Fact checked

Arkansas Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Laws

Emotional support animal laws in Arkansas are different than most other states. Arkansas has a specific state law HB1420 that requires a 30-day relationship with a licensed mental health professional before they can write you an ESA letter.

April Brightman
May 29, 2024
November 29, 2023
7 minute read
Updated By
Matt Fleming
February 8, 2024
Expert Reviewed By:
November 29, 2023
August 31, 2023
7 minute read
February 8, 2024
Arkansas recently enacted a state law HB 1420 on emotional support animals. Learn more about the law and get a legally compliant ESA letter with Pettable.

In Arkansas, you need to be familiar with both federal and state laws on emotional support animals. Arkansas is one of the few states that has enacted specific legislature that impacts emotional support animals and the process of obtaining an ESA letter. Key points you should be aware of include the need for a minimum 30-day relationship with your healthcare provider before them being eligible to write you an ESA letter. The new law also enforces higher penalties on companies offering illegitimate ESA or service animal products, and raises penalties for misrepresenting pet as an assistance animal.

Arkansas Emotional Support Animal Laws

There are a few emotional support animal laws you need to know about in Arkansas. The first two are federal laws, the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act which dictate ESAs in both housing and on airlines. Arkansas also has a state law HB1420 which implements specific requirements for ESA letters, including a requirement of a 30-day relationship with your licensed mental health professional prior to recieving an ESA letter.

Emotional Support Animal Laws in Arkansas

Many Arkansans are proud animal lovers who keep a wide variety of critters in and around their homes. But when it comes to owning an emotional support animal (ESA), the Natural State has enacted some laws that bolster the federal protections afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA). In August of 2023, the state legislature passed Arkansas Law HB1420, which tightens up the rules for ESA owners and how they comport themselves and represent their assistance animals.

Emotional Support Animal Laws in Arkansas

Many Arkansans are proud animal lovers who keep a wide variety of critters in and around their homes. But when it comes to owning an emotional support animal (ESA), the Natural State has enacted some laws that bolster federal protections. In August of 2023, the state legislature passed Arkansas Law HB1420, which tightens up the rules for ESA owners and how they comport themselves and represent their assistance animals.

Arkansas ESA Housing Laws

Arkansas law HB1420 recognizes and reiterates the protections in place for emotional support animals when it comes to housing and housing assistance. These rights are protected under federal laws as part of the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which states that a person with a disability who uses a service animal may request reasonable accommodation for housing in homes that don’t typically allow pets. To make this request you’ll need an ESA letter for housing to present to your landlord.

Arkansas ESA Laws for Travel

While emotional support animals have the right to request reasonable accommodations for housing and employment, there are fewer protections for ESAs when it comes to travel. They’re not guaranteed access to public transportation like trains, buses, or ferries the same way that service animals are.

Additionally on the federal level according to new laws from the U.S. Department of Transportation, as of 2021 airlines aren’t required to transport emotional support animals. They are still required to transport service animals regardless of breed or size, free of charge. There are still a few airlines that will transport emotional support animals in the cabin.

A woman sitting on a dock with her emotional support animal.

Arkansas Law HB1420 on Emotional Support Animals

Enacted in 2023, the Arkansas Law HB1420 is meant to define the difference between ESAs and service dogs, both psychiatric and physical — and to prevent owner fraud. While service dogs are permitted to join their owners in public accommodations, ESAs are not afforded the same protections. In the Natural State, trying to pass off an ESA as a service dog is a crime, and the standards for ESA documentation have been raised to combat assistance animal fraud by individuals and companies.

Emotional Support Dog Sales Notice Requirements

The new law requires individuals and businesses selling or providing a dog as an ESA to include a written notice stating that the animal doesn’t have the training to qualify as a service animal. Likewise, companies that sell ESA letters and related gear or accessories must inform customers of which products are necessary and which are optional. If a company sells special harnesses, ESA ID cards, vests, or other similar products, it must inform the customer that these items do not qualify their ESA as a service animal. 

Healthcare Provider Requirements

The other side of HB1420 strengthens the requirements for licensed mental health professionals (LMHPs) who evaluate patients and issue ESA letters. To issue official emotional support animal letters, the LMHP must be currently licensed in the state of Arkansas, and they must have an established relationship with patients for at least one month. Additionally, ESA owners must be reevaluated and issued a new ESA letter annually. These rules are meant to prevent ESA and service dog fraud. 

An ESA owner on a hike in Arkansas with their emotional support dog

How to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter in Arkansas

If you want to bring an emotional support animal into your home life, you’ll need to get a legitimate ESA letter in Arkansas from a trusted provider such as Pettable. Since ESAs only provide general companionship and affection, they don’t require any specialized training, but you still have to follow some standard guidelines. Just complete our assessment, consult with one of our expert LMHPs, and have a 30-day evaluation; we’ll take it from there.

Complete Our Assessment

The first step to getting a legitimate ESA letter is completing our assessment. Pettable’s brief questionnaire typically only takes about 3 minutes and can be easily done from the comfort of home. We’ll use the assessment to gather more information and to provide you with the best possible service tailored to you.

Consult with a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP)

Once we have more information, we’ll match you with a licensed therapist in your area to complete your consultation. In Arkansas, providers are required to establish a relationship with clients for 30 days before providing an emotional support letter. Pettable works with a wide network of licensed professionals who can assist you in meeting all requirements for getting an ESA letter.

Get Your Emotional Support Animal Letter

After you’ve completed the required consultations, you’ll be ready to receive your legitimate emotional support animal letter! For an ESA letter to be considered legal and legitimate, it has to meet the following criteria:

  • Written on the official letterhead of the provider’s practice
  • Includes the license number of the provider writing the letter
  • States that you have a qualifying disability 
  • Directly recommends that an ESA is part of your care plan 
An example graphic of an ESA letter with the clinicians license information clearly stated.
An example of what your ESA letter will look like.

Psychiatric Service Dog Laws in Arkansas

While Arkansas has HB1420 on the books to regulate ESAs, the state doesn’t have any state-specific laws regarding psychiatric service dogs (PSDs). However, PSDs are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, unlike emotional support animals.

The ADA permits Arkansas residents to bring their official PSDs with them in public accommodations such as shopping centers, restaurants, medical facilities, and other public spaces where pets are not typically allowed. The FHA allows properly certified PSD owners to keep their service dogs in their rental homes, including condominiums, apartment complexes, and multi-family homes. And for Arkansans who want to fly with their PSDs, the ACAA permits service dogs to accompany their owners in the cabin for most domestic flights.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

For Arkansans struggling with mental or emotional health challenges, an ESA could make an incredible difference in their lives. At Pettable, we strive to provide more than just exceptional experiences, we also want to inform individuals who want to bring an ESA into their lives. Here are the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions about emotional support animals.

What is the Fair Housing Act (FHA)?

Enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the FHA prohibits discrimination against individuals based on race, religion, sex, and since 1988, disability, when it comes to buying or renting housing. It requires housing providers to let disabled individuals keep assistance animals in their homes as long as they follow some basic behavioral rules regarding property and other tenants.

Do you need to register your emotional support animal in Arkansas?

Arkansans are not required to register their ESAs with any sort of governmental or civil database. There is no federal registration requirement for ESAs or service dogs across the United States. Some states and localities may have specific requirements, but not in the Natural State. 

What animals can be service animals in Arkansas?

Whether in Arkansas or any other state, service animal status is reserved for professionally trained dogs, and in some instances, miniature horses. On the other hand, nearly any domesticated animal can qualify as an ESA.

A picture of Little Rock, Arkansas city skyline.

Does the Americans with Disabilities Act cover emotional support animals?

Unfortunately, the ADA doesn’t offer any protections for ESAs. The law only covers service dogs (or trained and certified mini horses).

How do I get a dog certified as an emotional support animal in Arkansas?

To get your dog (or other domesticated pet) certified as an official emotional support animal, all you need to do is consult with a licensed mental health provider (LMHP). After establishing a professional relationship for at least 30 days, the LMHP will evaluate your mental health condition and give you an official diagnosis. Finally, they will issue your legitimate ESA letter, which includes their current credentials and signature.

What is an emotional support animal?

An emotional support animal or ESA is any assistance animal that helps to alleviate symptoms of a mental health condition. Emotional support animals don’t have to be trained and can be any type of animal — not just dogs. 

What is a service animal?

A service animal is a special assistance animal, trained to perform specific tasks or to do work for their handler. The jobs performed by service animals like psychiatric service dogs directly support challenges related to an individual’s disability, like medication reminders for some conditions or physical assistance with mobility for others.

What is the difference between an emotional support animal and a psychiatric service dog?

The biggest difference between an emotional support animal and a psychiatric service dog comes down to training. While psychiatric service animals undergo individualized training to perform specific tasks that support their handlers’ disability, emotional support animals don’t have to complete any training to support their people. The presence of an emotional support animal provides a sense of comfort and calmness and helps with emotional regulation.

Meet the author:
April Brightman

April Brightman is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for traveling and hiking with her rescue pup, Marley. She's written for pet-centered sites like Outward Hound, as well as outdoorsy adventure brands like BearVault, Hipcamp, and Explorer Chick.

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