In general, Colorado is a very pet-friendly state. But does that mean you can take your furry friend with you wherever you go or keep them in your home? Unfortunately, no. Many housing providers restrict pets. And while there are a lot of pet-friendly businesses, stores, and restaurants, the state doesn't require proprietors to allow animals.
However, not all animals are subject to pet restrictions. Emotional support animals (ESAs) have certain legal protections in Colorado. If your animal provides comfort and support that helps alleviate the effects of anxiety, depression, or another mental or emotional condition, they are an emotional support animal with certain rights.
Emotional support animal laws can be complicated in Colorado and throughout the US. Read on to learn exactly where you can bring your emotional support animal and what sort of documentation you need to guarantee your legal rights as an ESA owner.
The Bottom Line
- What is an emotional support animal? An emotional support animal provides comfort and companionship to their owner to help alleviate the symptoms of an emotional or mental disability. ESAs are commonly referred to as assistance or companion animals.
- Are ESAs considered pets in Colorado? No. Colorado and the US federal government both have laws that differentiate between pets and emotional support animals.
- How do I get an ESA Letter in Colorado? With Pettable’s online service, you can get a legitimate ESA Letter that meets state requirements quickly and easily.
- Do landlords in Colorado have to accept ESAs? Generally, yes. There are a few exceptions for certain types of housing and for emotional support animals that are dangerous to people and property.
Emotional Support Animal Laws in Colorado
Emotional support animals are subject to federal laws in Colorado, and there are state rules as well. In Colorado, ESA housing laws are clear, but rules for taking your emotional support animal in public are more complicated.
Colorado ESA Housing Laws
Every state in the US, including Colorado, is subject to the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). This set of laws is designed to prevent discrimination in housing situations. Under the FHA, housing providers and landlords are prohibited from discriminating against individuals based on protected criteria: race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), familial status, and disability.
The Fair Housing Act requires housing providers to make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities, including allowing them to keep assistance animals in their homes. Both the US and Colorado state governments consider emotional support animals to be assistance animals protected under the FHA. This means that in most cases, emotional support animals are exempt from pet restrictions and related fees (there are exceptions for ESAs that are dangerous, not potty trained, or not suited to the housing environment).
Colorado requires housing providers to follow FHA regulations, but it also has laws against claiming that a pet is an assistance animal. Passing off a pet as an emotional support animal to avoid pet fees or seek housing accommodation is a class 2 petty offense with fines from $45 to $500.
Colorado ESA Laws for Employment
There are many workplaces in Colorado that are pet friendly. These places often allow employees and patrons to bring pets on the premises, provided they are well-behaved and potty trained. However, there are no state laws that require employers to allow pets or assistance animals in the office.
There are state and federal laws that protect service animals. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities and requires them to make reasonable accommodations, including allowing the presence of service animals.
A service dog isn’t the same as an ESA. Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for their owners, such as protecting them during a seizure or reminding them to take their medication. By law, service dogs may accompany their owners almost everywhere, except where their presence would compromise the environment. For example, a service dog can be in a hospital waiting room, but not in a sterile operating room.
Under Colorado law, it’s a class 2 petty offense to misrepresent a pet as a service animal. The fines are the same as those for misrepresenting a pet as an assistance animal: $45 to $500.
Colorado ESA Laws for Travel
If you’re traveling in Colorado, you can’t necessarily take your emotional support animal with you on public transportation. Some providers allow assistance animals and even pets, but not all of them do. Transportation providers must allow service animals, but ESAs don’t have the same protections.
Can you take your emotional support animal on an airplane? It depends on the airline. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) is a federal law that prohibits air carriers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Airlines must make reasonable accommodations for them, including allowing service dogs to travel in the cabin with their owners for free.
In its original form, the Air Carrier Access Act protected emotional support animals as well as service animals. However, that changed in 2020. The law was updated that year to exclude emotional support animals. Some airlines have chosen to maintain their ESA programs, but many have stopped allowing assistance animals to fly with their owners.
Colorado ESA Public Access Laws
The ADA requires businesses and public spaces to allow service dogs to accompany their owners. Service dogs can go pretty much anywhere, although business owners are allowed to remove a service animal that’s out of control, threatening property damage or injury, or not potty trained. Remember, however, that emotional support animals aren’t the same as service animals.
Are ESAs allowed in public in Colorado? Generally, it’s up to the owner of the premises. Most public spaces fall under “public accommodation” rules in Colorado:
- Entertainment spaces, concert halls, and stadiums
- Restaurants and other food establishments
- Retail and rental locations
- Houses of worship
- Gathering spaces and convention centers
- Museums and libraries
- Hotels and lodging providers
- Transportation stations
Colorado doesn’t require owners and proprietors of businesses and public spaces to allow emotional support animals. If you want to take your ESA to a hotel or a restaurant, it’s best to call first and see whether it’s allowed. If you do get permission but your ESA threatens others, has an accident indoors, or acts out of control, the premises owner may remove you and your animal.
How to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter in Colorado
A Colorado housing provider has the right to ask for documentation proving that your animal is an ESA. With Pettable, you can get an ESA Letter for housing online.
Complete Our Assessment
Our online pre-screening quiz lets you know whether you’re a good candidate for an emotional support animal. Once you pass, you can select the type of ESA Letter you need: travel, housing, or a combination.
Consult With a Therapist
You’ll get some consent forms to sign, and then you can schedule a session with a licensed mental health professional. During your telehealth consultation, the LMHP will evaluate your condition and determine if you’re eligible for an ESA.
Get your Emotional Support Animal Letter
If the LMHP feels that you’d benefit from an emotional support animal, they will write and sign an official ESA Letter. With rush service, you can get your letter in as little as 24 hours (California residents excluded).
We guarantee your satisfaction with our service and will refund 100% of your money if your letter doesn’t work as intended.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal is more than just a pet. It’s an animal whose comforting, calming presence helps mitigate the effects of a mental or emotional disability. Many people with anxiety, depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), agoraphobia, autism, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and other conditions rely on emotional support animals to improve their quality of life.
ESAs don’t need to be trained to perform any specific tasks, although they can be. Any type of animal can be an emotional support animal, but dogs and cats are the most common.
What is a Service Animal?
A service animal isn’t a pet either. The Americans with Disabilities Act provides the legal definition of a service animal that applies in Colorado and all other states. A service animal is a dog (and in some cases, a miniature horse) that works or performs certain tasks related to their owner’s disability.
A guide dog who leads a blind owner is a common example of a service animal. There are also psychiatric service dogs who can protect their owners during panic attacks or alert them when it’s time to take their medication.
Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Animal
There are two main components that define the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal: training and species. Service animals are limited to dogs and miniature horses whereas there are no restrictions on the type of animal that can be an ESA.
The other difference is training. A service animal must be trained to work or perform certain tasks for their owner, and those tasks must relate directly to the owner’s disability. Emotional support animals don’t need any special training. You don’t have to get an emotional support animal from a special breeder or trainer. If you already have an animal that provides essential comfort and support, you can get ESA documentation for them.
If you already have a dog that you wish to make into a PSD, you may choose to train the dog yourself. Self-training a psychiatric service dog is possible with the right knowledge and a bit of time. Pettable’s online PSD training program is available to provide you with all the information you need to train your dog, including basic mental health-supporting tasks you can teach your pet to perform and ways to train your dog to behave obediently in public. The entirety of the program is video-based and guided by a professional psychiatric service dog trainer, allowing you to train your pet at the pace most comfortable for their development. If you want to learn how to train your dog with this course, take our online quiz to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions about Colorado ESA Laws
Make sure you understand all the federal and state laws about emotional support animals before you get one. Here are some clear answers to common questions.
Do I have to tell my landlord I have an ESA in Colorado?
If you want to claim exemption from pet restrictions and avoid pet fees for your emotional support animal, you need to inform your landlord of your animal’s ESA status and provide a copy of your ESA Letter.
Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal in Colorado?
In most cases, no. There are some types of housing that are exempt from FHA rules, and landlords can deny ESAs that threaten the safety of other residents or cause property damage.
When do I tell my landlord about my ESA in Colorado?
While you don’t have to tell a potential landlord about your ESA before you sign the lease, you may want to. Your ESA Letter proves that your animal isn’t a pet and isn’t subject to restrictions or extra fees.
Can a landlord in Colorado charge a fee for an emotional support animal?
No. Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers may not charge extra fees or require a pet deposit for an emotional support animal.
Can you have more than one ESA in Colorado?
Yes, but a landlord may ask to see proof of your need for each one. That means your ESA Letter for housing should clearly indicate your need for each emotional support animal you have.
What restrictions can my landlord place on my emotional support animal in Colorado?
Landlords can deny an ESA that would create an “undue financial or administrative burden” or change the nature of the housing provider’s business. For example, a landlord could deny ESAs that are farm animals not suited to living indoors.