Do emotional support animal owners have the same rights as those with service animals?

Nov. 5, 2018 – Sometimes people who have been diagnosed with a mental condition will opt to have an emotional support animal, also referred to as a comfort animal. Those animals provide support to a person with disability through affection, companionship or by being a distraction from daily life issues. Comfort animals can play an important role in their daily lives. However, unlike trained service animals, they aren't granted any rights to public spaces.


"There is a difference in service dogs and comfort dogs," said Dennise Burbank, of Yuba City, who has been raising service dogs since 2012. "Service dogs are trained for specified tasks, and are covered under the ADA (American and Disabilities Act). They are allowed to go anywhere their person is allowed to go – stores, restaurants, hospitals, etc."

Emotional support animals, on the other hand, don't share that right.

"Emotional support animals, sometimes called comfort animals, if prescribed to an individual as part of their treatment plan for a mental health disability have civil rights protections in most residential housing situations, and any domestic air travel," said Kevin Campell, CEO of American and Disability Rights, Inc. "Outside of these two specific locations, an emotional support animal has no additional civil rights granted."

While emotional support animals are typically dogs and cats, they are not limited to those species and do not require training. At the national level, emotional support animals are only protected under the Fair Housing Act, Rehab Act and Air Carrier Acts, which means they can legally be banned from entry at restaurants, theaters, grocery stores, etc. at the discretion of any place or business.

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© 2018 the Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, Calif.), Veronica Catlin. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC