Are Emotional Support Animals Allowed In Stores?

Emotional support animals are animals that offer support and companionship to their owners.

As these animals have become increasingly popular over the years, many people wonder where they are and are not allowed. We’re going to answer that question here today!

Are Emotional Support Animals Allowed In Stores

If you’re interested in finding out more about emotional support animals, all you need to do is keep reading.

Here, we’re going to go through what an emotional support animal actually is, how it differs from a service animal, and whether they are allowed in stores.

The answers might surprise you, so stick around and find out.

Are Emotional Support Animals Allowed In Stores?

Before we get to that question, it’s important to understand what an emotional support animal is and how they differ from other service animals.

To prevent any confusion from happening, we will be going through what these animals are and how they are different from service animals before getting into the question. 

Understanding What An Emotional Support Animal Is

As we previously mentioned, an emotional support animal is an animal that is there to provide companionship to a person.

These animals are considered to be pets, and can be anything you like. Some people have emotional support animals that are hamsters, pigs, peacocks, or even llamas. 

These animals do not have to be trained in any way. They do not have to undergo training to better help their owners, as they are not there to provide aid in the same way service animals are. 

You cannot simply choose to have an emotional support animal. Many people might think that you can pick up your dog and walk around with it, claiming that they are your emotional support animal.

In reality, an emotional support animal has to be regarded as such via a letter. This letter has to be written by someone who is a licensed mental health practitioner.

In the letter, the practitioner must outline that the presence of the chosen pet has a beneficial effect on the person’s psychological state. 

This is similar to getting a “prescription” from your licensed mental health practitioner. The letter is a statement that says that the presence of the pet is beneficial to you.  

Emotional Support Animal Vs Service Animal

Emotional Support Animal Vs Service Animal

Service animals are typically dogs, though there are also some cases of other animals being considered service animals. These animals go through training so that they become credited service animals.

All service animals must go through training in order to be considered a service animal. They are there to help those with physical disabilities or psychological impairments or issues to give them a more independent life. 

Service animals may be used by people with visual impairments, PTSD, diabetes, depression, and anxiety, among others.

The animals are trained specifically to help their owner. As such, training can vary a lot depending on what their owner experiences.  

Emotional support animals are not required to receive any training, and they can be any animal. That alone is the single biggest difference between service dogs and emotional support animals – training.

Simply having a letter from a certified mental health practitioner stating that the animal helps your psychological well being is not the same thing as the animal having an active role in protecting you. 

Understanding Psychiatric Service Animals

Many people may wish to pass their emotional support animals off as psychiatric service animals. While their roles might initially sound similar, psychiatric service animals are highly trained.

These animals get trained to recognize the signs of their owner’s psychiatric episodes, and similar instances. They are not considered to be pets, but are working dogs.

Psychiatric service dogs are trained to perform tasks to aid their owners and support them. 

Emotional support animals are not trained to do any of this. While they might be a comfort to their owners, they do not have the training to be of any use in the case of a psychiatric episode. 

Do Emotional Support Animals Have The Same Protection As Service Dogs?

Emotional support animals do not have the same protection as service dogs. While they are protected by the federal law when it comes to housing thanks to The Fair Housing Act, they do not have the same protection as service animals.

Where service animals have the right to be anywhere their owners are, emotional support animals do not.

This means that you can  be asked to leave your pet outside if you want to go into a store where these animals are not allowed. This rule also applies to things such as flights.

While emotional support animals had to be accommodated in the past, they no longer have to be. On the other hand, service dogs will have to be accommodated, as they are protected by law.

Can You Bring Your Emotional Support Animal Into Stores?

The answer to this question can vary from store to store. Any store has the right to refuse entry to pets that are not service animals.

As such, if you walk into a store with your pet snake or even dog, claiming that it is an emotional support animal, you will not necessarily be granted access. 

It is impossible to know which stores will allow pets before you get there. Most of the time, stores should have signage on their front doors explaining their rules.

If a sign claims that all pets are welcome, and not only service dogs, you are free to take your pet inside! If, however, the store states that only service dogs are allowed, then your emotional support animal will not be allowed inside.

Never try to pass off your emotional support animal off as a service animal.

Even if your pet is a dog, it is easy to tell the difference between an animal that has been trained to the extent that a service animal has, compared to one that has not. 

Final Thoughts

Emotional support animals are undoubtedly beneficial for many individuals. However, they do not have the same protection as service animals have.

Stores are not legally obliged to allow your emotional support animal inside. So, you will have to look at whether you can bring your emotional support animal into stores on a case by case basis.

There is no one answer that will apply to all stores.

Anna Granger
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