Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Philadelphia

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 14, 2021

emotional support animal in philadelphiaGetting an emotional support animal in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is a great idea. If you suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or from another mental disability, you might be allowed to become an ESA owner. Emotional support animals help their owners in their day-to-day lives and help them cope with their illness. This human-animal bond helps reduce anxiety levels, among many other benefits.

Nowadays, ESAs and their owners are protected by two iron-clad federal laws: the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). They concern rented housing and traveling by plane.

Emotional Support Animal in Philadelphia: Specific Protection

Owning an emotional support animal in Philadelphia has many upsides. Not only will you get to enjoy the love your comfort animals provide, but you’ll also be protected by law. In this city, an ESA owner can live with their animal in rented units and can also fly within the country and abroad with them.

Definition of Assistance Animal

An assistance animal is one that assists humans in their day-to-day lives. Since emotional support animals provide comfort and better their owner’s mental well-being, they fit into this category. In the eyes of the government, ESAs must be protected by some laws — and they are!

But there are other animals that are also assistance animals but they are not ESAs! Service animals, for example, are an example. They have been trained to perform tasks for their owners, unlike ESAs that have not gone through this process. Think of a seeing-eye dog, for example. Trained service dogs and their owners are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), while ESAs are not.

Although both service dogs and emotional support dogs are assistance animals, they should not be thought of as the same! There are very important differences that set them apart.

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

If you’re getting an emotional support animal in Philadelphia and you’re thinking of hopping on a plane, we have good news. According to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), you have the right to travel with your ESA in the cabin without being charged an extra fee. To be covered by the ACAA, here is what you have to do before taking off:

  • Have your emotional support letter, as issued by your mental health professional, with you.
  • Give your chosen airline a notice of at least 48 hours.
  • Check with your airline whether they ask for any other documents.

We have compiled an ever-growing list of airlines and their ESA policies. You can read them here.

As long as you follow all these rules and guarantee your ESA will not be violent towards anyone, you will be covered by the ACAA. This means flying with your companion animal hassle- and stress-free!

Employment Laws

Employers are not obligated to provide reasonable accommodation for an emotional support animal in Philadelphia. If you are an ESA owner, you may not be allowed to bring your ESA to work. Only service dogs are allowed in public places, even if they don’t have the manager’s permission.

However, if you show your employer your ESA letter, they might allow you to bring your dog with you. Arguing would be done on a case-by-case basis and you can try to show that your ESA being there would positively impact your performance. Although the law might not be on your side, human compassion might.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

The Fair Housing Act grants ESA owners who are renting a unit the right to live with their ESA. This is amazing news if you’re getting an emotional support animal in Philadelphia. Your landlord must accept your emotional support animal and cannot charge a pet fee. This even applies to units that have a no-pet policy.

To be covered by the law, all you need to do is show them your ESA letter if they ask for it. This is all you really need to do, besides guaranteeing that they will not be a problem for your neighbors or the property.

ESA Campus Housing

Students living in on-campus housing are also covered by the Fair Housing Act. Having an emotional support animal in Philadelphia in a dorm is completely legal and you should not be charged an extra fee for that.

In order for the FHA to be applied to you, you should show your residence hall your ESA letter if they ask for it. Again, you should make sure they’ll behave and won’t cause problems for other students.

Exception to Rules

Like everything in life, owning an emotional support animal in Philadelphia also comes with responsibilities. If you do one of these things, these two laws will no longer be on your side:

  • Failure to show an ESA letter when it is required means you’re no longer protected by these laws.
  • If you neglect your ESA, the state of Pennsylvania can intervene and take them away.
  • An unruly and aggressive ESA will not be given housing or the chance to board an airplane.
  • Forging an emotional support letter means that the laws will not be on your side if you go to court.

Punishment for Misrepresenting of an Assistance Animal

As of yet, it is not illegal to pass off a pet as an assistance animal in Philadelphia or the state of Pennsylvania. However, legislators all across the country and in the state have been pushing for a reform. In around 21 states, misrepresentation of an assistance animal is punishable by law. This action will be seen as a misdemeanor and can carry a fine of up to $1,000!

Getting an emotional support animal in Philadelphia is not that hard if you have a mental illness, why not do it the legal way?

6 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

Getting an emotional support animal is a big responsibility! You should be up to date with all the laws that apply to you and the little exceptions that come with it. You should know where you can and where you can’t take your company dog and how to take care of them. Here are six facts you need to know if you’re thinking of becoming an ESA owner.

  • An emotional support animal is neither a service animal, a therapy animal or a pet. They’re their own thing.
  • ESAs don’t need to necessarily be dogs. They can be cats or even miniature horses!
  • Emotional support animals can’t go into public accommodations without the prior permission from the owner of the establishment.
  • If you don’t give your ESA veterinary care when they need it, they can be taken away from you.
  • There’s no such thing as an “ESA registration” or an “ESA certificate.” They will not hold up in court and companies that sell them are scams.
  • Only licensed mental health professionals can issue an ESA letter that is valid.

How to Get an Emotional Support Animal in Philadelphia: CertaPet’s simple 5-minute process

Now that you’ve decided if you’re getting an emotional support animal in Philadelphia, you’re probably thinking — “but how?!” The process of becoming an ESA couldn’t be simpler now that CertaPet is around. We handle all the boring paperwork and phone calls so you don’t have to worry about a thing.

The first thing you need to know is whether or not you can qualify as an ESA owner. You can take our simple pre-screening test to know this simply by clicking here. You’ll be asked to answer a few questions that won’t take you more than five minutes.

After that, if you qualify as an owner, we’ll connect you with a licensed mental health professional in your area. They will be the ones issuing the ESA letter which you will get very soon. In some cases, this whole process takes less than 48 hours!

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

Now comes the fun part — choosing an emotional support animal that fits your personality and needs. Because the ESA letter is awarded to a patient and not to an animal, you don’t need to look for an ESA-ready animal. As long as the two of you click, virtually any animal of the accepted list can become your ESA!

If you have a pet at home, they could potentially become your emotional support animal. If you don’t, there is always a shelter or a non-profit organization in your area looking for new homes for their furry guests. Look around in one of these places — you might find your new best friend there! They would get a new home, and you would get a loyal and faithful companion. It’s a win-win situation.

Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal

Who doesn’t like to take their dog for a walk? Pet and ESA owners both love this activity. Thankfully, there are dozens of places in Philly where you can take your dog out for a walk. From restaurants to spa centers and even dog parks, you’re bound to find someplace fun for you and Fido!

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

Why not let your ESA stretch their legs and get some exercise in? You can do just that in one of these dog parks:

  • Schuylkill River Dog Park
  • Mario Lanza Dog Park
  • Philadelphia Salvage

Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars

If you’re going out to eat or for a drink, these restaurants and bars are welcoming to dogs:

  • Gold Standard Cafe
  • The Druid’s Keep
  • More Than Just Ice Cream

Resorts, Fitness, and Spas

Are you going on holiday to Philadelphia? If so, these are the hotels to check into if you’re after a memorable vacation with your ESA:

  • Sofitel Philadelphia
  • Loews Philadelphia Hotel
  • Sheraton Society Hill Hotel


There are always dozens of events going on in Philadelphia that are dedicated to dogs and their owners. They are the perfect place to meet other dog lovers and give your ESA the chance to make more furry friends. A simple Google or Facebook search will show you all the nearby events going on in the near future. Don’t miss out on this chance!

ESAs in Philadelphia: How to Get Connected with a LMHP in Your State Today!

Here at CertaPet we care about our clients’ well-being, which is why we deal with the bureaucracy for you. As soon as you’re done with your ESA pre-screening test, we’ll put you in touch with a licensed mental health professional close to you. They will issue the ESA letter so that you can start this new journey with your company animal!

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