Getting An Emotional Support Animal in Wisconsin

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 16, 2021

Wisconsin skyline in the countryIf you are thinking about getting an emotional support animal in Wisconsin, you may have a few general questions. From laws to exceptions, legislation is in place both to protect your rights and the health and safety of others around you.

Companion animals like ESAs are there to care for you in need. If you suffer from an emotional/mental condition such as anxiety, depression or PTSD, getting an emotional support animal could possibly change your life for the better.

Learn more about the vital information you must know if you are wishing for your pet to be your ESA.

Emotional Support Animal in Wisconsin: Specific protection

In the State of Wisconsin, the federal laws that protect your right to have your support animal with you and in any rental accommodation or aiport are the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. The other federal law that may protect you from any discrimination due to a mental or physical disability is the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Do note however that while the ADA supports equal opportunity, it does not give specific protection for a person to have an emotional support animal.

The Wisconsin State Legislature supports the definition of an emotional support animal as one to provide comfort, companionship, and well-being for an individual. An ESA is not recognized as an animal trained to do specific tasks, such as a service animal.

The provisions of the federal laws for a person with an ESA are supported in Wisconsin for fair housing as a tenant and access to air travel. There are financial penalties for misrepresenting your own health to obtain an ESA or have them with you in rental housing or on a flight.

Definition of Assistance Animal

When you have an animal that may assist you with a disability, it is vital to understand the different definitions that are used for animals that help people with disabilities. The different categories affect how laws are applied.

Emotional support animals are different from service animals, but both are assistance animals.

ESA dog in Wisconsin cuddling owner

  • Definition of an Emotional Support Animal:  An emotional support animal is one that provides therapeutic benefit to a person by their presence or the company and affection they may offer. An ESA does not require any specific training, they are solely a companion animal. Emotional support animals are mostly dogs and cats, but other animals can be ESAs as well, including rabbits! However, it’s more accept for the formers. For an animal to be considered as an ESA, their owner (you!) needs to have been assessed by a qualified mental health professional as having a psychological, psychiatric, or emotional disability that benefits from the companionship of an animal.
  • Definition of a Service Animal: A service animal is one trained to do specific tasks for a person with a disability. For example, a guide dog is a service dog trained to help someone visually impaired with daily living, or seizure-alert dogs or allergen-alert dogs are trained to recognize certain signs and symptoms. Psychiatric service dogs have specific training that may include interrupting self-harming behavior and checking an environment for safety. Even miniature horses, in some cases, are trained as service animals to help people move with some types of mobility equipment. Because service animals assist people with a disability to perform tasks, they are allowed in more places and situations than an ESA.

How to get an Emotional Support Animal in the State of Wisconsin: CertaPet’s simple 5 min Process

Elderly woman with partner holding ESA dog in the State of Wisconsin

So are you ready to get an emotional support animal in Wisconsin?

Certapet has a simple and straightforward process to help you get underway.

Our initial pre-screening is free and thorough and only takes about five minutes to complete online. If from the answers you give, you may be eligible for an ESA we will connect you with a licensed mental health professional. Our ESA letters confirming your eligibility are usually issued within 28 business hours.

We’ve just made getting an ESA so much easier!

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

Under the Air Carrier Access Act, a person who has a disability that benefits from an emotional support animal is protected on having their ESA with them on a flight, providing they meet the airline’s regulations and policies. This includes notifying the airline at least 48 hours in advance that you wish to travel with your ESA and providing them with certain documentation.

This will usually include an ESA letter dated no more than 12 months prior to travel and details of your pet. Some airlines are also introducing policies around sizes of animals and containment in cabins and requiring veterinary health forms for the animal so always check with an individual airline before you plan to go anywhere with your ESA.

Got to CertaPet’s Airline ESA and Pet Policy pages for more information on each airlines’ regulations and requirements.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

Under the Fair Housing Act, and State of Wisconsin legislation, property owners, and landlords must make allowances for “reasonable accommodation” for a tenant with an emotional support animal in Wisconsin. A landlord or agent may ask for documentation to verify your need for an ESA, this must be written by a licensed health professional.

In plain language, the reasonable accommodation aspect of this landlord-tenant law means that a property manager or landlord cannot automatically turn someone with an ESA away from the rental accommodation, even if they normally do not allow tenants to have pets. There are exceptions to the rules though. These are outlined below.

Property owners or your landlord cannot ask a tenant for any additional money, bonds, or security deposits in case of accidental damage caused by an ESA, however, the person with the ESA is liable to pay for any that do occur.

Employment Laws

With regard to employment legislation, your employer does not have to let you have your ESA with you at your workplace, as they would a service animal needed for a person with another kind of disability.

Always remember though you do have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if you think you suffering from discrimination due to having a mental health illness or condition. Some employers may be flexible and allow you to have your ESA with you at work in some situations if you ask.

If they do, thank your good boss and remember they are under no obligation to do so!

ESA Campus Housing

If you plan on getting an emotional support animal in Wisconsin then you can get accommodation in both rental homes and even university housing. If you are applying to attend college or university in the Badger State and want to know whether you can have an ESA, check the individual policies and/or with the disability services offices of the institution(s) you are thinking of attending.

Campus housing and dorms do fall under the federal housing laws of the Fair Housing Act in that they must allow for reasonable accommodation. You will usually need to submit all documentation that confirms your disability and eligibility for an ESA.

If approved to have an ESA on campus, most institutions’ terms will usually include your commitment and agreement to meet certain responsibilities. These may be around having your ESA in certain locations only in university housing, providing for its welfare at all times, paying for any damage, and ensuring it does not cause any problems for others.

ESA cat inside a box in Wisconsin

Exception to Rules

As mentioned above, although the air travel and housing laws give protection for ESAs to be with persons with disabilities, there are exceptions to the rules!

If an airline or landlord deems an animal as an ESA on the grounds of public safety or aggression in the animal, they can either be banned from boarding flight or lose privileges in their housing. They can also refuse an ESA if a person has misrepresented a pet as an emotional support animal in Wisconsin.

Punishment for misrepresenting an assistance animal

In the State of Wisconsin, anyone that misrepresents ESA status or animal can be fined a minimum of $500. This includes people misrepresenting themselves as having a condition that needs an emotional support animal. A mental health professional is also liable to the same fine if they misrepresent a person has needed an ESA.

And foes without saying – if you represent your emotional support dog as your service dog, you’re going to receive punishment as well.

3 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

Now that you are more familiar with some of the rules and regulations that apply to emotional support animals, here is a summary of key need-to-know facts on getting an ESA:

  1. Emotional support animals can be “prescribed” to someone with a mental or emotional disability. But only a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) can approve an individual’s need for an ESA.
  2. There is protection under federal and state legislation for individuals with disabilities who have ESAs around residential accommodation and air travel, but they are not service animals allowed into other public places.
  3. To have your ESA with you in rented housing or on a flight, you will need the proper supporting documentation.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

The choice of your personal emotional support animal is up to you!

Think about what kind of animal you feel connected with – does an emotional support cat excite you or dedicated to dogs? Also, think about the type of animal you choose and their food and exercise needs and any associated financial costs for their lifespan. Just like people, every animal is unique, do a little research on the temperament and different types of care animals need also.

You can find an emotional support animal in Wisconsin pretty much anywhere! Try animal rescues and shelters as these are always a good place to start for any type of ESA or pet. There are many non-profit organizations around Wisconsin dedicated to finding new homes for various types of animals.

If you have a particular pedigree breed in mind, look for local pet breeders in your area.

Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal in Wisconsin

For dog lovers, there are plenty of places around Wisconsin where you can get out and about with an emotional support dog. Some of these poochy pet-friendly places include:

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

  • Granville Dog Park, Milwaukee, WI
  • Mazo Beach, Mazomanie, WI
  • Praire Moraine Park, Verona, WI

Dog-friendly restaurants and bars

  • Urban Olive and Vine, Hudson, WI
  • Rock Bottom Brewery, Milwaukee, WI
  • Doolittle’s Woodfire Grill, Madison, WI

Resorts, fitness, and spas

  • Baker’s Sunset Bay Resort, Wisconsin Dells, WI
  • Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel, Brookfield, WI
  • Grand Lodge Waterpark Resort, Rothschild, WI


  • Parks and Trails Unite Festivals
  • Annual PetWalk, GreenBay
  • Paws in the Park, Minocqua, WI
  • Doggy Dip and Sip, Green Bay, WI

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

Getting an emotional support animal in Wisconsin isn’t hard… if you know what you’re doing.

After completing the Certapet free pre-screening, we arrange for you to connect with an LMHP in your area in Wisconsin. This person will provide the final decision on whether animal-assisted therapy is right for you.

Having an ESA is a unique experience, and if you suffer from an emotional or mental disability maybe it’s time to give it a try.

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