When it comes to Emotional Support Animals (ESAs), there are federal laws that apply to everyone, but there are also laws that differ from state to state. That’s where things get tricky. An ESA law that has recently been issued in the state of California may not necessarily apply to someone living in Iowa.
If you are a resident of Massachusetts, you have come to the right place. This comprehensive guide will tell you everything you need to know about emotional support animal laws in this North-Eastern state.
The Bottom Line
What is an emotional support animal? – an emotional support animal is an assistance animal that helps alleviate at least one symptom of its handler’s mental or emotional disability.
- Are ESAs considered pets in Massachusetts? – ESAs are not considered pets in Massachusetts. Both service animals and emotional support animals are considered assistance animals
- How do I get an ESA letter in Massachusetts? – an ESA Letter must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). You can either receive this letter through an LMHP you are currently seeing or through a therapist in an online network
- Do landlords in Massachusetts have to accept ESAs? – Landlords in Massachusetts must accept ESAs in Massachusetts, barring a few exceptions. If your ESA places an undue financial burden on your landlord or poses a direct threat to other tenants in your building, then your landlord can deny your ESA.
Emotional Support Animal Laws in Massachusetts
While service animals are allowed in just about every public space, emotional support animals do not receive the same privileges. This section will outline the domains where ESAs can and do not enjoy access.
Massachusetts ESA Housing Laws
Although emotional support animals are not considered service animals under Massachusetts law, under federal law, they are still protected under the Fair Housing Act as assistance animals. An assistance animal is a term that encompasses both service animals and emotional support animals. According to Mass Gov, individuals with any disability, including a mental or emotional disability, have the right to request reasonable accommodation for their assistance animal, even in buildings with a “no pet” policy.
If you have an emotional support animal and plan on requesting a reasonable accommodation, you must keep a few things in mind. A housing provider or landlord does have the right to request “medical documentation,” proving that your assistance animal is vital for your health and safety if your physical or mental impairment is not apparent or known. In this case, the only medical documentation you need to provide your landlord is an emotional support animal letter (ESA letter). While your landlord cannot demand any pet-related fees or pet deposits for an ESA, they can charge a tenant fee for any damage caused by an ESA.
Generally, a facility cannot deny an emotional support animal reasonable accommodation based on breed, size, or weight. However, there are a few circumstances in which housing providers are legally allowed to deny ESA housing. If an ESA might impose an undue financial burden on a landlord or threaten the health and safety of other tenants in the building, then it will be denied housing. Rest assured, these determinations will be made based on evidence regarding the animal’s behavior, not on mere speculation.
Massachusetts ESA Laws for Employment
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers cannot discriminate against any individual with a disability. Emotional support animals are unfortunately not protected by this law.
If you present your employer with an emotional support letter in Massachusetts, your employer may make an exception and allow you to bring your ESA into the workplace. However, it’s important to remember that this decision will be entirely up to your employer and determined case-by-case basis. If having an ESA in your work environment will be disruptive to the business in any way, there’s a good chance that your employer will deny your ESA access. If your employer does deny your ESA access in the workplace, you must accept their decision.
If having any ESA in the office is not conducive to your workplace, your employer may be willing to grant you flexibility in other ways. For instance, rather than bringing your ESA to work, you could request to work from home a couple of days a week in order to be closer to your ESA.
Massachusetts ESA Laws for Travel
In January 2021, the U.S Department of Transportation announced new rules regarding emotional support animals on airplanes. While ESAs were previously considered service animals under the Air Carrier Access Act, they are no longer. This means that U.S airlines are no longer required to allow emotional support animals in the cabin.
Only trained service dogs are permitted to ride in the cabin for free with their handlers. Even service animal handlers must complete a form detailing their service dog’s training and agree to an airline policy that aggressive or misbehaved dogs will be removed from the airline or made to travel in a carrier.
If flying with your ESA is imperative for you, there are a few routes that you can take. Firstly, you can abide by the airline’s policy for flying with a pet. If your ESA is small and well-behaved, then you may be able to pay a small fee and stow your emotional support dog under the seat in front of you.
You can also try to certify your dog as a psychiatric service dog (PSD). Psychiatric service dogs are granted the same flight privileges as service animals. This may be especially helpful for individuals who have Aerophobia, a phobia of flying on planes.
Massachusetts ESA Public Access Laws
Unlike service dogs, who enjoy widespread access to just about anywhere, Massachusetts does not protect the right to bring ESAs into public spaces. According to Mass Gov, “any places that are open to the public to permit service animals to accompany people with disabilities anywhere members of the public are allowed to go.”However, emotional support animals “do not meet the definition of “service animals” under the ADA and Massachusetts law. This means ESAs are not allowed in public places such as grocery stores, restaurants, or shopping malls.
However, some businesses are pet-friendly, particularly restaurants with outdoor seating areas, open-air malls, and hotels. Make sure to call ahead and check-in with a business first before bringing your ESA along for an outing.
How to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter in Massachusetts
To obtain housing rights for your emotional support animal, you must present your landlord with an emotional support animal letter. This is the only document you must provide your landlord to live with your ESA, but your letter must be valid and legitimate. ESA letters can be issued by doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists, but they can also be obtained through established online businesses. Here are the three easy steps you must follow to receive an ESA letter from Pettable.
Complete Our Assessment
First, you must fill out a short survey on our website to provide us with basic information about your emotional support animal needs. You will answer logistical questions about where you live, how many ESAs you wish to certify, and what type of ESA letter you need (housing, travel, or a combination of both).
Consult with a Therapist
After filling out some privacy and consent documents, we will match you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state of Massachusetts. You will be able to book a time for your live consultation whenever it is most convenient for you. During your therapist consultation, your LMHP will determine whether you are qualified for an emotional support animal, or if there is a better course of treatment for you.
Get Your Emotional Support Animal Letter
If your therapist decides that an emotional support animal is the best course of treatment for you, you will promptly receive a legally recognized ESA letter. If time is of the essence, handlers can fast-track the process and receive their letter within 24 hours of their consultation, excluding California residents.
Customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance to us. If you don’t receive an ESA letter from us, you will receive a full refund.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
Emotional support animals provide individuals with mental or emotional disabilities emotional support through their mere presence. Although ESAs are not required to undergo training or certification, they must help alleviate at least one aspect of an individual’s disability. A licensed mental health professional (LMHP) must be the one to determine whether a presence of an animal is needed for the mental or emotional health of the patient. While emotional support animals are most commonly dogs, they can technically be any breed of animal. Other common emotional support animals include cats, and in some cases, miniature horses.
What is a Service Animal?
According to the ADA, service animals are trained to perform tasks that directly help ease the challenges associated with their handler’s physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or mental disability. The most common types of service animals include guide, hearing, medical alert, mobility, autism, and psychiatric service dogs. While these assistance animals are referred to as “service animals,” all service animals must be service dogs. No other animal species is permitted to be a service animal. The ADA protects the rights of people with disabilities to bring their service dogs with them to most public places. Service animals are permitted to travel in the cabin of air crafts under the Air Carrier Access Act and are granted housing privileges under the Fair Housing Act.
Difference Between Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals
While emotional support animals and service animals are terms that people often use interchangeably, there are vast differences between these two types of assistance animals. While ESAs are not required to undergo any sort of training, service animals must be trained to help assist directly with their owner’s disability. For instance, a service animal can be trained to guide someone who is blind, alert a person who is deaf, pull a wheelchair, alert and protect a person who is having a seizure, and even remind a person with mental illness to take prescribed medication. While an emotional support animal can be any species of animal, service animals must be dogs.
Service animals are granted far more legal protection than ESAs. Service animals are allowed in all public places, including restaurants, theaters, shops, hotels, and government agencies. Under the Air Carrier Access Act, service animals are also allowed to fly on planes, and under the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are also allowed inside the workplace. Like service animals, ESAs are also protected under the Fair Housing Act, but their legal protection ends there.
Frequently Asked Questions about Massachusetts ESA Laws
Do I have to tell my landlord I have an ESA in Massachusetts?
It is highly recommended that you tell your landlord about your ESA in Massachusetts. Being open and transparent with your landlord as soon as possible increases your chances of establishing a positive relationship with your housing provider.
Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal in Massachusetts?
In certain circumstances, your landlord can deny an emotional support animal in Massachusetts. For instance, If your ESA places an undue financial burden on your landlord, or threatens the safety of any tenants, then your landlord can deny your ESA.
When do I tell my landlord about my ESA in Massachusetts?
You can tell your landlord about your ESA before or after you move into your accommodation. For the sake of establishing positive relations, it is highly recommended that you inform your landlord of your ESA before you move in.
Can a landlord in Massachusetts charge a fee for an emotional support animal?
No. In Massachusetts, emotional support animals are not considered pets. Therefore, landlords cannot demand that you pay any pet deposits or pet fees for your ESA unless your ESA causes damage to your accommodation.
Can you have more than one ESA in Massachusetts?
No specific Massachusetts laws regulate how many ESAs you are allowed to have. Therefore, you are allowed more than one ESA, as long as the number of ESAs you have in your accommodation is feasible.
What restrictions can my landlord place on my emotional support animal in Massachusetts?
Your landlord is not allowed to discriminate against an ESA based on breed, size, or weight, as long as the request is reasonable. For instance, a miniature horse will most definitely be denied reasonable accommodation in a studio apartment.