Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Iowa

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 14, 2021

It is well-known that service dogs, such as those that assist people with a vision impairment, have rights that are protected by law. But did you know that emotional support animals in Iowa are also afforded some similar protections? If you’ve ever considered getting an emotional support animal in Iowa, read on to find out everything you need to know.

Emotional Support Animal in Iowa: Specific protection

People in Iowa who require a service dog or service animal are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as Iowa’s disability rights legislation. For people who need emotional support animals to assist them in dealing with emotional or mental conditions, their rights may not seem as clear.

However, we’re here to explain the confusion.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not specifically mention the rights of emotional support animals. Although there are other pieces of legislation that do provide protection under certain circumstances, these are the Airlines Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and federal Fair Housing Act (FHA)

Definition of Assistance Animal

An assistance animal can be classed as either an emotional support animal or service animal.

An emotional support animal, also known as an ESA, is a dog, cat, miniature horse, or any other type of companion animal that provides support and comfort to persons with psychiatric and emotional disabilities.

Unlike service dogs, who are trained to perform tasks, and ESA will not need to undergo any formal training. Strictly speaking, an ESA not simply a “pet”. Unlike pets, an emotional support animal may not perform tasks but provides a specific form of therapy by way of emotional support for people dealing with certain conditions.

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

Thanks to CertaPet, getting an emotional support animal ESA letter is as simple as completing a five-minute application process. CertaPet’s extensive referral service ensures that we can facilitate an official letter written by a mental health professional for people with anxiety, depression, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and a range of other emotional and mental disorders.

The brief questionnaire takes only a few minutes to complete and is completely free and confidential. The questionnaire helps a person with a mental disability to find out if you would qualify for an ESA letter to allow you to have an emotional support pet. If approved, you could have your ESA letter within 48 business hours.

Make sure you take our quick and easy, 5-minute questionnaire to see if you qualify for an ESA letter!

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

The right of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their trained or untrained emotional support animal or psychiatric service dogs on aircraft is protected by the Air Carrier Access Act.

For many people, when considering getting an emotional support animal in Iowa, one of the first questions they have is whether they will be able to take their assistance animals on an airplane with them. The Act provides that assistance animals are permitted on aircraft, provided the person has a letter from a qualified mental health professional.

Now, before you decide to fly with your ESA. You need to be aware that each airline will have different assistance animal policies. Generally, airlines state that they’ll require you to provide:

Employment Laws

If you are considering getting an emotional support animal in Iowa, you may be wondering whether you will be able to take your support animal with you into your place of business. While the Americans with Disabilities Act does not specifically deal with emotional support animals, it does state that employers cannot discriminate against an employee with a disability.

However, the ADA refers to physical disabilities that require a service dog. Thus, your ESA is not really covered under this act. Nevertheless, there’s the occasional case-by-case basis where an employer may allow an ESA should you request one.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

For people with disabilities, when getting an emotional support animal in Iowa, it makes sense that, like other pets, the animal must be able to live with you.

Luckily, the Fair Housing Act states that a person who can prove – by way of a letter from a mental health professional – that they require the services of an emotional support animal must be permitted to have the animal live in public accommodation with them.

As such, renters and tenant cannot be evicted or even charged a pet deposit if they require an emotional support animal, therapy dogs, or seizure-alert dogs in public accommodation because landlords must provide “reasonable accommodation” as provided in the Act.

ESA Campus Housing

You may be wondering whether university campuses and college dorms are included under the provisions of the Fair Housing Act.

The good news for Americans with emotional disabilities who attend college or university is that campuses, on-campus housing, and dorms must provide reasonable accommodation and make allowances for support animals, provided the owner has an ESA letter to prove that they require a companion animal in their accommodation.

Exception to Rules

If you are considering getting an emotional support animal in Iowa, it is important to understand that there are exceptions to the protections afforded by law which allow people to have an emotional support dog with them.

For example, even though a landlord must allow an emotional support animal to reside in rented accommodation, that permission can be denied if the animal poses a threat to others or could cause substantial damage to property.

Punishment for misrepresenting an assistance animal

One of the most important aspects to keep in mind when considering getting an emotional support animal in Iowa is that, even once you have the ESA letter to prove that you require an assistance animal, you must never pass the animal off as a service dog or service animal.

Similarly, you must not say that your animal is an emotional support animal until you have the official ESA letter. Penalties for misrepresenting an animal as an assistance animal vary from state to state.

In Iowa, misrepresentation is not mentioned in any statutes, but this does not mean that a punishment would not be applicable.

4 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

  1. Emotional support animals are only suitable for people with a recognized mental or emotional disability in need of a psychiatric service, not simply for the company or as a pet who can perform tasks.
  2. CertaPet has significant contacts in the industry and connects people with licensed, reputable mental health professionals currently practicing in their state.
  3. An emotional support animal is not the same as a service animal or service dog.
  4. Emotional support animals do not need to be “registered”, nor do they need “certification”.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

It is important to keep in mind that the ESA letter is awarded to a person who needs an assistance dog or another animal – not to the animal itself. An assistance animal does not require any particular training.

For this reason, it is not possible to purchase a ready-made emotional support dog, since it is the person who is awarded the letter, not the animal.

This means that it is possible to find a suitable ESA almost anywhere – any animal that provides emotional assistance to a person with a mental or emotional disability or psychiatric disability can be a suitable ESA!

Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal

Wondering where to take your emotional support animal in Iowa? There is a world of options open to you and your special companion.

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

Iowa has plenty of dog parks and dog runs to choose from, with several fantastic facilities within Iowa City alone. When in Iowa City, consider visiting Thornbury off-leash dog park or Rita’s Ranch dog park at Scott Park.

Dog-friendly restaurants and bars

There are plenty of pet-friendly restaurants in Iowa that allow dogs and service animals to join their human companions at outdoor tables. If visiting Iowa City, consider :

  • Bluebird Diner
  • Pullman Bar & Diner
  • Joe’s Place,
  • Share Wine Lounge & Small Plate Patio.

Resorts, fitness, and spas

It can be difficult finding pet-friendly spas, resorts, and fitness centers, but luckily Iowa makes it easy. For example, the Clarion Hotel Highlander & Conference Center allows up to two small dogs, while the Travelodge Iowa City is happy to welcome large dogs and service animals in their facilities.


It’s always exciting when there is an upcoming pet-friendly event in Iowa. While there aren’t any companion animal-friendly events scheduled soon, it always pays to keep an eye on local newspapers and bulletin boards in your area to see when new events are coming up.

ESAs in Iowa: How to Get Connected with an LMHP in Your State Today!

Ready to find out more about obtaining an ESA letter in Iowa? The process is simple! Start by completing CertaPet’s five-minute online questionnaire to see if you could qualify for an ESA letter. Approved people could have their letter prepared by a licensed mental health professional within 48 business hours.

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