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New York Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Laws - A Complete Guide for 2022

If you’re a New York resident interested in having an emotional support animal, you’ll need to understand the laws about ESAs in housing and public places.
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
September 7, 2022
Updated on:  
September 7, 2022

If you rely on an emotional support animal to help you cope with a condition such as depression or anxiety, you already know how invaluable ESAs are. Yet it's not always straightforward to understand the various rules about where you can go with your ESA, especially when comparing the laws and regulations in different states and cities.

We'll discuss everything that New York residents need to know about living with their emotional support animals and which laws cover them, including the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

While ESA regulations are broadly similar across all US states, we'll also discuss specific emotional support animal laws in New York.

Keep reading to learn about housing, travel, and employment laws relating to ESAs and how to obtain the proper documentation to ensure that you can live with your emotional support animal.

The Bottom Line:

  • What is an emotional support animal?
    An emotional support animal (ESA) is an animal companion whose presence benefits an individual with an emotional or mental disability. ESAs provide companionship and support to help alleviate at least one aspect of their owner's condition.
  • Are ESAs considered pets in New York?
    Emotional support animals are more than just pets – they provide valuable assistance to their owners to help them cope with mental health conditions or psychiatric disabilities. However, since they don't have the same training and legal protection as service dogs, they are subject to many of the same regulations are ordinary pets. The exception is housing if you have a valid ESA letter.
  • How do I get an ESA letter in New York? 
    To get an official ESA letter in New York, you'll need to have a consultation with a licensed mental health professional in person or over the phone.
  • Do landlords in New York have to accept ESAs? 
    With a valid ESA letter, landlords have to allow emotional support animals to live in their building, even if they typically don't allow pets. However, a landlord or housing provider may refuse to allow assistance animals if they display aggressive behavior.
  • Take the next step – get your ESA letter!
    Begin the approval process by taking our quick assessment to determine whether you qualify for an ESA letter. Get started today!

Emotional Support Animal Laws in New York

It can be tricky to figure out your rights and obligations as an ESA owner. We'll cover the most important laws and regulations for ESAs in New York state, so you know what is allowed for you and your companion animals.

New York ESA Housing Laws

The NYC Human Rights Law and the federal Fair Housing Act protect ESA owners against disability-related housing discrimination. 

Housing providers – including shelters, on-campus housing, and other forms of temporary or supportive housing – must permit residents to keep emotional support animals as a reasonable accommodation for a disability.

As required by New York Housing Law, housing providers may require residents to submit proof of vaccination for emotional support dogs or other assistance animals.

Landlords can also request to see an official ESA letter confirming that the animal is part of a mental health treatment plan. However, housing providers are not permitted to ask about the specifics of an individual's mental or emotional disability or for proof of the disability.

Likewise, for service dogs – including psychiatric service dogs – housing providers are not allowed to ask you to demonstrate that your assistance animal can complete practical tasks like retrieving medications or bottles of water.

New York ESA Laws for Employment

The federal government has implemented legislation preventing employers from discriminating against workers with mental illnesses.

The Americans with Disabilities Act covers most mental health conditions and permits the use of service animals, just as it does for physical disabilities like deafness or visual impairment. Most employers understand that a hearing dog or a guide dog is an essential service animal. However, emotional support animals are a gray area, and permitting emotional support animals in the workplace is at the employer's discretion. Navigating this conversation can be tricky depending on your work and the type of ESA you own. It's essential to be honest with your employer and have a valid ESA letter ready to showcase if requested.

New York ESA Laws for Travel

According to the Air Carrier Access Act, service animals are eligible for air travel. The ACAA is a federal law, so it applies to New York. Airlines can't deny your service animal access or charge additional fees. However, the rules are different for ESAs. It's up to the airline to decide whether to permit emotional support animals on the flight. They may choose to treat your ESA as an ordinary pet, in which case it will be subject to the usual fees and restrictions. An ESA letter may help convince the airline that you have a legitimate need for your ESA and that it is more than a pet.

Ensure that your ESA is not aggressive and does not pose a risk to other passengers; otherwise, the airline will almost certainly deny your request.

New York ESA Public Access Laws

Under the ADA and New York law, owners of establishments such as restaurants, shops, theaters, and hotels are required to allow service animals, including psychiatric service dogs. They are not required to allow emotional support animals. However, many establishments are animal-friendly, even for ordinary pets. As with air travel, having a legitimate ESA letter may persuade the proprietor or manager to let you enter the establishment with your ESA, even if they usually have a "no pets" policy.

How to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter in New York

To get a legitimate emotional support animal letter in New York, you'll need to schedule an appointment with a licensed professional. If you aren't sure where to begin, here are some tips on getting started.

Complete Our Assessment

The first step to obtaining a valid ESA letter online is to complete our quick assessment. The assessment will help us understand your condition and why you want an official emotional support animal. You'll also tell us which type of ESA letter you need. It may be for housing, travel, or both.

Consult with a Therapist

The next step is to complete a few privacy and consent forms to allow our clinicians to work with you. Our team will match you with a licensed professional who can practice in your area, and you will receive a link to schedule a telehealth appointment with them.

The mental health clinician will complete a professional mental health evaluation to determine whether you qualify for an emotional support animal.

Get Your Emotional Support Animal Letter

After a licensed mental health professional confirms that you could benefit mentally and emotionally from an ESA, they will write a certified emotional support animal letter for you. If it's urgent, you can choose to receive your ESA letter within 24 hours from the time of your consultation, subject to state regulations. Once you have your letter, reasonable accommodations must be made for your support animal to live with you in New York.

We want to ensure that our ESA approval process is straightforward. If you have any issues with your emotional support animal letter, we will give you your money back, 100% guaranteed.

What Is an Emotional Support Animal?

Not all animals that individuals with a disability rely on meet the definition of a service animal as specified by the ADA.

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), an emotional support animal is "any animal that provides emotional support alleviating one or more symptoms or effects of a person's emotional or mental disability." These disabilities include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and insomnia.

Anyone can qualify for an emotional support dog, or any other species of animal, as long as it provides support to its owner. Emotional support animals provide companionship but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. For example, individuals with mental or emotional disabilities may need emotional support animals to keep them calm during panic attacks.

Emotional support animals are not limited to dogs, as they can be any animal, including cats, rabbits, birds, and more. There is no limit to how many ESAs you can have, as long as it's reasonable and approved by a licensed mental health professional.

What Is a Service Animal?

A service animal is held to a different standard of training and behavior than an emotional support animal. A service animal is a dog (or, in rare cases, a miniature horse) trained to do work or perform tasks to benefit an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Psychiatric service dogs fall under this category.

The service dog must be trained to perform a specific action to assist the person with a disability. For example, a person with diabetes may have a dog that can alert them when their blood sugar is in danger of reaching high or low levels. A person with epilepsy may have a service dog that can detect the onset of a seizure and help them remain safe by applying deep pressure therapy.

People with depression may have a psychiatric service dog trained to remind them to take their medication. Service dogs can also have specialized training to sense panic attacks before they happen and help their owner reach safety or provide a calming effect. Service dogs can also pick up on the signs of bipolar disorder and act accordingly to keep their owner safe.

Other animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not considered service animals. 

The Difference Between Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals

Although they are both assistance animals, some crucial differences exist between emotional support animals and service animals.

One significant difference is that service animals are allowed to accompany their owners anywhere they go in public. A person with a certified service animal cannot be denied access to an establishment, as service dogs are protected under the ADA. On the other hand, an employer, manager, or proprietor can deny your ESA access. The exception is landlords if you have a valid ESA letter.

Additionally, service animals can only be dogs, whereas emotional support animals can be any species of animal with which the owner feels a meaningful connection.

Service dogs are individually trained to perform specific tasks and work with people with disabilities. The service dog's work must relate to the handler's disability. They are often trained in specific psychiatric service animal facilities to become guide dogs, hearing dogs, medical response dogs, and more.

In contrast, ESAs do not have to undergo specific training as they mainly serve as companions to their owners. Emotional support animals are not considered service dogs under the ADA. They may receive some training but cannot perform particular tasks or duties to aid a person with a disability.

However, emotional support dogs can still provide significant emotional benefits to those struggling with a mental illness, mental disabilities, or other health concerns. While service animals have more rights and protections than ESAs, the Fair Housing Act and New York law recognize that emotional support animals are vital to their owner's health and thus have the right to live with them. Reasonable accommodations should be made for service animals (including psychiatric service dogs) and emotional support animals so they can live with their owners.

Frequently Asked Questions about New York ESA Laws

Still curious about owning an ESA in New York. Here are some frequently asked questions about New York's emotional support animal laws. 

Do I have to tell my landlord I have an ESA in New York?

If you are moving into a new apartment, you should explain to your landlord that you have a mental or emotional disability and need the ESA to lessen the effects of your condition.

Once you have notified your landlord, you should also present them with a legitimate ESA letter from a mental health professional. You may provide an original hard copy of your letter or send your landlord a digital copy via email.

Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal in New York?

Under the federal Fair Housing Act and the NYC Human Rights Law, housing providers, including landlords, must permit residents with disabilities to live with their emotional support animals.

If you have been prescribed an ESA for your treatment and currently live in a "no-pets" policy building, you cannot be evicted from your housing unit according to New York state laws.

When do I tell my landlord about my ESA in New York?

Inform your landlord as soon as possible, either when applying for the apartment or before moving in. That way, they will know to expect an animal to accompany you during the move-in and can make the proper accommodations for you.

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

No. Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers cannot charge fees, require pet deposits, or impose weight or breed restrictions on emotional support animals. Individuals with assistance dogs can request reasonable accommodations from their housing providers to live with their ESA.

Can you have more than one ESA in New York?

As long as your licensed mental health professional agrees that your ESAs provide you with necessary mental or emotional support, you can have more than one ESA. However, you will need to be reasonable about which species of ESA you want to live with and ensure that they do not violate state or local laws.

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

A landlord can refuse to house you if your ESA compromises the safety of other tenants, damages their property, or causes undue financial hardship. If your landlord refuses to accept your ESA or threatens to evict you for another ESA-related reason, you can file a complaint with HUD.

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.