas          

  • Coqui Inn, Isle Verde
  • Condado Vanderbilt Hotel

emotional support dogs on the beach playing in water

Common Questions on Getting an Emotional Support Animal in San Juan

Are emotional support animals and service animals the same?

Can you take an Emotional Support Animal to San Juan?

Is it true that Puerto Rico bans some dog breeds?

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