Fact checked

Michigan Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Laws – A Complete Guide for 2022

Learn how an ESA letter can guarentee approval for an emotional support animal in Michigan.
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
September 7, 2022
Updated on:  
September 7, 2022

If you have a mental or emotional disability, an emotional support animal may be right for you. Michigan has no specific ESA law in place, but the state generally follows federal guidelines, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA).

Whether you're seeking answers for ESA housing, travel, or public laws, we are here to help. If you feel ready to get an ESA or believe one may help you, we also review how to obtain a letter from a licensed mental health professional (LMPH). Our team shares your passion for animals, and we truly want you to get the support and assistance you deserve.  

The Bottom Line 

  • What is an emotional support animal? – An emotional support animal (ESA) can provide relief to someone who has 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 Michigan? – The short answer is no. ESAs are not considered pets and can only be offered to diagnosed individuals.
  • How do I get an ESA letter in Michigan? – You can obtain an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional in Michigan. Now, you can also schedule a virtual consultation with a LMHP online to see if you qualify.
  • Do landlords in Michigan have to accept ESAs?Yes, landlords must accept official ESA letters as long as it's a reasonable accommodation request.

Emotional Support Animal Laws in Michigan

Michigan'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; 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.

Michigan ESA Housing Laws

The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects individuals with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Under the FHA, 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, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) also specifies the accommodation must be reasonable and necessary—or there needs to be a clear link between the person's disability and their accommodation request. An official Michigan 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 reasonable and necessary ESA accommodations. Still, they can request information that proves the individual has a disability and needs an ESA accommodation (if not already apparent). The FHA wouldn't cover these housing examples:

  • Owner-occupied buildings that have no more than four units
  • Housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to members
  • Single-family housing sold or rented by the owner without the use of an agent

Moreover, if the conditions are met, "no-pet" policies or pet fees must be waived for your emotional service animal.

Michigan ESA Laws for Employment

Employers based out of Michigan have no legal obligation to allow ESAs 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, ESAs (or companion/therapy animals) do not meet the criteria to be considered a service animal.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) states that ESAs lack specific training and only provide therapeutic benefits through the animal's presence; thus, the ESA is not legally required to be allowed in the workplace. However, an employer may still decide to allow your ESA to accompany you to work.

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, and you should check with your employer's HR department or ESA policy to determine if this will work for you.

Michigan 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, and some will enable passengers to travel with their ESA—with or without a fee. Individuals should obtain an ESA letter from an LMHP in Michigan and check 

the airline's emotional support animal policy for specific guidance to qualify.

Michigan 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 ESAs from accompanying their handlers, and generally, emotional support animals can go where pets 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, be sure to check with the public area's pet/emotional support animal policy. If the public area does permit emotional service animals but not pets, always make sure to bring a copy of your ESA letter for proof.

How to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter in Michigan

In Michigan, 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.

Complete Our Assessment

This assessment only takes a few minutes to complete and helps us determine your situation and emotional animal support needs. You can also specify what kind of 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 licensed mental health professional determines that an emotional support animal is essential to your care and wellbeing, they'll write a legally recognized emotional support animal letter for you. Michigan residents also have the option to get an ESA letter within 24 hours from the time of the consultation.

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?

While service animals perform 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 and miniature horses may train as service animals and are allowed to enter places such as grocery stores, state and local government facilities, hotels, hospitals, and more.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions about Michigan ESA Laws

Do I have to tell my landlord I have an ESA in Michigan?

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 Michigan?

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 Michigan?

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 a licensed mental health professional (unless the disability is already apparent).

Can a landlord in Michigan charge a fee for an emotional support animal?

Absolutely 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 Michigan?

Michigan doesn't have specific state or local laws that limit the number of ESAs you can have. Federal law does permit multiple ESAs, but they must be approved by a licensed mental health professional.

What restrictions can my landlord place on my emotional support animal in Michigan?

Landlords may object or place restrictions on your emotional support animal if the request isn't reasonable. Otherwise, they must accept your request without penalties.

Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.