Emotional support animals (ESAs) can provide comfort, companionship, and therapeutic benefits to individuals struggling with mental or emotional conditions. In Utah, individuals with emotional disabilities have legal protections under the Fair Housing Act to have their ESAs in housing. However, navigating the laws and requirements surrounding ESAs in Utah can be confusing and overwhelming. This complete guide aims to provide clarity on Utah's ESA laws, including the qualification process, rights, and responsibilities of ESA owners.
Utah Emotional Support Animal Laws: A Complete Guide (2023)
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Utah ESA Laws
Utah's ESA laws provide legal protections for individuals with emotional disabilities to have their emotional support animals in housing, regardless of pet policies. Under these laws, landlords are required to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with ESAs. However, ESA owners must receive an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional to qualify.
What Is an Emotional Support Animal?
Emotional support animals (ESAs) are more than just pets. They are animals that provide their owners with comfort, a sense of safety, or feelings of relaxation — especially during stressful times.
Any type of animal can be an ESA, from all breeds of dogs to pot-bellied pigs.
What makes them an ESA is the fact that they support an owner with a mental or emotional health challenge, such as anxiety, depression, attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that often affects veterans.
How to Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal in Utah
To qualify for an emotional support animal in Utah, you need an emotional support animal or ESA letter.
This ESA letter must come from a licensed mental health professional practicing in the state of Utah. It should also include the following essential details:
- The therapist’s name
- The therapist’s credentials
- The therapist’s contact details
- A description of your mental health or emotional condition
- An explanation of how your ESA helps you manage your symptoms
An ESA letter adds validity to the claim that your animal is more than a pet. It may also be required if you want to bring your animal with you in certain situations, such as flying on an airplane.
ESA vs. Service Animals
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has a clear explanation of what makes a service animal and how service animals differ from ESAs.
Here are some key elements that describe a service animal:
- Service animals must be dogs
- Service dogs can be any breed or size
- Service dogs must be trained to do a specific task for their owner
The ADA explains that service dogs are different from ESAs because ESAs only provide support or comfort. Per the ADA, providing support or comfort is not a task related to helping a person with a disability navigate the world.
ESA vs. PSD
It’s easy for people to confuse ESAs and service dogs. It’s even easier for them to confuse ESAs with psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) because both ESAs and PSDs are used by people with mental or emotional health conditions.
The key difference, again, is that PSDs (like other service dogs) perform a specific service.
A PSD might circle their owner during a panic attack to encourage others to give them space, or they might retrieve their owner’s medication and water to help them manage their symptoms.
ESAs have not been trained to do tasks like those described above. They comfort their owners with their presence, but they don’t do anything specific to help them through their mental health challenges.
Benefits of Having an Emotional Support Animal
ESAs are different from service animals and PSDs. However, they can still provide significant benefits for their owner. There are many reasons why you might want to get an emotional support animal, including the following:
- Help to reduce stress (spending time with animals can lower cortisol, a stress hormone)
- Help to reduce loneliness and create a sense of social support
- Help to develop and stick to a routine (which can benefit those with depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges)
- Help to establish a sense of purpose and responsibility for something other than yourself
Maybe you don’t feel that you need a service animal or psychiatric service dog, but you would like to experience the benefits listed above. If that sounds relevant to you, an ESA might be the perfect solution.
How to Get an ESA Letter
An ESA letter is the first step to getting an emotional support animal in Utah. The easiest way to do this, if you don’t have a therapist or mental health professional you see regularly, is to work with Pettable.
Pettable offers a simple process to provide you with a legitimate ESA letter:
- Complete a short assessment to see if an ESA could benefit you
- Submit payment and fill out a few basic forms
- Schedule a consultation with a licensed mental health professional
- Get approved and receive your letter in 24-48 hours
If you don’t get approved following your consultation, you will get a full refund, so there’s no risk!
Why Is an ESA Letter Necessary in Utah?
An ESA letter is necessary in Utah for you to enter certain spaces.
For example, you’ll need this document to move into an apartment that doesn’t allow animals or that charges a fee for pet owners.
You’ll also need it to fly with your animal in the cabin instead of stashing them in an airplane’s cargo area.
Utah Emotional Support Animal Laws
Utah’s government officials are working on laws to more clearly define emotional support animals and ensure their owners get the protection and assistance they need. The current laws in the state for ESAs specifically have to do with air travel and housing.
If you want to travel with your ESA and want them to sit with you in the cabin, you’ll need an ESA letter verifying that they are a support animal that provides you with comfort.
Some airlines may also request that you give them notice at least 48 hours ahead of time that you’ll be traveling with an ESA so they can make appropriate accommodations and make the flight as smooth as possible for everyone on board.
Air Carrier Access Act
According to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), airlines are legally required to accept service dogs and accommodate their owners (otherwise, they could be guilty of discrimination).
Emotional Support Animals are not automatically accommodated, but many airlines will accept them as long as you have an ESA from a licensed medical health professional.
The following are some examples of a situation in which an airline may not allow you to board the plane with your ESA:
- The animal is too large or heavy to fit comfortably in the cabin
- The animal causes significant disruptions in the cabin or airport gate (for example, barking, howling, growling, etc.)
- The animal is aggressive or poses a threat to the flight staff or other passengers
- The animal is prohibited from entering the specific country where the passenger is traveling
ESA Housing Laws
ESA housing laws in Utah reflect those put in place by the federal government — specifically, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
The laws created and enforced by HUD apply to “assistance animals,” which include service dogs, PSDs, and ESAs.
If you have an emotional support animal, you can rent an apartment that is not normally pet-friendly. You can also be exempt from paying animal-specific fees, such as pet rent or pet deposits.
As long as you provide your landlord or property manager with a copy of your ESA letter and ask permission before moving in with your animal, they will likely agree (with a few exceptions).
Can a Landlord Reject My ESA?
In certain circumstances, a landlord is legally allowed to reject an ESA. The following are examples of times when an ESA may not be welcome:
- Accommodating the animal would create an unnecessary financial strain for the landlord
- Accommodating the animal would put other tenants in danger or put their health at risk
- Accommodating the animal would cause significant damage to the property
A landlord may also ask you to get rid of your ESA or move out if your animal causes significant disturbances to the neighbors, damages property, etc.
ESAs in Student Housing
At universities and colleges in Utah, ESAs are allowed to live with students in dormitories and university-owned apartments. However, the student must provide an ESA letter and get their animal approved before moving in.
Going through these steps helps to ensure the student and animal have proper accommodations and that the student’s potential roommates are okay with having an animal in their space.
Although ESAs can legally live in dormitories or university-owned apartments, they cannot accompany the student to places on campus where pets aren’t allowed. For example, they can’t enter the library, dining hall, etc.
Places to Take Your Emotional Support Animal
Emotional support animals are welcome in apartments and other rental properties, in airports and on airlines, and in other pet-friendly places throughout Utah (parks, restaurants, bars, hotels, etc.).
The following are some of the most well-known places in the state where you can take your ESA:
- Bryce Canyon National Park
- Dead Horse Point State Park
- Tanner Park
- Memory Grove Park
- Lagoon Amusement Park
- Wasatch Back Grill & Deli
- Snake Creek Grill
- Two Bit Street Cafe
- Silver Star Cafe
- La Quinta Inn & Suites
- Water Canyon Resort
- Park Inn by Radisson
Get Your ESA Letter with Pettable
If you think you could benefit from an emotional support animal, make sure you get the proper documentation needed before you go out and get an animal or try to bring them with you places.
Pettable allows you to quickly, affordably, and legally get an ESA letter in just a few steps. We also offer training resources to help you teach your emotional support dog or service dog the skills they need to thrive in their role.