The Bottom Line
- What is an emotional support animal? – A therapeutic emotional support animal (ESA) can provide emotional support to someone with a mental or emotional disability. Federal law does not require specific ESA training, unlike service animals, and licensed mental health professionals (LMPH) can determine if someone qualifies for an ESA.
- Are ESAs considered pets in Georgia? – The short answer is no. Emotional support animals are not considered pets and can only be offered to diagnosed individuals.
- How do I get an ESA letter in Georgia? – You can obtain an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional in Georgia. You can also schedule a virtual consultation with an LMHP online to see if you qualify.
- Do landlords in Georgia have to accept ESAs? – Yes, landlords must accept official ESA letters as long as it's a reasonable accommodation request and they help an individual's disability or disability-related need.
Emotional Support Animal Laws in Georgia
Georgia's emotional support animal laws follow the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Generally, most housing providers must allow emotional service animals under the Fair Housing Act; however, public areas, workplaces, and airlines have no legal obligation to accept ESA letters.
Furthermore, individuals falsely claiming to have an emotional support or service animal can face severe penalties, such as jail time, fines, or community service. Emotional support animals are not pets; one should only consider an ESA for legitimate mental or emotional assistance.
Georgia ESA Housing Laws
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects individuals with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers must allow reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals, which they define as:
"…A change, exception, or adjustment to a rule, policy, practice, or service that may be necessary for a person with a disability to have equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, including public and common use spaces."
In addition to the Fair Housing Act, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also specifies the need for reasonable accommodation —or there needs to be a clear link between the person's disability and their accommodation request. An official Georgia ESA letter from an LMHP can help explain this to housing providers, and it only takes a few minutes to see if you qualify.
In most cases, housing providers cannot refuse a reasonable accommodation. Still, they can request information that proves the individual has a disability and needs an ESA reasonable accommodation (if not already apparent). The FHA wouldn't cover these housing examples:
- Owner-occupied buildings that have no more than four units
- Housing is operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members.
- Single-family housing is sold or rented by the owner without an agent.
Moreover, if the conditions are met, "no-pet" policies or pet fees must be waived for your emotional service animal. You may be responsible for any damage caused by your ESA. Reasonable accommodation involving the ESA can center around how they provide therapeutic emotional support to people with disabilities, such as a mental impairment, mental illness, or emotional health.
Georgia ESA Laws for Employment
Employers based out of Georgia have no legal obligation to allow emotional support animals in the workplace. According to the ADA, the only exception would be if the job applicant or employee requires a service animal for assistance. However, emotional support animals (or companion/therapy animals) do not meet the criteria to be considered service animals.
Under the ADA, employers cannot discriminate against job applicants or employees because of a disability. If you obtain a certified ESA letter and communicate with your employer, they may decide to allow your ESA. Of course, this will vary across different companies. You should check with your employer's HR department or ESA policy to determine if this will work for you and your disability-related needs.
Georgia ESA Laws for Travel
Before January of 2021, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) permitted qualified passengers to bring their ESA in the cabin without an extra fee. The law changed, and airlines can now choose to classify emotional support animals as pets. Airlines have discretion over where pets fly (in the cabin or as cargo) and if passengers pay extra fees.
Despite the change in the law, the ACAA does not prevent airlines from allowing ESA accommodations, and it may be possible to travel with your emotional service animal. Not all airlines have the same policies; some will enable passengers to travel with their ESA—with or without a fee. Individuals should obtain an ESA letter from an LMHP in Georgia and check the airline's emotional support animal policy for specific guidance to qualify.
Georgia ESA Public Access Laws
The Americans with Disabilities Act mandates public access for trained service animals, but emotional support animals lack the same protection. The ADA doesn't require public spaces to prevent emotional support animals from accompanying their handlers, and generally, emotional support animals can go where other animals are allowed.
In some public areas that don't allow pets, getting permission and bringing your emotional support animal may be possible. ESA letters can sometimes be used to grant public access, but before taking your ESA with you, check with the general area's pet/emotional support animal policy. If the public place permits emotional service animals but not pets, always bring a copy of your ESA letter for proof.
How to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter in Georgia
In Georgia, you can obtain an ESA letter (for housing, travel, or a combination of both) through a licensed mental health professional in the state. This process can be done online, and we're here to offer our support for your emotional animal needs. We understand if you need a letter quickly, and you can request to get your ESA letter within 24 hours of your visit (varies by state).
Complete Our Assessment
This assessment only takes a few minutes to complete and helps us determine an individual's disability and emotional support animal owners' needs. You can also specify what letter you need, such as for housing, travel, or a combination.
Consult With a Therapist
We'll send over some privacy and consent forms to authorize our clinicians to work with you, and then we will match you with a licensed mental health professional. Next, we will send a link to book your live consultation. You will complete a mental health evaluation during the visit to determine if you qualify for an ESA.
Get Your Emotional Support Animal Letter
Once our LMHP determines that an emotional support animal is essential to your care and well-being, they'll write a legally recognized emotional support animal letter for you. Emotional support animal owners can receive their letters within 24 hours, excluding California residents.
Your satisfaction is important to us. In the unlikely event that your ESA letter does not work for you, we will provide a 100% refund.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
An emotional support animal comforts individuals with a mental or emotional disability, but an ESA shouldn't be mistaken for a pet or a service animal. Emotional support animals are sometimes referred to as companions, therapy, comfort, or assistance animals. According to the HUD:
"An assistance animal is an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, or that provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified effects of a person's disability."
What is a Service Animal?
Having a service animal means having an animal that performs similar functions. They receive specific training to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. Service animals can assist in multiple ways, and they have a direct impact on the handler's disability. According to the ADA, only dogs or miniature horses may be trained as service animals, and they can enter places such as grocery stores, state and local government facilities, hotels, hospitals, and more.
A service animal typically works for their owner by fetching medication, turning lights on and off, retrieving water, pushing wheelchairs, applying deep pressure therapy, and more. A service animal behaves differently than an ESA due to an ESA providing comfort solely with its presence.
Service animals are trained to perform tasks and are recognized as working dogs in every public access area. A service animal also can travel anywhere, while some places may not make reasonable accommodations for an animal providing emotional support. The Air Carrier Access Act can deny an ESA but cannot restrain a service animal. Places can require service animals to be well-behaved but cannot deny access to an individual with a disability and must make other reasonable accommodations for service animals.
Difference Between Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals
Emotional support and service animals may provide therapeutic benefits to individuals with disabilities, but ESAs are not trained to perform a specific task, unlike service animals.
Emotional support animals are covered under the Fair Housing Act but cannot enter a public space without permission. Additionally, emotional support animals can include species of other animals besides dogs and miniature horses.
Service animals, including psychiatric service dogs (PSDs), have more rights than ESAs. Service animals can accompany their owners everywhere, regardless of rules, regulations, or policies. Assistance animals that provide assistance or ESAs may not be allowed everywhere like service animals.
While ESAs are not allowed in some areas, housing providers cannot place breed restrictions on an ESA or service animal. They also cannot place an undue financial burden on residents due to their animals.
Frequently Asked Questions about Georgia ESA Laws
Needing an ESA or service animal can lead to many questions, such as the difference between ESAs and service animals, what kinds of reasonable accommodation a housing provider must make for assistance animals, and much more. Read on for answers to frequently asked questions from service animals and ESA owners.
Do I have to tell my landlord I have an ESA in Georgia?
It depends. If your housing provider has a no-pet policy or wants to charge a fee, you must submit an ESA accommodation request with them if your disability is not apparent.
Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal in Georgia?
There are a few exceptions, but in most cases, housing providers cannot refuse reasonable ESA accommodation requests necessary for the person's disability.
When do I tell my landlord about my ESA in Georgia?
Your landlord has the right to ask for information that proves your disability, and you should notify them as soon as you obtain your ESA letter from an LMHP (unless the disability is already apparent, such as a physical or mental impairment).
Can a landlord in Georgia charge a fee for an emotional support animal?
Not. Unless the housing provider can adequately prove that your request is unreasonable or unnecessary, they must allow your accommodation at no extra charge.
Can you have more than one ESA in Georgia?
Georgia doesn't have specific state or local laws that limit the number of ESAs you can have. Federal law does permit multiple ESAs, but an LMHP must approve them.
What restrictions can my landlord place on my emotional support animal in Georgia?
Landlords may object to or restrict your emotional support animal if the request isn't reasonable. Otherwise, they must accept your request without penalties.