If you have an emotional support animal (ESA), it’s important to know where exactly you’re allowed to bring them. More specifically, if a medical emergency occurs and you need to go to the hospital, then what are the options for your ESA? If you’ve been wondering “Can I bring my ESA to hospital?”, here’s what you need to know about emotional support animals in hospitals.
Can I bring my ESA to hospital?
Your ESA does have rights under the law. For example, under the Fair Housing Act, your ESA is allowed to live with you in housing, even if the landlord has a “no pets” policy. The Air Carrier Access Act also allows you to take your ESA with you on board of an airplane, provided you make arrangements with the airline ahead of time. However, it’s important to keep in mind that since your emotional support animal isn’t specifically trained to perform a task to help you with your disability (like a service animal), it is not allowed in some public places.
Your ESA is not allowed in offices, hotels, stores, or – unfortunately – hospitals. It is a good idea to check with the laws in your state regarding emotional support animals and where they are allowed in public. Local government offices will have the information you need to determine where your ESA is allowed.
If your hospital stay is related to the condition that qualifies you for an ESA, it’s possible that your doctor may have your ESA allowed in hospital with you. Some of the conditions that qualify people for an ESA include:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Attention deficit disorder
- Learning disorders
- Cognitive disorders
Your need for an ESA is judged on a case-by-case basis, so talk to your psychiatrist, psychologist, or other medical professional who is treating you. They can then make sure you get an ESA letter that allows you the rights permitted to ESAs.
How to Get an ESA Letter
You can work with your doctor or therapist to get an ESA letter. Simply speak with them about how an ESA can help with your condition. If they agree, then they can provide a letter, written on their official letterhead, that includes:
- The date (the letter is valid for one year from this date)
- The medical professional’s license number, issue and expiration dates of the license, and state they are licensed in
- The information for your specific ESA, such as what kind of animal it is
You can also get an ESA letter online, but beware that if you use the wrong site, you may not be purchasing a legitimate letter. It would be disappointing to go on vacation with your ESA only to present the airline with a letter that isn’t legitimate and won’t allow your ESA to travel with you.
You’ll need an official ESA letter to take advantage of the rights your ESA is afforded under the law, such as with housing and travel.
Planning Ahead: ESAs in Hospitals
When you have an emotional support animal, you simply need to learn to plan ahead. When you’re traveling, when you’re securing housing, or if you have medical issues that may result in a stay in the hospital, then you need to plan in advance or check the policies so you can understand where your ESA is allowed and where they are not.
When you choose the type of animal that becomes your ESA, it’s important to choose one you can realistically care for. If you have challenges with mobility, choosing an ESA that isn’t very active may be the right call; similarly, if you cannot be home during the day, choosing an ESA that is more independent is a good option. Simply make sure that you consider your lifestyle and your expectations when choosing the type of animal that will work best for you.
If your ESA is not allowed to come with you to the hospital, then you need to make arrangements for it to be cared for when you’re away. You may want to line up a pet sitter to come into your home, or establish a relationship with a pet daycare or boarding facility that you can call upon when you’re in a pinch.
It’s important to remember that while your ESA is special to you and provides comfort to you with your condition, they are not trained to perform a specific task. Due to this distinction, they are not considered service animals and are not allowed in all the places services animals are. This requires you to think ahead about how your ESA will be cared for in an emergency, or if you’re unable to care for them yourself for any reason.
Emotional support animals are wonderful to have by your side and provide comfort you simply cannot get from anywhere else. But having an ESA means you need to consider their wellbeing as well as your own. Having a plan for you and your ESA if they are not allowed to accompany you somewhere will make any situation less stressful.