Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Tucson

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 14, 2021

emotional support animal tucson desertMost people know that the law protects people with service animals, such as guide dogs. However, fewer people realize that people with emotional support animals in Tucson, Arizona can enjoy many of the same protections. If you’re thinking of getting an emotional support animal in Tucson, you’ll find everything you need to know below!

Emotional Support Animal in Tucson: Specific protection

There are three important pieces of legislation that people hoping to get an emotional support animal in Tucson will need to know. These are:

  • The Air Carriers Access Act
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • The Fair Housing Act

These Acts were created to protect the rights of Americans with disabilities. They cover all aspects of life, including employment, rented accommodation, public accommodations, and air travel.

The Acts legislate on many different things, but the most important provisions for people with an emotional support animal in Tucson are those that protect the rights of persons with disabilities to bring assistance animals into places where pets are not ordinarily allowed.

Definition of Assistance Animal

Before getting into the specifics of owning an emotional support animal in Tucson, let’s get clear on the definitions. You might hear service dogs or emotional support dogs referred to as “assistance animals.” This is a generic term for any animals that help a person with disabilities.

Assistance animals are categorized by the roles that they do and the tasks they assist with. Different categories of assistance animals have different rights under the Acts mentioned above. Here are the three main kinds of assistance animals:

  1. Service Animals: service animals, and most commonly service dogs, are highly trained to perform tasks that are specific. This could be helping someone who is visually impaired, aiding with mobility-related tasks, sensing approaching fits, or even helping people with dementia and Alzheimer’s to manage with day-to-day tasks.
  2. Emotional Support Animals:  emotional support animals (also known as companion animals) do not receive special training. Rather, thanks to a strong human-animal bond, emotional support animals offer comfort to, and support the psychological well-being of people with mental disabilities or emotional issues. People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression may all see an improvement in their health and well-being from an emotional support animal. Any domesticated animal can be an ESA, from dogs and cats to miniature horses!
  3. Therapy Animals: a therapy animal (most often a therapy dog) will go to visit people in hospitals, schools, and assisted-living facilities to brighten their day.

Service animals have the most protection under the above-mentioned Acts. Some of the legislation also applies to ESAs (see below for more information), but the Acts do not cover therapy animals.

Now we’ve got that straight, let’s go into more detail on each of the Acts, and what the legislation means for people with an emotional support animal in Tucson.

How to get an Emotional Support Animal in Tucson: CertaPet’s simple 5 min process

  1. Brush up on definitions! Before getting an emotional support animal in Tucson, you’ll want to make sure you know what exactly ESAs are, what they do, and whether one could help you.
  2. Next, you’ll need to see if you qualify for an ESA! Emotional support animals aren’t for everyone, after all. CertaPet offers a free, 5-minute screening process that helps you assess if you are eligible for an emotional support animal.
  3. If you do qualify for an emotional support animal, the next step is to connect with a licensed mental health professional! CertaPet can help connect you with an LMHP mental health professional in Arizona, and you should then be able to receive your ESA letter within 2 business days. Easy peasy!

An emotional support letter is an official document that proves your need for an ESA. It must be less than a year old and 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
  • The emotional support animal accompanying you is necessary for your mental health or treatment
  • The name and type of animal you have as an ESA, and how many (if you have more than one)
  • That the issuer of the letter is a licensed medical doctor or mental health professional, and 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 issued.

emotional support animal in tucson airport

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), people with disabilities are protected from discrimination at the hands of commercial airlines. The ACAA states that passengers with disabilities must be able to travel with assistance animals (including service animals and emotional support animals) free of charge, even if the airline usually requires animals to travel in the cargo hold.

However, for people with an emotional support animal in Tucson, take note! Most commercial USA airlines have recently tightened their rules regarding traveling with emotional support animals (but not service dogs). Among these new rules, you may encounter some or all of the following:

  • Passengers are required to provide an ESA letter, as well as any additional documentation, (such as proof of vaccinations or a veterinarian’s certificate) up to 48 hours before traveling. For more information on ESA letters, see below.
  • The airline may refuse boarding to any emotional support animals that the airline deems improperly cleaned, or those that or do not behave properly in the airport or on board (think barking or growling at other customers).
  • Passengers are only permitted to bring an emotional support dog or cat on board, no other animals.

Always check with your airline before traveling. 

Employment Laws

People with disabilities have their right to work protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which also protects against workplace discrimination. As part of the ADA, service dogs must be permitted in the workplace, and employers must make “reasonable accommodation” to support them.

Although emotional support animals are not covered by the ADA, it is worth asking your employer if they would permit emotional support animals on a case-by-case basis, or with an ESA letter.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

The Fair Housing Act protects tenants with disabilities from discrimination by housing providers and landlords. As with the ADA, landlords must make “reasonable accommodation” to support tenants with disabilities, and this includes their service dogs and emotional support dogs. A landlord or housing provider may ask tenants for an ESA letter, however.

ESA Campus Housing

The Fair Housing Act also covers university campuses, so students with disabilities can bring their emotional support animals or service dogs with them. Again, university housing providers may require an ESA letter. (See below for more information).

emotional support animal tucson college

Exception to Rules

As we’ve seen, although some of the Acts expressly permit emotional support animals, an ESA letter may still be required. Furthermore, the Acts do not state that emotional support animals may be brought into public spaces (such as libraries) or private businesses. Permission must be given on a case-by-case basis. Even where emotional support animals are permitted, they may be asked to leave if they are unclean or improperly behaved.

It’s your responsibility to make sure your ESA knows how to behave in public.

Punishment for misrepresenting an assistance animal

Many states have strict laws against falsely representing an assistance animal, which could result in a fine or even jail time. Although Arizona is not one of these states, anyone found doing so could still face penalties or ejection from their job, school or rented accommodation.

5 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

Now we’ve covered the legal protection for emotional support animals in Tucson, but there are still a few important facts that you need to know!

  1. There is no such thing as an emotional support animal certificate or register. As emotional support animals do not receive special training in the same way as service animals, the animal itself cannot be certified.
  2. The only acceptable “proof” of having an emotional support animal is an ESA letter, which you must obtain from a licensed mental health professional or a medical doctor. The MD or LMHP must hold a valid license that is specific to your state, and they must be treating you as a patient for a mental health issue.
  3. Although many people get confused about the difference between emotional support animals and service animals, they are treated differently by the federal law. Make sure you know the difference, and if you missed the full definitions above, make sure to go back and give them a read.
  4. There is no law requiring ESAs to wear tags, vests or harnesses identifying them in public. Many people prefer to do so, however, to save the hassle.
  5. Remember though: a dog vest or ID badge by itself is not enough to identify an ESA—only an ESA letter can do that! We’ll go over exactly how to get an ESA letter in the next section.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

Animal shelters are bursting with loving animals looking for a home. These places can make a great place to start your search for an emotional support animal in Tucson. Try the Pima Animal Care Center, Hermitage Cat Shelter or Pima Paws for Life. Tell them that you are looking for an emotional support animal, and they should be able to match you with an animal with a suitable temperament.

Alternatively, you could train your emotional support animal up from a pup, but this can be very labor-intensive.

Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal

Once you have an emotional support animal in Tucson, you’ll want to go places together for some creature comforts! Luckily, Tucson has lots of dog-friendly spots for you and your emotional support dog to explore together.

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

Dogs love to run around and let off some steam, and emotional support dogs are no different! Tucson has some great dog runs, including Agua Caliente Park, Christopher Columbus Dog Park, and Brandi Fenton Memorial Park.

Dog-friendly restaurants and bars

Phew! If all that running around has tired you and your emotional support dog out, why not stop off in one of Tucson’s many dog-friendly restaurants? Zinburger, Cup Cafe at The Hotel Congress and Renee’s Organic Oven are all highly rated.

Resorts, fitness, and spas

If you’re planning a vacation with an emotional support animal in Tucson, why not stay at one of the city’s many dog-friendly resorts? Try Lodge on the Desert, La Posada Lodge & Casitas, or The Lodge at Ventana Canyon.


Keep an eye out for dog-friendly events in Tucson during the spring and summer months. They can be a great way to socialize your emotional support dog and to meet other dog owners.

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

If you’re thinking of getting an emotional support animal in Tucson, Arizona, the most important step is to get connected with a licensed mental health professional, who will issue you an ESA letter. With CertaPet’s quick and simple process, the hassle is taken out of finding a suitable LMHP, and you could even get your ESA letter in as little as 2 working days.

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