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Emotional Support Animals in Illinois: Your Easy Guide to Certification

Emotional Support Animals in Illinois 

What are Emotional Support Animals In Illinois? 

If you’re finding it difficult to cope with your mental illness and are struggling to navigate your daily life, your licensed health practitioner may recommend an emotional support animal (ESA). These animals can be beneficial to your mental health and help to improve or stabilize your condition. For example, owning a pet could reduce your anxiety levels and help you to focus on your daily tasks with greater ease. 

It’s essential to understand the distinction between emotional support animals in Illinois and service animals. While service animals are allowed in all public areas, ESAs are not guaranteed access. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines service animals as dogs trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities. In contrast, ESAs are not considered service animals under the act, as they do not perform specific jobs or tasks related to a disability. However, some states may have a broader definition of service animals that includes ESAs. 

The key difference between the two is that service animals are trained to perform tasks directly related to an individual’s disability, such as guiding someone with visual impairment or alerting someone who is hearing-impaired. In contrast, emotional support animals provide emotional comfort to their owners but do not perform specific tasks or jobs related to a disability. For example, an ESA may offer companionship and cuddles to help alleviate anxiety or depression. 

It’s worth noting that in the State of Illinois, there are no specific laws that protect emotional support animals. However, residents of can benefit from federal protections outlined in the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The FHA allows individuals with disabilities to keep an ESA in their home, even if the property owner or landlord has a no-pets policy. 

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Requirements for Emotional Support Animals in Illinois 

It is very simple process to get Emotional Support Animals in Illinois, all you need is a letter or document from a doctor that indicates the animal is a necessary component of your treatment for a qualifying mental health condition. The contents of the letter are at the discretion of the doctor and the patient, and there is no set form that it needs to take. 

Although not required by law, many owners of Emotional Support Animals in Illinois choose to register their animals through Service Dog Certificates to obtain a mobile ID and certification documentation compatible with either Apple Wallet or Google Wallet. This can provide owners with a quick and simple form of tangible evidence to present to landlords and business owners if needed. Landlords often ask for proof and it is important to be able to show them something. Additionally, physical markers like bandanas and collars can be useful tools for owners of emotional support animals to prevent disputes and allow members of the public to quickly identify them as registered Emotional Support Animals in Illinois. 

Landlords must adhere to the following guidelines with respect to support animals in Illinois: 

  • Support animals are not subject to breed, size, or weight limitations. In addition to dogs, other animals may also serve as assistance animals. 
  • If the disability-related need for an assistance animal is not apparent, housing providers may request documentation to establish the need. 
  • To determine whether a support animal may be excluded from a housing complex, a decision must be made based on an individualized assessment relying on objective evidence of the specific animal’s behavior. The decision should not be based on speculation that the animal may cause harm, or on evidence of harm or damage caused by other animals. 
  • Although landlords can request proof of current vaccination and/or licensing for assistance animals, they cannot require specific training or certification. 
  • While landlords can expect assistance animal owners to comply with the rules of the complex, such as picking up animal waste and maintaining the unit to the same extent as other tenants, they cannot require the animal to wear any special identifying gear. 
  • Finally, pet deposits or fees cannot be charged for assistance animals. 

In summary, Emotional Support Animals in Illinois are subject to different rules and guidelines than pets, and it’s important to understand your rights as a tenant with an assistance animal. By following these guidelines, landlords can ensure that assistance animals are accommodated without infringing on the rights of other tenants or endangering the safety of the complex. 

Disorders that may Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal in Illinois: 

  • Cognitive Disorders 
  • Phobias and/or Fears 
  • Substance Abuse Disorders 
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder 
  • Gender Identity Crisis 
  • Bipolar Disorder 
  • Learning Disorders 
  • Sexual Disorders 
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) 

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Housing Laws for Emotional Support Animals in Illinois 

Residents who rely on Emotional Support Animals in Illinois are eligible for specific federal protections when it comes to seeking rental housing. According to the law, anyone with a mental or physical disability has the right to equal access to housing with their ESA. 

This means that emotional support animals in Illinois are allowed to live with their animals, even in rental housing that doesn’t typically permit pets. While not mandated by law, landlords may ask for evidence that confirms the need for the animal. Keeping a mobile ID on hand can be a straightforward way to prepare for this situation. 

Landlords cannot charge additional fees for tenants with ESAs or refuse to rent to them because of their animals. However, tenants are responsible for any damage caused by the animal or any harm it poses to the landlord or other tenants. 

The only permissible questions a landlord can ask with respect to Emotional Support Animals in Illinois are: 

  • "¿Tiene la persona que desea utilizar y vivir con el animal una discapacidad (una deficiencia física o mental que limita sustancialmente una o más actividades importantes de la vida)?"; y 
  • ¿Tiene la persona que presenta la solicitud una necesidad relacionada con su discapacidad de contar con un animal de asistencia? (ofrecer a una persona con discapacidad la misma oportunidad de utilizar o disfrutar de la vivienda)". 

It’s essential to note that hotels are not subject to the Fair Housing Act. If you intend to visit hotel in Illinois with your ESA, it is highly recommended you reach out to your hotel first to confirm their specific policies  

Employment Laws for Emotional Support Animals in Illinois 

In contrast to some other states, employers in Illinois are not legally required to provide accommodations for emotional support animals as they are not covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, this does not mean that ESAs are prohibited in the workplace. If an employee requests to bring their emotional support animal to work, their employer may make an exception and allow it, as many employers have done in the past. 

In recent years, an increasing number of employers have recognized the potential benefits of emotional support animals for their employees, such as decreased stress levels and increased productivity. As a result, more and more workplaces in Illinois are becoming ESA-friendly. However, it is always a good idea to check with your employer’s policies and procedures before bringing your ESA to work, as some companies may have specific rules or requirements in place. 

Flying with an Emotional Support Animal in Illinois  

Emotional support animals in Illinois do not have the same protection when it comes to traveling on commercial airlines as service animals do. In the past, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) required airlines to make reasonable accommodations for passengers with ESAs, but now it only applies to service dogs. If you wish to bring your ESA on a flight, you may be able to carry it in a pet-safe carrier as carry-on luggage and stow it under your seat, as long as it is small enough and you pay a fee. Regardless, if you intend to fly with your ESA, it is critical to contact your airline in advance to confirm their specific policies and accommodations.  

Another option is to train your Emotional Support Animals in Illinois as a service dog. These dogs are trained to perform specific tasks that alleviate the symptoms of disabilities including mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Service dogs are protected under the ACAA and can accompany their owner in the airplane cabin. However, airlines may require you to complete a form about your service animal so it is still critical to contact your airline in advance even if travelling with a service animal. These forms ask about your dog’s training and also serve as an agreement that you understand that your dog must be well-behaved or else it can be treated as a pet and placed in a carrier for a fee.

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