Emotional support animals are crucial to their owners’ well-being and quality of life. Learn more about Ohio’s laws on ESA access and documentation in the article below.
Emotional Support Animals

Ohio Emotional Support Animal Laws - A Complete Guide for 2022

Susana Bradford
5 minute read
June 25, 2022

Pets are unique members of the family. Many studies show that pets can prevent loneliness and improve their owner's well-being and quality of life. But some animals can do even more than that.

Emotional support animals comfort their owners, helping them cope with emotional or mental disabilities. ESAs are crucial to a person with a disability that the US government recognizes as assistance animals.

An assistance animal has certain protections under federal law. Specifically, the government requires housing providers to allow tenants to keep their assistance animals in their homes, despite restrictions on pets. That means you can keep your emotional support animal in your home in Ohio.

Where else can you take your emotional support animal? And what sort of documentation do you need to show that your animal is an ESA, not a pet? Learn more about emotional support animal laws and how to get an official ESA Letter.

The Bottom Line

  • What is an emotional support animal? An emotional support animal provides a comforting presence that mitigates the effects of an emotional or mental disability.
  • Are ESAs considered pets in Ohio? No. Ohio law regards ESAs as assistance animals, not pets.
  • How do I get an ESA Letter in Ohio? Using Pettable's online service is the easiest way to get an ESA Letter that meets state and federal requirements.
  • Do landlords in Ohio have to accept ESAs? Yes. Federal fair housing laws exempt assistance animals like ESAs from pet-related restrictions.

Emotional Support Animal Laws in Ohio

Emotional support animal owners have protection under some local and federal laws. While Ohio residents have clear housing rights, ESA regulations involving travel, employment, and public places are less clear.

Ohio ESA Housing Laws

The federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) applies in Ohio and the US. This law prohibits housing providers from discriminating against individuals based on protected criteria, including race, color, familial status, sex, religion, national origin, and disability. 

Under the FHA, landlords can't refuse to rent to an individual because of their disability. The housing provider must make reasonable accommodations for the individual, including allowing them to keep a service animal or assistance animal in their home regardless of pet restrictions.

Both national and state laws distinguish between pets and working animals. In the Ohio administrative code, emotional support animals and service animals fall into the legal category of "animal assistants." State protections for animal assistants (including ESAs) mirror those in the Fair Housing Act. 

Landlords must accommodate emotional support animals, and they can't charge pet deposits or fees. However, the law allows a landlord to require documentation to prove that a tenant has an animal assistant, not a pet. Suppose your landlord asks for proof that you have an emotional support animal. In that case, you must provide a legitimate ESA Letter for housing written and signed by a licensed mental health provider (LMHP).

Housing providers do not have to permit service animals if the animal's presence displays impulsive or destructive behaviors or if the animal is a direct threat to the health and safety of others.

Ohio ESA Laws for Employment

Unfortunately, there isn't a law like the Fair Housing Act for employers. Ohio employers aren't obligated to allow employees to bring their emotional support animals to work. Some companies are moving toward pet-friendly offices, but many employers still refuse to allow emotional support animals to come to work with their owners.

If your employer allows you to bring your ESA to work, ensure your animal is ready for that environment. Your ESA should be reliably potty trained and well-behaved, even in highly stimulating public environments.

There are employment-related legal protections for service animals. Federal law defines service animals as dogs (or, in some cases, miniature horses) that perform specific tasks to help individuals with disabilities. For example, a psychiatric service dog that protects an individual during panic attacks is a service animal.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows individuals to bring their service animals to almost everywhere, including work. An employer may deny entrance to service animals when their presence would compromise the work environment (such as introducing germs to a sterile laboratory), but those exceptions are rare. 

Suppose the animal is a service animal, like service dogs, and is individually trained to perform tasks directly related to a person's disability, such as being a hearing dog for a deaf or hard of hearing individual or a seeing dog for someone with visual impairments. In that case, the employer is not allowed to deny entry. The employer can provide reasonable accommodations if access is denied for a support animal.

Ohio ESA Laws for Travel

If you're traveling with your emotional support animal, contact your transportation and lodging providers to learn their rules for animal assistants. No federal and state laws in Ohio require travel or lodging providers to allow access to emotional support animals.

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulates airlines. This federal law prohibits air carriers from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. Airlines must make reasonable 

accommodations for passengers with disabilities, including allowing them to fly with their service animals in the cabin. Airlines can't charge extra fees for service animals.

Initially, the Air Carrier Access Act had protections for service animals applied to assistance animals, too, so airlines had to allow ESAs to fly with their owners. However, the Department of Transportation changed the language in 2020. Now, the ACAA only protects service dogs and miniature horses, not emotional support animals.

Some airlines have kept their emotional support animal programs, but many have stopped allowing ESAs in airplane cabins. If a person's disability requires an emotional support animal like a cat or small dog, an airline may allow you to keep them with you as long as they are in a crate. However, you'll probably have to pay pet fees.

Ohio ESA Public Access Laws

Can you bring your ESA with you to public places in Ohio? Rules for "public accommodations" cover a wide range of locations:

  • Restaurants and bars
  • Libraries and museums
  • Theaters and sports stadiums
  • Convention centers
  • Parks
  • Amphitheaters
  • Rental businesses
  • Retail stores
  • Government buildings
  • Public Transportation Terminals

The Americans with Disability Act requires the owners of public accommodations to allow service animals. So guide dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and other service animals can go most places with their owners. 

However, the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn't protect emotional support animals. Additionally, Ohio state law allows public accommodation owners to decide whether to accommodate emotional support animals.

Even if a store, restaurant, or other public place allows you to bring your ESA, the owner has the right to remove your service animals and pets if they are out of control. They can also remove an emotional support animal that isn't potty trained, causes property damage, or threatens the health and safety of others. You are liable for any damage your ESA causes.

How to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter in Ohio

An ESA letter proves that you have an assistance animal eligible for housing protections under the FHA. With Pettable, you can get your ESA Letter online if you meet the eligibility requirements

Complete Our Assessment

Start by taking our online questionnaire to help us understand your situation and determine if you're a good candidate for an ESA. Once that's done, you can select the type of ESA Letter you need: housing, travel, or both.

Consult With a Therapist

We'll email you some consent forms to sign, and once you return them, you'll get a link to schedule a telehealth consultation with a licensed mental health professional. They'll evaluate you to determine if you have a mental or emotional disability qualifies for an ESA.

Get your Emotional Support Animal Letter

If you meet the eligibility requirements for an emotional support animal, your licensed mental health professional will write an official letter for you. With rush service, you can get your letter within 24 hours (California residents excluded).

At Pettable, we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee and a full refund if your letter doesn't work as intended.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

Emotional support animals include dogs, cats, and other animals that help their owners cope with mental conditions. ESAs don't help their owners by performing specific tasks. Instead, they offer comfort and unconditional love that mitigates the effects of a mental or emotional condition. Emotional support animals can help with many different issues:

  • Depression
  • Agoraphobia
  • Social anxiety
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

Any animal can be an ESA. While dogs and cats are the most common, there are also ESA turtles, birds, hamsters, fish, reptiles, and goats.

What is a Service Animal?

A service animal isn't the same as an emotional support animal. A service animal performs specific tasks directly related to its owner's physical or mental impairment. A typical example of a service animal is a guide dog, but service animals can perform many other tasks:

  • Alerting a deaf person
  • Reminding their owner to take medication for a mental illness
  • Protecting an individual from harm during a seizure
  • Turning on the lights in a room before an individual with PTSD enters

By law, service animals must be service dogs or, in some cases, miniature horses. 

Difference Between an Emotional Support Animal and a Service Animal

Essentially, two things distinguish service animals from emotional support animals: species and training. There aren't restrictions on what kind of animal can be an ESA; any animal qualifies. However, only dogs and miniature horses can be service animals, as long as they are individually trained to perform tasks relating to a person's physical disability or even emotional and mental health issues.

Emotional support animals don't need to do tasks for their owners like service animals. While it's wise to ensure your ESA is potty trained and well-behaved in public, you don't have to do additional training. Service animals need special training to perform tasks. A service animal's work must directly relate to its owner's disability.

Service animals qualify due to their specific training and the way the animal poses as physical support. Service animals, like service dogs, can help with their disabilities, as well as mental health issues and mental and emotional support.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ohio ESA Laws

Are you still confused about the rules and regulations for emotional support animals? Check out these answers to common questions about ESAs.

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

Yes. To request FHA accommodation for your emotional support animal, you need to inform your landlord that you have an ESA and provide a letter for housing for legal access.

Can a landlord deny an emotional support animal in Ohio?

Not usually. The FHA requires landlords to accommodate an ESA unless the animal threatens the health and safety of other residents, causes property damage, or creates an "undue financial and administrative burden."

When do I tell my landlord about my ESA in Ohio?

You must tell your landlord about your ESA if you want to avoid pet restrictions, deposits, and fees. When you request, your landlord can ask for documentation, so have your letter ready.

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

No. Animal assistants (including ESAs) aren't pets, so pet fees don't apply to them. However, you must pay for any damage your emotional support animal causes.

Can you have more than one ESA in Ohio?

Yes. There isn't a limit on the number of emotional support animals you can have as long as you have documentation for each one.

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

A landlord can deny a request for an ESA that would cause a "fundamental change" to the nature of their business. For example, a landlord could deny your request to build an outdoor shelter for an emotional support pig.

Meet the author:

Susana Bradford