Emotional Support Animals
An in-depth guide that walks through everything you need to know about having emotional support animals in the workplace. Hint: HR policies for the win.

Returning to Work Post-Pandemic: Make the Transition Easier By Bringing Your ESA Dog

September 13, 2021
Alvaro Anspach - CEO & Founder of Pettable
3 minutes

COVID-19 lockdowns highlighted the benefits of working from home, especially those related to pets. Countless people took advantage of flexible schedules and time at home to adopt a pet during the pandemic. Dogs and cats everywhere enjoyed swapping hours at home alone for walks, treats, and cuddles during Zoom meetings.

If you’re like many people, you got used to keeping your pet with you during the workday. Having unbroken time with your dog or cat is especially important if they help reduce anxiety, depression, stress, or other symptoms of a mental or emotional disability. But what happens when you have to go back to work? 

Can you bring your dog to work?

woman at work with emotional support dog
Pet-friendly work environments can really boost morale.

Many companies are creating pet-friendly work environments to boost employee morale. If your employer is one of them, you can just bring your dog with you when you return to the office. 

But what if you don’t work in a pet-inclusive building? If your dog is an emotional support animal (ESA) who helps you cope with a mental illness, you may be able to bring them to work with you anyway. However, you’ll probably need an official ESA Letter as proof that your dog is an assistance animal.

Getting an ESA Letter for your dog

esa dog in the workplace
Using an online service can help you get your ESA Letter quickly.

The easiest and fastest way to get a legitimate ESA Letter for your dog is through an online service. With a web-based service, you don’t have to find a local mental health professional and wait for an appointment to open up. Pettable allows you to get your ESA Letter online in three quick steps:

1. Take the prequalification quiz

Pettable simplifies the process of getting an ESA Letter by taking you through a prequalification questionnaire. This quiz can help determine whether your symptoms could qualify you for an emotional support animal. 

The questions cover a range of mental illness signs, including anxiety, paranoia, lack of motivation, and impulsivity. Going through all the questions only takes about three minutes. If your answers meet the eligibility criteria, you can move on to the official evaluation.

2. Get evaluated

Once you’ve passed the prequalification quiz, you can schedule your consultation with a medical professional. Pettable works with licensed mental health professionals (LMHPs) who can diagnose your condition and determine whether you would benefit from an emotional support dog.

3. Receive your letter

If your LMHP determines that an ESA dog could help mitigate the symptoms of your mental or emotional disability, they will write a recommendation for one. This ESA Letter confirms your dog’s status as an assistance animal. With Pettable, you can get your document in as little as 24 hours after you qualify.

Discussing your ESA dog with your employer

woman and esa dog at work
Tips to work with your employer

The law prevents employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities and requires them to make reasonable accommodations for those employees. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) clearly requires employers to accommodate service animals (e.g., guide dogs), the issue of emotional support animals is less clear. Some employers may modify their no-pets policy for an ESA, but others may deny such a request. 

However, many employers are becoming more receptive to allowing emotional support dogs in the workplace, especially with the correct documentation. Your signed ESA Letter is proof that a licensed medical professional recommends an emotional support animal to treat an emotional or mental disability. 

When you ask for permission to bring your dog to work, give your employer a copy of your official ESA letter. Discuss the potential benefits for the company: how you can perform more efficiently when you’re not dealing with anxiety, panic attacks, or depression. If your employer still won’t allow your ESA in the office, consider asking to continue working from home, at least on a part-time basis.

Top tips for having your dog at work

esa dog in the workplace
How to keep your dog and colleagues happy in the workplace.

It’s beneficial to everyone to make sure your ESA dog doesn’t disrupt the office. 

  • Consider your coworkers’ health and safety: Your dog should be reliably potty trained, vaccinated, and clean. Jumping, chewing, scratching, and aggressive behavior should be eliminated with dedicated training.
  • Ensure good behavior: ESAs don’t need to have any formal training, but it’s a good idea to make sure your dog knows basic commands: sit, stay, and lie down.
  • Retain control: Keep your dog on a leash or within voice control at all times.
  • Prepare your space: Whether you work in an open-plan space or an office with four walls and a door, figure out where your dog will be during the workday. You may want to bring in a basket or pillow to encourage your dog to sleep. If your dog is crate-trained, they might appreciate having a crate at work as a place they can go to feel safe. Keep a well-stocked jar of treats to reward good behavior.

With a bit of preparation, you can make sure that bringing your ESA dog to work is a good experience for everyone.

Reduce stress and anxiety by keeping your ESA dog with you at work

If you have an emotional support dog, you’ve probably gotten used to their comforting presence while working from home during the pandemic. When your employer tells you that it’s time to come back to the office, you may be worried about managing your symptoms without your ESA. 

Fortunately, you may be able to get permission from your employer to bring your dog to work as long as you can show they’re an assistance animal. Getting an ESA Letter online is quick and easy with Pettable. Once you have your letter, you can talk to your employer about bringing your dog when you go back to work.

Meet the author:

Alvaro Anspach - CEO & Founder of Pettable