An increasing number of pet owners like to travel for a few days with their emotional support animal. Once they reach the destination, they usually need to bring their heavy luggage to the hotel first. However, if they are accompanied by an emotional support animal, the first question might be whether they can bring their pet to the hotel.
If you have booked a hotel that denies your ESA access at the check-in counter, it can not only cause problems but also affect your mood. Here you will find information about ESAs rules in hotels that you need to know before you travel.
In this article
ESA General Introduction
Emotional support animals are used to provide emotional comfort to people with mental health issues by offering unconditional love and companionship. Most of these mental problems are invisible, such as PTSD, social anxiety, depression, autism, and similar situations. Any species can be considered to become an emotional support animal, but the most common ones are dogs and cats as they are easier to train and travel than other animals. Also, because of their great qualities, they get along well with the owner, in a natural and familiar way, which helps to effectively improve the health of the latter. A majority of emotional support animals were originally household pets, and they did not need to undergo special training like service dogs. However, emotional support animals have only limited access to certain public places where service dogs are allowed.
ESA Public Access
There are several laws governing Emotional Support Animals and protect their housing and public access rights. The two most common ones are:
• Fair House Act: The FHA protects the housing right of ESAs, and allows them to live with the owner in apartments and other "No Pets" accommodation. Landlords must provide reasonable housing for both tenants and their ESAs without incurring additional pet fees.
• Air Carrier Access Act. This federal law aims to protect the right to travel and allow people with disabilities to take their assistance animals during air travel in the cabin. It applies to two kinds of assistance animals: “service animals” for people with disabilities and “emotional support animals” for people with physical or mental impairments. Owners can legally allow their ESAs access to airports and airplanes.
With the exception of the ACAA, there is no law governing the right of ESAs to access other public access. This means that your ESA may be denied access to other “no pets” public spaces such as restaurants, hospitals, and stores.
Are ESAs allowed in hotels?
Generally, NO. Although both hotels and motels aim to offer a comfortable environment for rest and sleep, they are no part of the FHA’s “dwelling” category. The reason for this is that they are used for temporary lodging rather than housing for a long time. Unlike service dogs, emotional support animals fulfill the purpose of comfort and joy, but are not trained to perform physical tasks for the disabled owner. What’s more, some hotels take the safety and health of other customers into account, so poorly trained emotional support animals may be excluded from the list of “guests”.
How to find an ESA-friendly hotel
The good news is many owners or the management of US hotels understand the importance of an emotional support animal for their owners and are sympathetic to these special “guests”. They regard ESA companions similar to service animals and provide the same service, including pet supplies, public activity areas within the hotel, and so on. Many of these hotels may not clearly display the sign “ESA friendly”, but they will allow your ESA to stay with you if you politely state your situation and the status of the ESA, stating that you really need it. It is recommended that you make your specific request via email or phone before booking a room. In most cases, it is very helpful to submit a legitimate ESA document such as an ESA certificate or an ESA letter from a licensed mental health therapist.
In addition to ESA-friendly hotels, almost all pet-friendly hotels accept ESAs and are willing to provide you and your ESA with acceptable accommodation, unless the pet is aggressive and harmful to people and furniture. Nowadays, there are an increasing number of pet-friendly hotels, especially in some popular resorts. These hotels will display a “pet-friendly” sign on their official website or other travel sites, to attract more potential customers.
The direct way to find a pet-friendly hotel is to search for “pet-friendly hotels near XXX (your destination)” via the internet/app. You will get a list of hotels and can choose one according to your needs.
Some hotels may charge additional fees for pet products or housekeeping, but others may not, depending on their pet policy. They may also impose breed and weight restrictions and normally allow only dogs and cats. It is best to call ahead for further details.
Keep in mind that you still have to abide by their pet rules (for household pets) rather than requesting “special treatment” because your pet is an ESA. Your ESA could also be evicted because of dangerous behavior, even if you have made a reservation. It is advisable to train your dog in advance and make sure it is obedient and well-behaved. Read on to know how to train your Emotional Support Dog.
What about Service Dogs?
Service dogs, as the most common kind of service animals, have undergone intensive training to specifically assist people with visible or invisible disabilities. As a rule, the service dogs for visible disabilities, such as guide dogs and mobilities assistance dogs, are easy to recognize. However, many illnesses or disabilities are invisible, such as diabetes, epilepsy, cancers, or mental issues like PTSD and manic depression. Service dogs who perform tasks for these people are easily misunderstood by others.
Note that the Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA) regulates all types of service dogs and allows them to accompany their owners in most public areas, including hotels and motels. This means that most hotels are required to accommodate people with disabilities (designated by the ADA) and their service dog.