Everything You Need to Know About ESA Hotel Laws

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 15, 2021

There seems to be a steady rise in the number of Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) that people are seeing out and about. People may travel with their ESA on planes, but what happens when they reach their destinations? Before you try to check yourself and Fido in at a hotel, find out exactly how ESA hotel laws work!

Understanding the Difference Between Pets and Emotional Support Animals 

With so many support animals out and about, the general public often confuses these dogs with other assistance animals such as service animals or psychiatric service animals.

It is incredibly important for everyone, including every ESA support dog owner, to know the differences between these animals and the legal protection the different types of assistance animals have.

Can't wait to get started?

The ESA Application process at CertaPet starts with a fast, free screening test that you can take right now. It takes only 5 minutes and shows if you may qualify for an ESA right away.

The Difference Between a Service Dog, an Emotional Support Dog, and a Psychiatric Service Dog 

Assistance animals that help individuals with disabilities fall under three broad categories. These are:

Service Animals

Service dogs (or the occasional miniature horses) are animals that have received intensive training to perform specific tasks for people with a range of (mostly physiological) disabilities. A common example of a service dog is a seeing-eye dog that assists a visually impaired person. Another example is a guide dog for someone with auditory impairments.

Service animals have a legal right to public access and public accommodation. This means that they are allowed to accompany their owner in most places where the general public is allowed.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

These dogs have the same legal protection as service animals. They also undergo intensive training to help people with disabilities. Examples of people who these dogs help are people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), manic depression or panic attacks. Remember, a disabled person might not be in a wheelchair. Their mental health is the problem, and you can't always see it.

dog who loves hotels that allow pets having breakfast in bed

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals do not legally have to be trained in any way. Their sole purpose is to bring comfort and companionship to people suffering from mental illness or mood disorders. Dogs and cats are naturals at making people feel calm and loved, hence the "no training required".

This type of assistance animal can help someone with a mental disability have a better quality of life.

Federal ESA Laws vs ESA Hotel Laws

ESAs are protected by two very important federal laws. Regardless of local laws, these government laws apply everywhere in the US. The first is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). This act allows people with emotional or mental disabilities to fly with their ESAs on flights free of charge.

**Please note, as of January 11, 2021, under new regulations passed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the allowance of Emotional Support Animals onboard flights may vary from airline to airline. Please contact your airline of choice for their most up-to-date policies on Emotional Support Animals.

The second law is the Fair Housing Act (FHA) which states that landlords must provide people with disabilities (who need ESAs) with reasonable accommodation.

You cannot be denied housing based on the fact that you have an ESA! This applies even when a "no pet policy" is in place. A landlord may also not charge someone with an ESA any additional pet fees or deposits.

As you see, ESAs are allowed on planes and in a rental property, but with hotels being public places, ESA hotel laws are rather a different story.

Public Access: Emotional Support Laws Don’t Apply to Hotels

Service animals have a right to public access, meaning that most hotels will accommodate them.

This does not hold up for therapy animals and, unfortunately, an ESA's legal rights end at flying and renting accommodation. They do not have a legal right to public access. As hotels are public places, a hotel is not legally obligated to allow any types of animals to stay with them.

The Air Carrier Access Act allows travelers to fly with their ESAs without paying pet fees. Read this if you are looking for an ESA Travel Letter.

The FHA allows tenants with mental or emotional disabilities to request a reasonable accommodation for their Emotional Support Animals. Read if you are looking for a housing letter.

Are Service Animals Allowed in All Hotels Near Me?

In short: Yes. Not only are service animals allowed in hotels, but they are also welcome in the public areas of hotels, and do not have to pay any additional pet fees.

jack russell with suitcases looking for dog hotels near me

If the Hotel Says No Pets, It is Not an Emotional Support Animal Hotel!

Any place that is pet-friendly, will allow you to bring your ESA. Luckily, there are many hotels and hotel chains that accept pets as guests. The same goes for any pet-friendly restaurants, bars, parks or beaches!

ESA owners can always state their case (politely) to a hotel with a no pets policy, and ask whether they may bring their furry friend along! It will of course help if you present them with a (legitimate) emotional support animal letter!

Looking for an ESA?

The ESA Application process at CertaPet starts with a fast, free screening test that you can take right now. It takes only 5 minutes and shows if you may qualify for an ESA right away.

How CertaPet Helps People Get Their Emotional Support Animal Letter 

An ESA letter is what distinguishes an ESA from a pet. It is a legally recognized document that proves that the animal’s owner has a disability and has rights according to the FHA and the ACAA.

CertaPet makes the process of getting an ESA letter very, very easy. Only a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state can issue an ESA letter.

What CertaPet does, is offer a 5-min, free online pre-screening. If your answers indicate that you may qualify for an ESA, we will put you in touch with a licensed mental health professional and you could have your ESA letter in no time!

Attitude is Everything for Dog Friendly Hotel Chains!

Luckily not every hotel closes its doors to beloved pets or ESAs who want to enjoy their “vacay” as a family.

These establishments do not only “accept” or “allow” your furry friend, but they have ESA hotel laws in place that make everyone feel welcome.

4 Things Hotels That Take Dogs Have in Common 

  1. Pet Swag: As part of their pet and ESA hotel laws, they provide Fido or Mittens with everything from food and water bowls, to toys, treats and pet beds.
  2. A Doggy Menu: That’s right. There is a menu for dogs that has everything from specific dog food brands to cooked meals like beef stew!
  3. Access: Pet-friendly hotels often grant pets and ESAs access to their grounds. Some grounds include parks and walks, and even pools and beaches!
  4. Luxury: Some ESA hotel laws even include luxuries like plush towels, dog walking services, and pupsicles!

Pet Friendly Hotel Near My Current Location? Here are Some Hotels That Allow Pets!

Are There Hotels That Accept Cats?

There is a long list of cat-friendly hotels. They all have different ESA hotel laws, so be sure to call ahead and ask!

no pets and pet friendly badges

Remember: Hotels That Accept Pets will Accept Your ESA!

If it's pet-friendly, it's ESA friendly! You still have to abide by the ESA hotel laws though. Just because your animal is an ESA, that doesn't mean they'll get any "special treatment".

Just Make Sure Fido Has Good Manners!

A well behaved ESA dog is a welcome dog. Although ESAs do not HAVE to be trained, that doesn't mean they should be UNTRAINED. A little bit of obedience training can go a long way!

Common Questions on ESA Hotel Laws

Are there hotel chains that allow pets on their grounds?

Does a hotel have to accept my ESA?

Can I take my cat to a hotel?

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