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Can Hotels Charge For Emotional Support Animals? ESA Hotel Laws 2024
Bringing your emotional support animal (ESA) with you wherever you go is non-negotiable for many individuals. There are federal laws that make it easy and affordable to travel and live with your ESA, such as the Fair Housing Act. But, can hotels charge for emotional support animals? Hotels are public places and therefore, ESAs do not have the same rights they would have in a rental property.
While service animals can accompany their owners to hotels, ESAs may not be permitted (they are seen as pets). In order to bring your ESA with you to a hotel, the hotel must be pet-friendly and pet fees may apply depending on the hotel.
Can Hotels Charge For Emotional Support Animals?
ESAs are protected under housing laws–landlords must make reasonable accommodations for ESAs, which include allowing ESAs to reside in a dwelling even if there is a no pets policy in the building. Additionally, landlords are prohibited from charging a pet fee.
However, hotels are another story–they are considered public spaces, not housing, and ESAs are viewed as pets. Therefore, hotels do not have to allow ESAs on site. Some hotels may also charge a pet fee.
ESA Hotel Laws Vs. Federal ESA Laws
Federal laws for ESA are specific to housing, under the Fair Housing Act. This means that ESAs (and their owners) cannot be denied housing. School dormitories are included in “housing.”
However, there are no laws for ESAs when it comes to hotels. Hotels are considered “temporary” housing, as well as public spaces, so they do not have laws that obligate them to accept ESAs.
This means that if you want your ESA to stay with you at a hotel, the hotel needs to be a pet-friendly one. However, hotels must accept service dogs, because service animals have more legal protections than ESAs.
Emotional Support Dog, Service Dog & Psychiatric Service Dog
Emotional Support Animal
An ESA is an animal which has been prescribed by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) to someone with an emotional or mental disability as a means of treatment. An ESA could be any type or breed of animal, as long as it provides emotional support and symptom relief for the individual.
An animal officially becomes an ESA when your LMHP writes a valid ESA letter for you, which outlines your need for an ESA. This is an official letter, on letterhead, which the ESA owner can show as documentation to businesses, hotels, schools, and airlines that request to see verification.
Not only can an individual choose which type of animal they feel would be most beneficial, but an individual can have more than one ESA. In this case, each ESA would need to serve a different function in treatment, and the LMHP would need to write a separate ESA letter for each.
A service animal has more legal rights than an ESA. This is because service animals do more than provide emotional support–they undergo specialized training to perform specific tasks for people with a physical or mental disability.
Service animals include seeing-eye dogs, parrots that are trained to chirp to alert someone who is hard of hearing, and dogs that are trained to fetch medication.
As a result of their heightened training, duties, and responsibility, service animals are allowed to accompany their owners in many public places, such as hotels, where ESAs may not be permitted. Additionally, pet fees are waived entirely for service animals, whereas for ESAs, this is not always the case.
Psychiatric Service Dog
A psychiatric service dog is similar to both an ESA and a service animal. Their job is to help alleviate an individual’s symptoms associated with a mental health condition. In addition to providing support and comfort, a psychiatric service dog must be specially trained in tasks that are specific to their owner’s mental health condition.
Psychiatric service dogs, like service animals, have more legal protection than ESAs do. They are accepted in public places, such as hotels, airlines, as well as in housing.
Traveling With Emotional Support Animal
The Air Carrier Access Act once allowed ESAs not only to fly with their owners, but to do so at no additional cost. However, as of January 2021, these laws have changed, and now these decisions are left entirely up to individual airlines.
While many airlines recognize ESAs and allow them to fly with their owners, they are treated as pets, and may be subject to a pet travel fee. Additionally, some airlines may not allow all types, breeds, and sizes of animals to fly in airplane cabins.
Always call the airline ahead of time to find out their policies for traveling with ESAs.
The Way To Find An ESA-Friendly Hotel
The best way to find an ESA-friendly hotel is to filter your hotel searches by “pet-friendly” hotels.
Use your preferred search engine and type in “pet-friendly hotels” and be sure to include the area you’re looking to stay, for example, “pet-friendly hotels in New York City.” If you’re working with a travel agent, communicate to them that they should be looking for pet-friendly accommodations.
Middleman travel sites, such as Travelocity, have a filter where you can sort by certain specifications. On Travelocity, after you type in where you’re traveling to and your travel dates, scroll down on the left hand side of the screen to find “Amenities.” One of the amenities is “pet friendly.” Check this box so that only pet-friendly hotels will appear in your search.
How To Contact Hotels?
When you search online for the hotel you’re looking for, you’ll find their website, and on their website will be their contact information. You may wish to call them or email them. Calling will put you in contact with a live person right away.
However, many hotels already have a page or section on their website about their pet policies, in which you can read whether or not they allow animals, and if a pet fee is involved. Look for links or tabs that say “Policies” or “FAQ,” as these are two likely places to find answers to your questions.
Some hotels have a chat feature on their website, in which you can type your questions into a chat box and you’ll get automated responses. This may be enough to answer your questions. If not, call their main number and speak with a concierge person or someone at the front desk.
Getting An ESA Letter
To get an ESA letter, you need to meet with a LMHP who can diagnose your condition. If they feel that having an ESA would benefit your treatment, they will write you an ESA letter. Read more about how to get an ESA letter.
How To Use Your ESA Letter At A Hotel?
Each hotel will have their own protocol for how and when to submit your ESA letter (some may not require it at all). They may ask you to email them a digital copy ahead of your stay or during the booking process, or you may be asked to present it at the front desk when you check in.
You should also keep a copy with you so that if hotel staff approach you in the hallway, lobby, or other areas of the hotel, you can show them your ESA letter, if needed.
Hotels are considered temporary housing, as well as public spaces. As such, they do not fall under “housing” laws, outlined by the Fair Housing Act. While housing providers do have to make reasonable accommodations for ESAs, hotels can choose not to accommodate them.
However, each hotel has its own policy for pets, and some do allow them. If you would like to bring your ESA with you to a hotel, choose one that is pet-friendly.
Can hotels charge pet fees for emotional support animals? Yes. If the hotel is pet-friendly, it may have an additional fee for the animal. Ask ahead of time. You should also contact the hotel in advance to find out if your ESA is permitted in communal areas of the hotel, such as the lobby, restaurant, and shops.
Frequently Asked Questions
A hotel is not considered housing. It is temporary housing and is also considered a public space. Therefore, hotels do not have to abide by the same laws that housing providers do.
Hotel chains, such as Best Western, Marriott, or Hyatt do not guarantee that the hotel will be pet-friendly. Each hotel has their own policy for pets.
Go on their website and look up their contact information. If you want to speak to a live person, call them. Otherwise, many hotels have chat features and emails you can use.
No. You should not attempt to bring an ESA to a hotel if the hotel specifies that it is not pet-friendly.
+ 6 sources
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- HUD.gov / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). (2021). Housing Discrimination Under the Fair Housing Act. [online] Available at: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/fair_housing_act_overview
- Ada.gov. (2017). Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business. [online] Available at: https://archive.ada.gov/archive/qasrvc.htm#:~:text=A%3A%20Under%20the,are%20generally%20allowed
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- Ada.gov. (2017). Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business. [online] Available at: https://archive.ada.gov/archive/qasrvc.htm
- Lloyd, J., Johnston, L. and Lewis, J.B. (2019). Psychiatric Assistance Dog Use for People Living With Mental Health Disorders. [online] 6. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2019.00166.
- Transportation.gov. (2022). Traveling with a Disability | US Department of Transportation. [online] Available at: https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumer-protection/traveling-disability#:~:text=The%20Air%20Carrier%20Access%20Act%20(ACAA)%20is%20a%20law%20that,or%20within%20the%20United%20States.