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Laws and policies for service dogs and emotional support animals are updated and changed constantly. While federal rules and regulations govern many of these rules and regulations, individual states have the power to amend them as well. Other states like California and Arkansas have passed ESA-specific laws that affect the process for acquiring an ESA letter.
Montana is the newest state to join this trend and impose additional guidelines for those looking to get an emotional support animal and licensed mental health professionals prescribing ESA letters. Here are the latest updates on Montana’s new emotional support animal laws.
Montana HB 703
Effective October 1st, 2023, Montana House Bill 703 revises state laws regarding emotional support animals and the issuance of ESA letters. The new law requires clinicians to establish a minimum of a 30-day relationship with their clients prior to writing them an ESA letter. The law also enables landlords to ask for additional information regarding a tenant's emotional support animal.
The updated law requires individuals with disabilities to be treated by their mental health professional for a certain amount of time (a minimum of 30 days) before acquiring an ESA letter, permits landlords to request more information, and allows health professionals to provide it.
Montana’s new law now allows landlords to request “supporting information” regarding a prospective tenant’s need for an emotional support animal, and in turn, requires health professionals to provide such information.
Finally, the new law makes it so that tenants assume responsibility for damages caused by assistance animals.
ESA Law HB 703 still serves to protect individuals with disabilities seeking housing with an emotional support animal in Montana. It does not allow landlords to inquire about a person’s specific diagnosis or the severity of their disability, including any medical records.
Here's a quick overview of how HB 703 affects the ESA letter process:
What does the new ESA law in Montana require?
Montana’s emotional support animal law has a few requirements for individuals, landlords, and health professionals. The updated law mandates the length of the relationship between individuals and health professionals, allows landlords to seek more information, and entitles care providers to deliver it.
LMHP Requirements in the New Montana ESA Law
Under the new ESA law, licensed mental health professionals (LMHPs) in Montana may now be required to provide more specific information when issuing an emotional support animal letter (ESA letter) for an individual seeking housing, transportation, or documentation for other rights related to having an ESA. Landlords may ask LMHPs to identify the emotional need that your ESA supports. Additionally, LMHPs are not able to issue an ESA letter unless they have established a client-provider relationship of at least 30 days in duration.
Landlord Rules in the New Montana ESA Law
While landlords may request information on the condition your emotional support animal assists you with, the new Montana law still prohibits them from inquiring about or requiring information about your specific diagnosis, its severity, or your treatment plan.
Does this new law apply to Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs)?
The new emotional support animal law only applies to ESAs and specifically states that it doesn’t apply to service animals in Montana, like psychiatric service dogs. According to the law, an emotional support animal provides emotional, cognitive, or other support to an individual and doesn’t require training or certification.
How do you qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog?
To qualify for a psychiatric service dog (PSD), you must first be diagnosed with a qualifying disability that meets the requirements for being legally disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Your disability must substantially impact one or more major life activities, and your need for a service animal can be documented by a licensed health professional in the form of a psychiatric service dog letter (PSD letter).
How To Get a Psychiatric Service Dog With Pettable
Getting a psychiatric service dog with Pettable is simple, affordable, and guaranteed. Start by taking our 3-minute assessment to answer a few questions about your history. We’ll match you with a licensed health professional in your state to consult with and determine your specific needs. They’ll work with you to provide you with a legal, legitimate psychiatric service dog letter (PSD letter) that will work for housing, travel, and employment needs. Your service dog will also need training in order to be officially recognized. You can self-train your psychiatric service dog with our online PSD training program.
Current Montana ESA Laws
As we mentioned, federal laws like those enacted under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act (FHA) protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination when it comes to housing. States like Montana have some of their own requirements and regulations that may differ slightly from federal laws.
Montana ESA Housing Laws
According to Montana’s emotional support animal housing laws, tenants with disabilities are within their rights to request reasonable accommodation and seek approval from a landlord to live with an ESA in rental housing that typically doesn’t allow pets.
A landlord in Montana may only deny housing to individuals with assistance animals (like emotional support animals) if they provide an ESA letter that isn’t legitimate, if the animal poses a threat to health and safety, or if additional information is requested from a health professional and isn’t provided.
Montana ESA Laws for Employment
Similar to housing, Montana’s ESA laws for employment allow individuals with disabilities who require an emotional support animal to make a request for reasonable accommodations in the workplace. Also similar to housing, the request may be denied by employers if the emotional support animal is a threat to health and safety or is otherwise disruptive.
Pettable’s 3-minute assessment is the first step to getting your legitimate emotional support animal letter. The assessment will help us gather information and move forward in the right direction. Once the assessment is complete, we’ll match you with a licensed health professional in your state to complete the following steps.
Attend Your Consultations
Once matched with your health professional, you’ll attend two consultations with them within a 30-day period. During these sessions, you’ll work together to determine your individual needs and create a care plan that includes your emotional support animal. Once established, your health professional will provide you with a complete, legitimate ESA letter for housing, travel, or employment.
Present Your ESA Letter to Your Landlord
Once acquired, your legitimate emotional support animal letter serves as legal documentation of your diagnosis of a qualifying disability and your need for an emotional support animal. Landlords are required to accept legitimate ESA letters as proof of your need for an ESA, though in Montana they may be allowed to request additional information.
Do I have to tell my landlord I have an ESA in Montana?
If you’re looking to rent in a building or unit that doesn’t typically allow pets, you will need to tell your landlord you have an ESA and provide proper documentation to be approved for reasonable accommodation in the form of an emotional support animal letter, or ESA letter.
Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal in Montana?
Landlords can only deny emotional support animals in Montana if the animal poses a threat to the health and safety of the property or other tenants, or if the ESA letter provided doesn’t meet Montana’s requirements for legitimacy.
When do I tell my landlord about my ESA in Montana?
Many people who use emotional support animals wait until after they have been offered tenancy or signed a lease for a unit. This is to ensure that a landlord doesn’t seek other reasons to deny you housing if you use an ESA. When the time does come to disclose, be upfront and honest about your reasons for delaying and be prepared to provide an ESA letter.
Could my landlord charge a fee for my emotional support animal in Montana?
Landlords in Montana may not charge a fee or deposit for emotional support animals, but the new HB 703 does make tenants liable for the cost of damages caused by emotional support animals.
Can you have more than one ESA in Montana?
You can have more than one emotional support animal in Montana, but you must have a legal, legitimate emotional support animal letter for each individual animal.
Do I need a certificate, ID card, or vest for my emotional support animal in Montana?
You don’t have to have a certificate or ID card for your emotional support animal, having a legal and legitimate emotional support animal letter is essential for protecting your rights when it comes to housing and workplace accommodations. Working psychiatric service dogs in Montana, however, are required under the Montana Human Rights Act to wear a vest, leash, collar, or backpack that identifies them as such.
How is a Psychiatric service dog (PSD) different from other service dogs in Montana?
The main difference between psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) and other service dogs in Montana is the type of conditions they support. PSDs support cognitive disabilities and mental health conditions, while other service dogs support physical disabilities and impairments.
April Brightman is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for traveling and hiking with her rescue pup, Marley. She's written for pet-centered sites like Outward Hound, as well as outdoorsy adventure brands like BearVault, Hipcamp, and Explorer Chick.