If your cat, dog, bird, or other pet improves your life and well-being, you might have an emotional support animal (ESA). ESAs are animals whose loving presence comforts and alleviates symptoms of an emotional or mental disability, such as anxiety, depression, or autism. ESAs qualify as assistance animals, and specific Missouri laws protect them.
So does that mean you can bring your ESA anywhere you go? Not exactly. ESAs don't have as many rights or all the same protections as service animals (e.g., guide dogs), which are allowed to accompany their owners everywhere. Service animals are commonly service dogs. Service dog owners have their service dogs that go through specialized training to perform tasks relating to a person's disability. A service dog can provide emotional or mental support as well.
However, you have the legal right to keep your ESA in your home, even if you live in a place with pet restrictions. All you need is legitimate proof that you have an ESA. This document is known as emotional support animal letters or an ESA Letter.
Get more details about qualifying for an emotional support animal and where you can take your ESA in Missouri in this article.
The Bottom Line
- What is an emotional support animal? An ESA is called an animal whose presence helps its owner cope with symptoms of an emotional or mental disability.
- Are ESAs considered pets in Missouri? No. The law regards emotional support animals as assistance animals, not pets, that provide emotional support.
- How do I get an ESA Letter in Missouri? You can use an online service to get an ESA Letter that meets Missouri's requirements for housing and urban development settings.
- Do landlords in Missouri have to accept ESAs? Yes. Federal anti-discrimination laws require landlords to accommodate assistance animals, including ESAs. These laws protect the individual from a landlord's no pets policy.
Emotional Support Animal Laws in Missouri
Federal laws about ESAs apply in Missouri. The state also has some regulations for emotional support animals.
Missouri ESA Housing Laws
Missouri is subject to federal law. Regarding housing rights for ESA owners, the relevant law is the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). This law prohibits housing providers from discriminating against individuals based on protected criteria:
- National origin
- Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)
- Familial status
Under the FHA, a landlord may not discriminate against a tenant (or potential tenant) due to their disability. A housing provider must also make reasonable accommodations for a tenant with a disability, including allowing them to keep their assistance animal(s) in their home.
The FHA exempts emotional support animals from pet restrictions and fees. A landlord can't deny your emotional support animal just because the housing complex prohibits pets. Housing providers can't charge additional pet fees or deposits for an ESA.
There are a few situations where a landlord could deny an ESA, including if your animal threatens the health and safety of other residents. Landlords can also deny a request that would cause an "undue financial and administrative burden," such as keeping a pig in an apartment with minimal access to an outdoor space.
It is best to remember that an ESA Letter is the only document you need to give to have an equal opportunity in a housing situation.
Missouri ESA Laws for Employment
In Missouri, employers may decide whether to allow their employees to bring emotional support animals to work. No state or federal laws require employers to allow ESAs or other assistance animals.
Fortunately, many employers are moving toward pet-friendly offices. While emotional support animals aren't just pets, they don't have any additional rights regarding accessing workplaces.
However, some laws protect service animals. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Additionally, it requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, including allowing service animals (dogs or miniature horses) to accompany their owners to work. Employers may restrict service animals from some work environments, such as a clean room. Psychiatric service dogs are a common service animal that is individually trained to help individuals with mental or physical disabilities.
If your employer allows you to bring your ESA to work, ensure your animal is ready for the work environment. They should be calm, well-behaved, and potty trained. Employers have the right to remove ESAs (and service animals) that are out of control, threatening other people's safety, or causing property damage.
Employers and landlords are allowed to go on a case-by-case basis. If one tenant or worker with a service animal has trouble, but another does not, one individual may be allowed a companion animal while another may not.
Missouri Support Animal Laws for Travel
If you are traveling to Missouri, you might be wondering if you can bring your emotional support animal on the plane with you. The answer depends on your airline. Some air carriers allow ESAs, especially cats and small dogs, to ride in the cabin in a crate. However, other airlines prohibit emotional support animals.
There aren't any legal requirements for airlines to accept ESAs. The law related to this issue is the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Like the FHA, the ACAA prohibits discrimination based on protected criteria, including disability. Air carriers can't discriminate against passengers with disabilities and must accommodate them.
The Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines to allow service animals to fly in the cabin with their owners for no extra charge. Initially, the ACAA provided the same rights to emotional support animals. However, the Department of Transportation changed the law in 2020, so it no longer protects assistance animals, including ESAs. Each airline can make policies about whether to allow emotional support animals in the cabin.
Missouri ESA Public Access Laws
Many places in Missouri aren't related to housing or travel. Most of these places fall under the "public accommodations" category:
- Government buildings
- Hotels and other types of lodging
- Stores and rental locations
- Houses of worship
- Convention centers and theaters
- Sports stadiums
Missouri requires owners of public accommodations to allow service animals as directed in the ADA. However, this law doesn't cover emotional support animals.
Suppose you want to bring your ESA to a restaurant, store, or public place. In that case, there are two options: find a location that allows pets or contact the owner directly to request an accommodation for your emotional support animal. Some owners may choose to enable your ESA even though they aren't legally required to do so.
The state doesn't require public places to accommodate ESAs. Additionally, Missouri law prohibits individuals from misrepresenting a pet as a service animal or an assistance animal to receive accommodation under the ADA or FHA. Doing so is a misdemeanor that may result in penalties.
How to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter in Missouri
Pettable makes it easy for eligible individuals to get an ESA Letter online. The whole process only requires a few steps.
Complete Our Assessment
Take our pre-screening quiz to learn if you're a good candidate for an ESA and give us a basic overview of your situation. After completing the questionnaire, you can choose an ESA Letter for housing, travel, or both.
Consult With a Therapist
Sign the consent forms you get in your email, and then we'll match you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). You'll get a link to schedule a telehealth consultation where the LMHP can determine if you have a mental or emotional disability that qualifies for an ESA.
Get your Emotional Support Animal Letter
If your therapist recommends an emotional support animal to help treat your condition, they will write and sign an official ESA Letter that meets federal and state requirements. With rush service, you can get your letter in 24 hours (California residents excluded).
At Pettable, we guarantee your satisfaction 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. An ESA supports its owner's well-being by providing comfort to help mitigate mental or emotional disability symptoms. ESAs can help with many mental conditions:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Emotional support animals don't need to perform specific tasks; they help their owners through their presence. ESAs are exempt from housing-related pet regulations under the Fair Housing Act.
What is a Service Animal?
The legal definition of a service animal is narrow. Only specially trained dogs and miniature horses can be service animals. A service dog or mini horse performs tasks to help an owner with a disability. Here are some examples:
- Alerting a deaf person
- Guiding a blind person
- Protecting a person from self-harm during a seizure
- Reminding a person with anxiety to take their medication
If you have a dog or plan on getting one, you can train it to become a psychiatric service dog. Self-training is a good alternative to paying a professional trainer, though it takes considerable time commitment and some basic know-how. If you wish to train your own dog as a PSD you may be a good fit for Pettable’s self-paced PSD training course. In the course, you will receive access to a series of video lessons guided by a qualified trainer that will teach you how to train a pet to learn the basic obedience training and mental health supportive skills it needs to become a PSD. To get started, take our brief online quiz.
Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Animal
There are two main differences between emotional support animals and service animals: species and training. Any animal can be an emotional support animal. Dogs and cats are popular, but there are also emotional support turtles, birds, fish, reptiles, and rodents.
The government only recognizes two possibilities for service animals: dogs and miniature horses.
Service animals need special training to work or perform tasks for their owners (e.g., guiding a blind person). The tasks must relate directly to the owner's disability. Emotional support animals don't need training beyond basic behavior and potty training. If you already have a dog who helps reduce your anxiety, you can complete the evaluation process to get an ESA Letter to make your dog an emotional support animal.
Frequently Asked Questions about Missouri ESA Laws
Still not sure where you can bring your ESA? Find out more about how the law protects you and your emotional support animal.
Do I have to tell my landlord I have an ESA in Missouri?
Yes. If you ask for reasonable accommodation under the Fair Housing Act, you must inform your landlord of your animal's ESA status. They have the right to request documentation (e.g., your ESA Letter for housing).
Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal in Missouri?
Generally, no. The FHA only allows landlords to deny animals that are a safety threat to other residents, cause property damage, or that would fundamentally change the nature of the housing provider's business (e.g., a llama in an apartment).
When do I tell my landlord about my ESA in Missouri?
Before signing the lease, you don't have to tell your landlord about your ESA. But if you want to avoid pet fees, you must request an accommodation under the FHA and present your ESA Letter.
Can a landlord in Missouri charge a fee for an emotional support animal?
No. Emotional support animals aren't pets, so landlords may not charge pet-related fees or deposits. However, you are liable for any damage your emotional support animal causes.
Can you have more than one ESA in Missouri?
Yes, there aren't any laws that limit the number of ESAs you can have. However, an ESA Letter in Missouri should document your need for each emotional support animal you have.
What restrictions can my landlord place on my emotional support animal in Missouri?
Emotional support animals are exempt from housing-related pet restrictions. For example, a landlord can't deny an ESA dog because it exceeds the weight limit for pet dogs. They could reject an ESA that's dangerous or unsuitable for living indoors.