Are you based in St. Louis, Missouri, and looking for a furry support system? You’ve come to the right place, as in this article we’re going to cover everything you need to know about getting an emotional support animal in St. Louis, from the protection you will receive under federal law, to animal-friendly spots to go with your new ESA.
Emotional Support Animal in St. Louis: Specific Protection
Let’s start with taking a quick look at all the legislation relating to an emotional support animal in St Louis. In this section, we’ll cover the Air Carriers Access Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the various exceptions to these Acts.
Definition an Assistance Animal
Many of the laws relating to emotional support animals refer to something called an “assistance animal”. This is a general term that refers to an animal that helps people with medical issues. There are three main kinds of assistance animals, and the laws differ depending on which one you have.
1. Service animal
Service animals receive high levels of specialist training to help people with a physical disability perform tasks and assist with day-to-day life. These animals are most commonly dogs.
Examples of service dogs include autism assistance dogs, seeing-eye dogs (guide dogs), and dogs that can sense oncoming seizures. Service animals are the most protected under federal law.
2. Emotional support animal (ESA)
Emotional support animals, also known as psychiatric service animals, help to calm and support people with a psychiatric disability or mental health disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
ESAs can be any kind of domesticated animal, including dogs, cats, birds, and even miniature horses. They do not receive special training and are protected by some, but not all of the laws that cover service animals.
Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACA) protects people with disabilities against discrimination while they are traveling on commercial airlines.
The Act states that people with assistance animals—both emotional support animals and service animals—may bring them into the cabin with them free of charge, even if pets are not usually permitted on that airline.
However, some people have been attempting to exploit this Act as a way to bring their pet on board for free. As a result, many airlines have tightened their rules regarding bringing ESAs on board.
Passengers will have to provide an ESA letter (more on that below) and possibly veterinary certificates ahead of traveling.
Furthermore, dangerous, unclean, or disruptive animals may be refused, even with an ESA letter. Always check the specific regulations of your airline well in advance of traveling.
People with disabilities are protected at their place of work by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which permits people with service animals to bring them to work and requires employers to make “reasonable accommodation” for them in the workplace.
However, the ADA does not cover an emotional support animal in St. Louis, so if you’re hoping to bring your ESA to work with you, you will need to agree on this with your employer on a case-by-case basis, and possibly provide an ESA letter.
Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects people with disabilities who live in rented accommodation and allows them to have their assistance animal in their home, even if pets are not permitted.
The FHA covers both emotional support animals and service animals, though people with ESAs may need to provide an ESA letter to the landlord or homeowner’s association.
ESA Campus Housing
College and university housing is covered under the FHA too, so students with service dogs or emotional support animals should be able to have them live in on-campus housing. Again, housing providers may require an ESA letter.
Exceptions to the Rules
All of the laws here were created primarily to support service animals, with emotional support animals an addition. Some (most notably the ADA) do not cover ESAs at all.
In most cases, businesses, employers, landlords and airlines may ask for an ESA letter as proof of the owner’s need for an ESA, and the animal may be refused without one. Furthermore, any ESA that is not deemed dangerous, unclean, or disruptive in public may be refused.
It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that their ESA can behave properly.
Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal
Anyone attempting to falsely pass their pet off as any kind of assistance animal in Missouri will face serious consequences.
It is classed as a class C misdemeanor, meaning 15 days in jail and a fine of up to $750, or class B misdemeanor for repeat offenders, meaning up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
If you’re planning on getting an emotional support animal in St. Louis, make sure you do it the legal way—find out how below.
5 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA
- An emotional support dog and a service dog are not the same thing, and the laws regarding them differ. If you missed the definitions of both ESA and support animals, scroll back up to have a look.
- You cannot “certify” an emotional support animal, or add one to a “directory”. Any service that claims to do so is a scam!
- ESAs do not need special training from a handler; however, they must be trained to behave properly around other people and dogs.
- The only way to get an emotional support animal is to be prescribed one by a licensed mental health professional, who must have a valid license for your state. The LMHP will write you an ESA letter. See below for more information on ESA letters.
- There is no law requiring ESAs to wear a vest or harness identifying them in public places, though many ESA owners choose to put one on their animal to avoid confusion.
How to Get an Emotional Support Animal in St. Louis, MO: CertaPet’s Simple 5 Min Process
If you’ve decided that getting an emotional support animal in St. Louis is for you, here is what to do next!
- Make sure you’ve read up on exactly what an ESA is and does, and what legal protection you have. Our complete guide to ESAs is a great starting place.
- Next, take the free, 5-minute CertaPet pre-screening process to see if you are eligible for an emotional support animal.
- If you find that you qualify for an ESA, CertaPet will put you in contact with a licensed mental health professional in your state. After a quick consultation, your ESA letter will be sent out to you in as little as 48 hours!
What is an ESA Letter?
An ESA letter is an official document that proves the patient’s need for an ESA. To be valid, it must be less than a year old, and written on letterhead paper or a prescription pad from a licensed medical doctor or mental health professional. The ESA letter must state the following:
- That you have a diagnosed mental 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!
Any domesticated animal that is able to behave well in public can be an emotional support animal. If you already have a pet that fits this description, with a valid ESA letter your pet can be classed as your ESA.
If you’re looking to get a new animal, why not look in some of the animal shelters of St. Louis, where there are lots of loving animals looking to be brought into the lap of love. Try Stray Rescue of St Louis, Gateway Pet Guardians, or Animal Care and Control of St. Louis.
Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal
Once you have an emotional support animal in St. Louis, you will probably want to go places together! Although ESAs are not guaranteed access to private businesses or public accommodations, there are plenty of dog-friendly spots in the city. Here are a few of our favorites.
Dog Parks and Dog Runs
Even hard-working emotional support dogs deserve a little fun, so why not head to a dog park for a good run around? Try
- Treecourt Unleashed Dog Adventure Park,
- Southwest City Dog Park at Willmore Park,
- Frenchtown Dog Park.
Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars
Hungry? Head to one of the many dog-friendly restaurants in St. Louis, including
- Boathouse Forest Park,
- Wild Flower Restaurant,
- The Shaved Duck.
Resorts, Fitness and Spas
Plan a getaway with your emotional support dog at a dog-friendly hotel in St. Louis, like
- The Cheshire,
- Moonrise Hotel, or
- St. Louis City Center Hotel.
St. Louis hosts a number of doggy events that are great places to go with an ESA or a pet! Look out for doggy carnivals, fun runs, and get-togethers.
ESAs in St Louis: How to Get Connected with an LMHP in Your State Today!
If you’ve decided that getting an emotional support animal in St. Louis is right for you, the most important step is to get an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional.
CertaPet helps with this process by putting you in contact with licensed mental health professionals in your state, and after a quick consultation, you could get your ESA letter in as little as 48 hours!