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How to Get Your Emotional Support Animal Certification
in Virginia

Virginia ESA Letter

Having your pet legally recognized as an Emotional Support Animal is a life-changing experience because it limits the discrimination you’ll experience due to your reliance on this animal. This recognition comes in the form of a letter from a licensed healthcare professional.

There is a process for receiving certification for your Emotional Support Animal in Virginia, though. American Service Pets helps people get those letters. Qualify for your Virginia ESA letter now.

How Emotional Support Animal Can Benefit You

Suffering from an emotional or mental condition can be an overwhelming experience for many. Individuals who have an animal that helps them through these tough times will benefit from ESA certification because it will:

Help Treat A Condition

One of the main benefits of Emotional Support Animals is that they can help with panic disorders, anxiety, and other conditions. Keeping your ESA close to you when suffering from a bout of panic or anxiety can ensure it doesn’t take over your life and limit the effect it has on your psyche.

Support Mental Health

You can provide support for mental illnesses like depression, PTSD, and specific phobias with an ESA, too. These animals provide the support you might need to continue moving on with your life. Some people also receive assistance from their ESA as they deal with gender issues and sexual disorders.

Offer Companionship

It sounds simple, but an Emotional Support Animal provides companionship to prevent issues like separation anxiety from taking control. Those who struggle to meet new people can also use their ESA as an icebreaker when interacting in a new location.

Your Emotional Support Animal in Virginia can provide you with endless benefits, as having a companion around to offer support when you need it the most is incredibly important. American Service Pets can help you receive the certification you need to take advantage of these positives. Fill out our questionnaire to see if an Emotional Support Animal or Psychiatric Service Animal (PSA) would work best for you.

Emotional Support Animal Laws in Virginia

Virginia states that an animal providing companionship or emotional support does not qualify as a service animal. Most guidelines allowing exceptions for animals in the state are only applicable to service dogs, including PSDs, so there’s very little protecting ESA rights.

Housing Laws in Virginia

The primary protection you’ll receive through your ESA letter in Virginia relates to housing. There is no state law, but the Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to discriminate against any tenant who requires an Emotional Support Animal. This law even holds true in buildings where pets are prohibited.

Certified Virginia ESA in owner's apartment
The rights of Virginia ESAs in public places

ESAs in Public Places

Virginia doesn’t have laws protecting your ability to bring your ESA with you into public areas such as restaurants, retailers, malls. The decision lies with the owner of these establishments. You are bound by the same rules and regulations as a typical pet owner in the state when it comes to state and national parks.

Work Laws

Employers are well within their rights to prevent you from bringing your ESA to work. This decision will come down to company policy, and there’s little you can do unless your pet qualifies as a PSD in the future.

Work Place Virginia ESA
ESA pet owners walking her dog to a public railway

Laws While Traveling

Air travel with an ESA from Virginia depends on the airline’s policy. The Department of Transportation (DOT) updated travel laws in 2020 that prevent Emotional Support Animals from flying in the cabin. You’ll need to check with your airline before traveling for insight into their rules. 

More Than One Support Animal

Those with more than one ESA will need certification for each animal. These animals will all need to be added to the international database, too.

Your Virginia ESA in the Other States

Your Emotional Support Animal certification letter from Virginia is applicable in other states. Keep in mind that Virginia doesn’t have any state laws offering you support, so you could have additional rights in other parts of the country. Federal guidelines apply everywhere.

Knowing the laws can prevent you from running into trouble later on, despite having a letter certifying your Emotional Support Animal in Virginia. American Service Pets makes the entire application process straightforward, saving you time. 

The Basics

Does the state have its own laws in addition to federal legislature?

Yes, Virginia has its own set of laws that cover service animals (and to some extent emotional support animals) in public places and housing. Virginia also abides by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Definition of a "Service Animal"

Virginia’s disability law requires public places to allow guide dogs, hearing dogs, and service dogs. Guide dogs assist someone who is completely or partially blind with navigation and other tasks. Hearing dogs are trained to alert their handlers, through touch, to sounds that indicate danger and other sounds to which the handler should respond. Service dogs have been trained to do work or tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. Psychiatric service dogs are not specifically covered under Virginia law, but the ADA typically extends coverage to them as well.

What is considered a disability in the state?

“Person with a disability” in Virginia means “any person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of their major life activities or who has a record of such impairment.

What animals qualify as a service animal?

Under the ADA, a service animal is a dog that has been trained to perform disability-related tasks. In some cases, a miniature horse may also qualify as a service animal.

Are there penalties for falsly claiming or implying (such as with a service animal harness), that one's animal is a service animal?

In Virginia, anyone who knowingly uses a harness, collar, vest, sign, or identification card to misrepresent an animal as a service animal and gain access to public accommodation is guilty of a class 4 misdemeanor.

Do state laws provide coverage for service animals in training?

Yes, Virginia law does cover service dogs in training, provided they are at least six months of age, accompanied by an experienced trainer, and wearing an identifiable harness, backpack, vest, or leash (the type of required article depends on whether the animal is a guide, hearing, or service dog).

Do state laws provide coverage for Emotional Support Animals?

Neither Virginia law nor the ADA provide coverage for emotional support animals in public accommodations. Virginia law specifically states that “providing companionship, emotional support, well-being, or comfort does not qualify as performing work or tasks for a person with a disability.”

Public Accommodations & Travel with a Service Animal

What counts as a "public accommodation" in the state? Ie. Where are service dogs allowed?

Virginia’s service animal law applies to all public places like public buildings, faciilties, streets, and sidewalks. It also applies to restaurants, hotels/lodging places, places of amusement, public transportation, and any other place where the general public is invited.

Can a public establishment question a service animal?

Under the ADA, a public accommodation may not ask questions about a handler’s disability or request documentation of the service animal’s training or status. Establishments may only ask whether or not the animal is a service animal and what tasks it performs.

Are there any special measures you must take to have a service animal assisting you in public?

Virginia law requires that service dogs must be identified in particular ways. Guide dogs must be in a harness, hearing dogs must be on a blaze orange leash, and service dogs must be in a backpack, harness, or vest identifying them as trained service dogs.

What are the rules regarding service animals on public transportation?

Service animals are allowed on public transportation due to both the ADA’s rules and Virginia law, which classifies transportation as a type of public accommodation.

Are there any exceptions to public accommodations laws for service animals?

Both the ADA and Virginia law prohibits public accommodations from charging extra for service animals. However, if a service animal causes damage, you may be liable for any charges. Service animals can also be removed or barred from entry if they are out of control or cause a direct threat to the health and safety of others.

Are service animals allowed access to healthcare facilities?

Generally yes, service animals must be allowed in patient rooms and anywhere else the public or patients are allowed to go. If a patient is not able to care for their service dog, the hospital should give the opportunity for the patient to make arrangements with a friend or family member for alternative care. If alternative care arrangements cannot be made, the hospital may board the dog until the patient is able to care for it or make other arrangements. Service dogs may also ride in ambulances with their handlers unless it is too crowded or the dog’s presence would interfere with the emergency medical staff’s ability to treat the patient. In this case, the hospital should make arrangements to transport the dog to the hospital.

Are there penalties for public places that refuse service animals?

Public accommodations may be subject to paying “compensatory damages” if a discrimination complaint is brought against them under Virginia law and the ADA.

Virginia follows the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which defines a service animal as a dog (regardless of breed or size) trained to do work or perform tasks to assist a qualified individual with a diability, and may include psychiatric service dogs. Minature horses are excluded in this definition.

How do airlines determine what qualifies as a service animal?

Airlines can require a passenger to provide a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) form attesting to the animal’s health, behavior, and training and a U.S. DOT form attesting that the animal can either not relieve itself or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner (if the animal will be on a flight that is 8 or more hours).

Are service animals in-training covered by this law?

The ACAA does not address service animals in-training, so airlines are not required to carry them as they do not meet the requirements of an ACAA-defined service animal. However, airlines can make their own individual policies.

Housing Law

What are the state's laws regarding housing and service animals?

Both the federal Fair Housing Act and Virginia law prohibit discrimination against those who use service animals. You must be allowed full and equal access to housing facilities and you may not be charged additional fees for your service animal.

Are there any additional caveats to housing allowances?

If a person’s disability is not readily apparent or known, a landlord may ask for additional verification to evaluate the requester’s disability-related need for an animal.

Am I liable for damage caused by my service animal?

Yes, service animal handlers may be liable for any damage caused by the animal.

Do housing laws extend to ESAs?

Yes, Virginia Fair Housing Law covers assistance animals, which includes both service animals and animals that provide “emotional support to persons with disabilities who have a disability-related need for such support.”

Discrimination Complaints

How can I file a complaint for not being allowed in a public accommodation with my service dog?

If you have experienced a discriminatory incident related to your service dog, you can file a complaint at the local, state, or federal level under Virginia and/or ADA law. Action can be taken within a year for violation of rights. However, the initial discrimination claim must be filed within 180 days of the incident in order to move forward with compensation for damages.

How can I file a complaint for not being allowed to have my service dog in housing (or for being forced to pay a fee to a landlord)?

You can file a complaint with the Virginia Fair Housing Office. Complaints must be filed within one year of the discriminatory incident. Complaints can also be filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity division if needed.

3 Steps to Get Your ESA Letter For Your Emotional Support Animal in Virginia

You’ll have to follow a quick process to get your Emotional Support Animal certification letter in Virginia. It doesn’t take long and is well worth the effort because of the advantages it provides.

Fill Out The Questionnaire

Start the process by filling out a quick questionnaire that provides insight into your eligibility. Answer the questions as honestly as possible to keep the process moving smoothly. There’s a chance the survey will inform you that a PSD would work best in your situation, too.

Get Approval

You’ll then fill out your application form to receive approval from a licensed healthcare professional. American Service Pets allows you to submit the documents online, where a doctor can review them immediately. You will receive your certificate in your inbox within a matter of minutes.

Register For The Directory

There’s an international directory of Emotional Support Animals, and you’ll want to ensure your animal is on it. American Service Pets will put your animal in the database, so officials can access this information no matter where in the world you travel.

Receiving your ESA letter through American Service Pets is incredibly easy because we take care of everything for you. Roughly 95% of our applicants receive approval, so fill out our questionnaire today to see if you qualify. 

American Service Pets is Here For You

Anyone who is dealing with emotional or mental problems can benefit by receiving their ESA letter in Virginia. American Service Pets streamlines this process for you by:

Emotional Support Dog in California

Take your first step by filling out our questionnaire to see if you’re eligible for an ESA letter. You can then receive your certification and begin enjoying the endless benefits of having an Emotional Support Animal by your side in Virginia. If you have additional questions before applying, call us at (804) 203-2152 to speak to a real person.

Disclaimer: We would like to emphasize that while the terms “certification” or “registration” may be used in relation to Emotional Support Animals, there is no official certification process for ESAs or any form of ESA registry as of this date. As such, the use of these terms should not be interpreted as legally recognized designations by government or regulatory authorities. Remember, ESAs can provide a valuable source of comfort and support, but their recognition relies on proper documentation from a healthcare professional and adherence to relevant laws and guidelines.

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