Certified Emotional Support Animal

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Oct 23, 2010
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Oregon City, Oregon - USA
After a run in last year with a motel manager that wanted us to pay $20 a day to allow my Pug to stay with us in a funky beach front motel I investigated and ultimately secured official certification for him as an Emotional Support Animal. Heh, heh. So I had my official wallet card picture i.d. ready when the same manager hit me up for the $20/day yesterday. “Oh really, does it still apply even if he has Federal Certification?” I asked. OMG. His change of demeanor from snarky to supplicant was incredible. Sunbeams shot through the parting clouds. Nice. I always love a sunny day at the beach.
I had a similar experience last week in Olympia. Had to pay for each of my two dogs. When I checked in, the gal asked if they were service dogs and I said no, because they’re not. She proceeded to tell me I “messed up” because she can’t ask me to prove it and now she has to charge me extra but it’s my fault and too late. I shrugged and said I wasn’t trying to fool anyone.

I was a little surprised at her attitude, but those pet fees added up fast. Maybe I should look into that certification!
FWIW, an ESA doesn't have the same protections under federal law as a service animal. The hotel manager was correct regarding the charge unless your state has further reaching protection for ESA's. Usually you can get away with it though as most people don't know the difference between an ESA and a SA and don't care. "Emotional Support Animal is a term used to describe animals that provide comfort just by being with a person. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. " US DOJ, Civil Rights Division

I hope you didn't pay one of those "ESA registration" websites a stupid fee for an ID card that has the same weight under the law as one you can print out yourself at home and laminate at Staples for three bucks. Once I stopped practicing law I became a service animal advocate since I have one. The biggest issue I've found with issues involving service animals is the small mom and pops just don't know the law. Very few simply just don't care. Normally it's a case of they have customers or employees who have allergies or they are afraid the Health Department is going to come down on them, neither which case is true.

I'm lucky that North Carolina law has service animal laws far broader than the federal law, and NC offers the same protections to animals who are being trained to be service animals but aren't yet service animals. Here in NC if a store owner refuses service I can call the police and the offender will be issued a summons to appear in court to pay or dispute their fine for breaking NC law. So far as I've encountered, the local yokels don't give one damn about the ADA or federal law... "That's the feds problem, not ours" but they will enforce NC law. Federal law permits an individual to train his/her own service animal. You might investigate what protections your ESA has under "service animal in training" in your state. If you have further questions I'll be glad to help so far as I can, and I'm no longer an attorney so I can only offer personal experience and suggestions not legal advice.

So far over the years I've sued one business. The DOJ, the store owner told me, was going to require him to attend disability training and send all his employees to training, require him to post "Service Animals Welcome" signs on the door of his business, and issue a fine. He called me begging me to get the DOJ off his ass once he received their complaint.

The other I almost sued was a local restaurant, Mr. "I don't care what the law says, ain't no dog coming near my food" who wouldn't allow me to eat in his restaurant. I contacted the local news anchor on Monday who invited me to lunch at this restaurant on Wednesday. She told me "Bring your service animal. I'm bringing the film crew." When the Mayor heard that his town was going to be all over the news on Wednesday, he called the restaurant owner ASAP. All I know is the restaurant owner called me on Tuesday and told me that my service animal and I could eat in his restaurant anytime we wanted to. Not sure what the Mayor said to him, but it apparently made an impression.

Here's a link to the DOJ website. Service Animals
And attached is the DOJ PDF regarding service animals. I usually keep a copy on me for the mom and pops who don't have a corporate attorney on retainer to advice them.

She proceeded to tell me I “messed up” because she can’t ask me to prove it and now she has to charge me extra but it’s my fault and too late. I shrugged and said I wasn’t trying to fool anyone.
Bad advice. In some states it's a misdemeanor crime to disguise a dog as a service animal. NC is one of them. If I recall the fine is $250 or $300 and your dog can be impounded.


  • DOJ Service Animals FAQs.pdf
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I plan to get an emotional support honey badger the next time I have a flight. I'm not sure if I'll have to pay for a seat for him, or should I let him pick any seat he wants?

Or…you could get a Porcupine!


Stock photo.
Nah go with the "emotional support Boa constrictor".
Then you can use him for emotional support and as a self defense. LOL