If you’re based in Michigan and looking to get an emotional support animal, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll cover the laws relating to Michigan ESAs, as well as their exceptions, plus, most importantly, how to get one!
Emotional Support Animals, Service Animals, Assistance Animals: What’s the Difference?
An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal, which is a general term for an animal that helps people, which also encapsulates service animals like guide dogs are another type of assistance animal. But note, different laws apply to different types of assistance animal.
While service animals must be specially trained to perform a specific task relating to their handler’s disability, emotional support animals can be any kind of domesticated animal and do not require special training. They only need to be able to behave properly in public and offer comfort and support to their owners. People with mental health conditions can benefit from ESAs, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression.
Specific Protection for Emotional Support Animals in Michigan
Before getting an emotional support animal, it’s important to have an understanding of the laws that apply to you and your ESA — not to mention exceptions to those laws.
There are three main laws relating to assistance animals:
- American with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA sets out the definitions of different kinds of assistance animal, though the protections only apply to trained service dogs. The ADA protects the rights of service dog handlers to bring them into businesses and public places, but it does not do the same for ESAs, which are only permitted in places where pets are allowed.
- Fair Housing Act (FHA)
The FHA protects the rights of people with ESAs and service animals living in rented accommodation, even when pets are not permitted. ESA owners may need to provide an ESA letter to housing providers (more on them below).
- Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA)
The ACAA permits people with ESAs and service animals to travel with them in the cabin of commercial airlines free of charge, even when pets are not permitted. Again, airlines may require an ESA letter and additional documentation, so make sure to check in advance of flying,
Exceptions to ESA Laws in Michigan
These laws are in place to protect people with disabilities from discrimination. However, anyone who’s tempted to bend the law to bring their pet places for free should take note: in Michigan, it is a crime to misrepresent assistance animals. Those who do so could face a fine of up to $500, a 90-day prison sentence, or up to 30 days of community service.
What’s more, even a legitimate ESA may be exempt from these laws if it is unable to behave properly in public, is deemed unclean or a danger to others, or if it is not housebroken. It is the owner’s responsibility to make sure their ESA can abide by these rules.
Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Michigan: An ESA Letter is Key!
The most important step in getting an emotional support animal is to get a valid ESA letter. An emotional support animal letter is an official document that can only be issued by a medical doctor or a licensed mental health professional who is treating you for a mental or emotional condition. ESA letters are valid for one year and must be renewed after that period or they become void. The ESA letter must be on letter-headed paper from the office of the LMHP and must state the following information:
- You have a diagnosis for an emotional or mental health condition or disability, and you are receiving treatment for it from the letter’s issuer
- The type of animal you have as an ESA
- Your ESA is necessary for the treatment of the condition named in the letter, or in order for you to complete daily tasks
- The letter issuer’s license number, its date and state of issue, and the type of license
Beware websites that offer ESA letters or certificates with no questions asked or without you needing to provide any information. While there are legitimate websites that can help you to get an ESA letter by connecting you with a licensed mental health professional in your state, there are lots more that sell fake ESA letters that are completely invalid.
Other websites will offer to “certify” your animal as an ESA or add it to a register: these are also scams, as there is no way of certifying ESAs. An ESA letter is the only way to prove your need for an emotional support animal.
Many Americans find themselves with travel plans ruined by these unscrupulous sites so always make sure you’re getting your ESA letter from a trusted website.
Where to Find a Suitable ESA in Michigan
Any calm, well-behaved animal can be an emotional support animal, from dogs and cats to sometimes rabbits! It only has to be able to offer its owner love, support, and a calming influence. With that in mind, why not try looking for your perfect companion in one of Michigan’s many animal shelters? There are hundreds of dogs, cats and more there with lots of love to give!
Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Michigan? The First Step is to Connect with a Licensed Mental Health Professional in That State!
If you think that an emotional support animal is right for you, the most important step is to get an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional in your state. If you’re looking to do this online, look for legitimate websites that help you to connect with LMHPs. Some will even offer free pre-screening questions that will help you to determine whether you would qualify for an emotional support animal before you have to spend a single cent!