The Bottom Line:
What South Carolina emotional support animal laws should I know? - South Carolina has no state-specific emotional support animal laws you should worry about. The only laws that affect emotional support animals are the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act.
What is the Fair Housing Act? - The Fair Housing Act (FHA) is a federal law that protects people with disabilities from housing discrimination. It also enables people who require an emotional support animal to live with their ESA free of pet fees and exempt from any restrictions.
How do I get an emotional support animal in South Carolina? - To get an emotional support animal in South Carolina you need to speak to a mental health professional licensed in South Carolina. The clinician will evaluate your need for an ESA and write you the appropriate documentation, which is also known as an ESA letter.
Laws for emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals exist on the federal level, but there are also some states with individual laws that may be slightly different. South Carolina’s emotional support animal laws comply with all federal ESA laws and also have a few of their own.
South Carolina Emotional Support Animal Laws
South Carolina's emotional support animal laws primarily follow federal guidelines set by the Fair Housing Act and the Air Carrier Access Act. These laws grant individuals with emotional support animals the right to live in housing with a "no pets" policy, provided they have a valid ESA letter from a mental health professional. South Carolina has no ESA-specific laws at the state level.
Emotional Support Animal Laws in South Carolina
The great state of South Carolina follows all federal laws for emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals. In addition to these laws, this swampy southern state has also implemented laws to try to prevent the misrepresentation of service animals and assistance animals.
Under South Carolina law H5041, a person who intentionally misrepresents their pet as an emotional support animal or a service animal without proper documentation (an ESA letter or a psychiatric service dog letter) can be subject to fines and legal penalties.
The same law applies to businesses that may try to sell unnecessary products (such as vests or ID tags) to consumers under the guise that these products mean their animal is ‘certified.’ Misrepresenting the legitimacy of assistance animal-related products as a business is also subject to fines and penalties in South Carolina.
South Carolina ESA Housing Laws
South Carolina’s emotional support animal housing laws abide by federal ESA housing laws set forth under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which exists to prevent housing discrimination. Under the FHA, it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against or deny housing to individuals based on race, religion, gender identity, orientation, ethnicity, or disability — including those who require an assistance animal. Also under the FHA, service animals and emotional support animals are both exempt from restrictive pet policies, fees, or deposits since assistance animals are not considered pets, but rather medical tools necessary for managing a disability.
South Carolina ESA Laws for Employment
When it comes to South Carolina’s emotional support animal laws and employment, individuals have the right to make a request to their employer for what’s called ‘reasonable accommodations.’ This means that you can request to have your ESA approved by your employer to accompany you at work but under federal law, your employer has the right to deny an emotional support animal. They cannot, however, deny a legitimate service dog or other service animal.
South Carolina ESA Laws for Travel
The federal laws that protect emotional support animals’ right to travel with their handlers have changed in recent years. As of December 2020, under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) airlines are no longer required to transport emotional support animals free of charge. There are still some airlines that will allow emotional support animals to travel with their humans in the cabin, and all airlines are required to transport legitimate service dogs under the ACAA — including in the state of South Carolina.
South Carolina ESA Public Access Laws
South Carolina follows federal laws for emotional support animal and service dog public access laws. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), emotional support animals aren’t considered service animals and don’t have the same rights to public access. Businesses and public places may choose to make accommodations for an ESA but are required to accept service dogs in all places where the public has access.
How to Get a Legitimate ESA Letter in South Carolina
Getting a legitimate emotional support animal letter in South Carolina is the best (and only) way to legally certify your ESA. Getting an ESA letter for housing means your rights to have your assistance animal with you are protected.
Complete Our Assessment
The first step to getting a legitimate ESA letter in South Carolina is to complete Pettable’s online assessment. It only takes a few minutes, and answering a few questions will help us get the information we need to meet your needs.
Consult with a Therapist
After completing our assessment, we’ll match you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) or health provider in your state. They’ll discuss your specific needs and provide the necessary recommendation for a legitimate emotional support animal letter.
Get Your Emotional Support Animal Letter
Once you’ve completed your required consultation, you’ll be ready to get your emotional support animal letter. Your clinician will provide you with your document, which includes all the necessary information to be considered a legal, legitimate ESA letter.
What is an Emotional Support Animal?
Emotional support animals are a type of service animal that supports individuals with mental health conditions or disabilities. Unlike service animals who are trained, emotional support animals provide comfort with their presence alone. They don’t need to be able to perform specific tasks for their handler but still provide support, companionship, and relief from symptoms of mental health conditions.
What is a Service Animal?
Service animals are defined as dogs (on occasion, miniature horses) who are trained to perform tasks that directly support their handler’s disability. Service dogs can do things like lead the blind or provide mobility assistance to those in wheelchairs. Psychiatric service dogs can provide support like medication reminders and grounding under stress or triggers for individuals with psychiatric or mental health conditions.
Emotional Support Animal vs Service Animal in South Carolina
The main difference between an emotional support animal and a service animal is their level of training. ESAs can be any animal and are not required to have any training or to be able to do anything specific that supports their human — they simply provide support by being there.
Service dogs, however, are required to undergo specific, individualized training. They have to be able to perform tasks that directly support their handler’s disability consistently and reliably. Legitimate service dogs have more rights for public access, transportation, and employment accommodations than emotional support animals because of their required training.