Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Massachusetts

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emotional support animal in massachusettsAre you interested in getting an emotional support animal in Massachusetts? An emotional support animal (ESA) or companion animal’s sole function is to provide comfort and emotional support, as the name suggests. The most common (and accepted) ESAs are cats and dogs! These furkids have important jobs to do!

ESAs are not service animals and are therefore not covered by the Massachusetts Service Animal Law, which defines a service animal as a dog which assists its owner with a disability by performing specific tasks.

Emotional Support Animal in Massachusetts: Specific protection

An emotional support animal in Massachusetts is protected by two very important federal laws. As an ESA owner, you have to know the difference between service animals and ESAs, because the two are very different and are protected by different laws.

Definition of Assistance Animal

There are various types of assistance animals. They are generally categorized into service animals or psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals.

Service animals and psychiatric service animals undergo intensive training and their job is to perform specific tasks to assist a person with a disability. Some of the most common examples of these dogs (and the occasional miniature horses) are seeing eye dogs, guide dogs for the hearing impaired and assisting people in wheelchairs by opening doors or pressing elevator buttons.

Some of these amazing dogs can sense heightened blood pressure or low blood sugar levels in their owners and alert their humans.

Examples of the fantastic things psychiatric service animals are trained for is to recognize the symptoms of oncoming panic attacks of someone suffering from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The dog will learn how to distract the owner, apply body pressure, lick their faces or even bring medication.

ESAs differ from service animals mainly because they do not receive any specific training. An ESA’s sole purpose is to provide calming comfort and companionship to its owner. Any dog (or cat) can be an ESA, whereas not every dog is cut out to be a service dog!

How to get an Emotional Support Animal in Massachusetts: CertaPet’s Simple 5 Min Process!

The last thing someone struggling with an emotional mental condition needs is to be overwhelmed with admin. CertaPet recognizes that and has come up with a simple, efficient and quick method to streamline the process.

The first step is to take our free online 5-minute process to see if you qualify for an emotional support animal in Massachusetts. If your answers show that you could qualify for an ESA we will connect you with LMHP in your state!

Just think, you could have your ESA letter in as little as 48 hrs!

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) states that people cannot be denied access to flights based on the fact that they have a disability (and need an ESA to mitigate its symptoms).

Emotional support animals may fly with their owner in the cabin free of charge. If you plan on flying with your ESA, you need to check out the airlines ESA policy and make sure you check all the boxes. Some airlines have breed restrictions and a very specific protocol for allowing ESAs onto flights.

There are countless incidents of people abusing the ACAA and misrepresenting their pets as assistance animals. Because of this, airlines are tightening their ESA policies to make it harder for fraudsters to catch a free ride for their pets!

ESA dog inside a traveling bag in Massachusetts

Employment Laws

Employers are not legally obligated to allow your ESA in the workplace. It is entirely up to the discretion of the employer whether or not you may bring your ESA to work with you.

Although ESAs don’t need specific training, it is a good idea to train your dog in obedience. You can always approach your employer and ask them whether you can bring Fido to work with you. Your chances of getting a “go-ahead” are much greater if you have a quiet, calm and obedient companion!

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

According to the Fair Housing Act (FHA), a landlord must provide reasonable accommodation for a person with a disability. They cannot deny you access to rental accommodation based on the fact that you suffer from a mental illness or emotional condition. If you need an ESA to mitigate the symptoms of your condition, then it is well within your right to live with your ESA in rented accommodation.

You can live with your ESA despite there being a “no-pet” policy and a landlord may not charge you any additional pet fees or deposits.

ESA Campus Housing

The University of Massachusetts, Amherst’s Assistance Animal Policy allows for service and emotional support animals in their Residence Halls and housing areas.

All public accommodations in Massachusetts must comply with both state and federal laws and are therefore subject to the FHA which allows for emotional support animals.

Just check ahead with your college or university before you head off to campus. There are more ESAs than ever in college accommodations, so make sure you know the rules and regulations of the institution you attend. And remember: ESAs are not service animals. They cannot go everywhere service animals go!

man cuddling with emotional support cat

Exception to Rules

ESAs and their owners are not untouchable. As much as you have rights based on your disability, airline’s and landlords have the right to deny your ESA access to accommodation or flights if they display the following behavior:

  • Show aggressive behavior towards other people or animals.
  • Are destructive and damage (or soil) property.
  • Display disruptive behavior.

Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal

Getting an emotional support animal in Massachusetts means getting an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. With all those ESA vests and online “registries”, it is easier than ever to pass your pet off as an ESA. Unfortunately, there is no current law in place that makes misrepresenting an assistance animal illegal.

However, Massachusetts is currently debating a bill to make misrepresenting an assistance animal a misdemeanor. If all goes according to plan offenders could look at fines up to $500!

5 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

  1. An ESA letter must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional in your state.
  2. Beware of “ESA Registration” and “ESA Certificate”. “Emotional Support Dog Certification” is a misnomer. Certification services are not legitimate and these certificates are worthless. Same goes for service dogs! There is no “service dog registry”!
  3. Dogs and cats are the most common ESAs. Getting your emotional support alligator on a plane is not going to happen!
  4. Costs: Caring for an animal is expensive; even for your emotional support dog. You need to cover the costs associated with your assistance animal’s care, health requirements, and food. You also have to provide it with a comfortable life and suitable living conditions. No matter how you are feeling, you will have to see to the well-being of your animal at all times.
  5. Socializing: While ESAs do not need specialized training, your emotional support animal has to be well behaved in public and in rented accommodation.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

Emotional support dogs touched by woman in a cage in an animal shelter in Massachusetts

Maybe you already have a perfect canine or feline companion at home! Remember: any dog or cat can be an ESA! If you are still looking for an ESA, local animal shelters and rescue groups should be your first stop!

Shelters are full of all sorts of dogs and cats who are looking for forever homes. These animals deserve a second chance at life! They will repay you with infinite and unconditional love! Also: yes, shelters have a lot of mixed breeds, but you can also find pedigrees in there! The most important thing is that the two of you form a bond and love each other’s company.

Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal

Always check for pet-friendly options when taking your ESA out with you to a public place. If you are looking for a place to take Fido in Massachusetts you are in luck!

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

  • Peter’s Park, Boston
  • Carleton Court Dog Park, Boston
  • Fresh Pond Reservation Dog Park, Cambridge

Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars

  • Blunch, Boston
  • Cambridge Brewing Company, Cambridge
  • Village Tavern Grill & Oyster Bar, Salem

Resorts, Fitness, and Spas

  • Boston Harbor Hotel
  • Harold Parker State Forest Campground
  • Boston Public Garden
  • Sheepfold
  • Noanet Woodlands, Dover

Events

What can you do with your ESA in and around Massachusetts? Let’s have a look:

  • South Shore Animal Hospital Open Day for a fun-filled family-pooch day! With police dog and rehabilitation demonstrations, pet supply vendors and a behind-the-scenes tour. You’ll get the opportunity to meet adoptable dogs from Last Hope K9, the Massachusetts Humane Society, and Mainely Rat Rescue.
  • Yappy Hour is a weekly dog-friendly event at Quite Fetching, LLC in Grafton.
  • Doggie Dip Day is a dog-friendly event at Silver Lake Beach in Grafton.
  • Woofstock is Buddy Dog Humane Society’s annual outdoor fundraiser and festival!

Emotional Support Animal in Massachusetts: How to Get Connected with an LMHP Today!

CertaPet handles the most stressful part of getting an emotional support animal in Massachusetts. You won’t need to search the yellow pages for a licensed mental health professional anymore!

After completing our simple 5-minute pre-screening test, we’ll put you in touch with an LMHP. They will handle the ESA paperwork while you sit back and wait for everything at your doorstep. It couldn’t be any easier!

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