The state of Delaware is more tolerant with emotional support animals than most states, and they enforce state and federal laws that protect emotional support animals in the areas of housing, travel and employment.
Through the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and state law that ensures individuals are able to bring their companion with them to work when necessary, those who rely upon an emotional support animal are well protected by the law in Delaware.
However, there are important distinctions between the permission given to owners of service animals and those given to emotional support animals, and it is important to become familiar with the rights for the type of support animal you require.
The following is an overview of how emotional support animals in Delaware are protected under state and federal law, particularly as it relates to housing opportunities, travel laws, employment laws and access to public accommodations like restaurants, churches and hotels. We also provide insights on the benefits of obtaining an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional provide and how to get a legitimate ESA letter the right way.
The emotional support animal laws in Delaware that are established in the Federal Fair Housing Act state that housing facilities cannot deny housing to someone or their emotional support animal or service animal due to their disability or need for the assistance animal. The law states that landlords must make “reasonable accommodations” to individuals who are determined by a licensed mental health professional to need an emotional support animal or service animal.
Reasonable accommodations should include but not necessarily be limited to waiving of any no pet policies or pet fees the housing facility may have. Various types of animals are acceptable as emotional support animals, including most dogs and cats. However, the landlord may have the right to deny living arrangements for the prospective tenant and their emotional support animal if the animal displays aggressive, disruptive or destructive behavior. If the animal requires significant alterations to the living area—such as an animal that is too large to comfortably live in an apartment or small home—then the landlord may deny the provided ESA letter and request for accommodations.
To ensure the process goes smoothly, communication between the tenant and the landlord is essential. It is encouraged to provide the landlord with ample advanced notice so that they can make the necessary arrangements. If the landlord unlawfully denies the request to allow for your emotional support animal to live with you, then contact the Housing and Urban Development for information about actions you can take.
Owners of an emotional support animal are allowed to bring their companion onboard flights in Delaware due to the laws established in the ACAA. The Air Carrier Access Act ensures airlines do not discriminate against those with a physical or mental disability by stating that all support animals (emotional support & service animal) that meet the necessary requirements can travel with the individual with the disability or complication-free of charge.
However, there are certain restrictions. Most restrictions to the Air Carrier Access Act are common-sense restrictions, such as prohibiting animals that may become aggressive or cause a disruption to others during the flight. Large animals such as miniature horses may not be allowed on the flight regardless if they are used for emotional support.
It is also important to note that the preparation and notification requirements are more strict than they used to be with airlines, as many people have abused the law to get their pet to travel for free. To ensure your emotional support animal is allowed on the flight without any delays or complications, let the airline know several days in advance and look up the airline’s proper boarding process with an emotional support animal before you arrive.
You will also need the proper documentation with you proving that the animal is used for emotional support. An ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional should be enough. To learn more about ESA letters and start the registration process, check out the U.S. Service Animal registration information here.
Delaware is one of the few states that does not make a clear distinction between a service animal and an emotional support animal when it comes to accommodations in the workplace. Since they are viewed similarly, they are both allowed in the workplace, and employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for their employees, particularly those who require an emotional support animal.
Of course, reasonable accommodation does not necessarily mean the employer must allow the animal at the office. They may instead provide a way for the employee to work from home, or come up with a mutual agreement on ways to deal with their mental health during the workday.
Additionally, the employer may only ask for documentation to prove the need for the service animal or emotional support animal if the disability or complication is not obvious. For example, an employee who has a service animal to help with visual impairment is typically easily observable, whereas one who struggles with depression and anxiety and needs an emotional support animal for assistance may not be as obvious to an employer. If the employer does ask for documentation, an ESA letter by a licensed mental health professional should be all that is required.
While it can be scary to talk to your boss about the importance of an emotional support animal, many are far more understanding than one may think. In fact, many welcome well-behaved companions in the office to make the work environment more enjoyable. Make sure to let your employer know about Delaware state laws that requires reasonable accommodation, and you should be able to find a way to make the work environment more pleasant.
Public Accommodation Laws
Public places—such as libraries, restaurants, and more—are not required by law to make accommodations to visitors with emotional support animals. This means that establishments that have a no pet policy do not have to allow individuals with emotional support animals access even if they have an ESA letter.
However, service animals are allowed in almost all public places in Delaware. A service animal is an animal (typically a dog) that serves an important role for the person’s physical health and wellbeing, such as an alert dog for someone with epilepsy or a guide dog for someone who is blind or visually impaired. This is different than an emotional support animal, which is primarily used to assist with mental health complications. The main difference is that training and service animals typically go through much more extensive training.
Since emotional support animals are not protected by law in public places in Delaware, it is perhaps best to provide establishments such as restaurants and hotels with advanced notice if you plan to bring your emotional support animal. Many are willing to accommodate your needs even if they are not obligated to by Delaware state law.
For those who own service animals, you are allowed to bring your companion with you to any public place. The establishment can only ask for documentation if they are in doubt and the need for the service animal is not obvious. They are not allowed to charge a fee for the animal, although the person with the service animal will be responsible for any damages the animal causes.
An Overview of an ESA Letter
An ESA letter is a way to let landlords, airlines, employers and others know about your need for an emotional support animal. An ESA letter must be only provided after a meeting with a licensed mental health professional. It is very strongly encouraged to avoid any websites or programs that offer an ESA letter without first meeting with a mental health professional as it will not be legitimate.
If you obtain your ESA letter the proper way, then you are protected by state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination against a person with a disability or mental health complication and their emotional support animal. Laws such as the Federal Fair Housing Act, Air Carrier Access Act and state law in Delaware require employers to make reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals that must be followed if the individual possesses a legitimate ESA letter and all other requirements are met.
How to Get an ESA Letter in Delaware
If you struggle with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety and are interested in learning more about how to get an ESA letter in Delaware, then you can learn more and complete the entire process here at U.S. Service Animals.
The first step is to complete our registration form, and then you will be scheduled a time to meet with a licensed mental health professional who can examine the symptoms you have and determine if you can benefit from an emotional support animal. Upon successful completion of the interview, an ESA letter will be sent to you and you can begin to enjoy the benefits that holding an ESA letter has to offer.