They are soft and fluffy, tender and cute; they bring happiness and comfort to our life. Who are they? Pets! It can be a cat or a dog, a lizard or a mini pig, it can be any animal that makes your life at least a little bit better. Do you feel like it’s an integral part of your emotional wellbeing? Do you feel like parting with your pet brings you down? Well, there might be a way to share a company of your animal regardless of some overly encumbering rules and regulations. At least when it comes to living in a rented apartment or traveling by plane. How? By getting it prescribed to you as an ESA.

Emotional support animal, or ESA for short, is an animal that gets prescribed by a psychiatrist or a mental health counselor to a patient as a part of your treatment. This kind of animal does not require any special training, it just needs to make you feel or do better in some way. It also enjoys some protection under U.S. law. 

But laws and bureaucratic processes can be confusing and convoluted, especially when it comes to state laws. So how do you get an emotional support animal if you live in Kansas? Well, this article will explain to you how. We strive to make it easier for you by quickly going through the regulation concerning ownership of an ESA in Kansas and providing you with relevant references.

Kansas regulations relevant to ESAs

Kansas Act Against Discrimination (KAAD) does not mention service animals or any other animals, but it may be possible to file a discrimination complaint about an ESA with Kansas Human rights commission instead of doing it on the federal level. 

Kansas white cane law K. S. A. 39-1101 to 1113 only concerns about a guide dog, a hearing assistance dog, and a service dog. This means ESAs in Kansas fall only under federal law. However, ESA is still a subject to local laws on animal vaccination. Those can differ greatly, so we suggest inquiring about them your city or county government. Also, the sunflower state has one of the most liberal laws regarding ownership of great apes. While obtaining an emotional support gorilla is not an avenue that we recommend you to pursue, it’s just something to consider.

We would like to bring your attention to a difference between a service animal, a therapy animal, and an ESA. Service animals require extensive training and certification. They help disabled people by performing a specific function. Most often, service animals are dogs with a rare exception of a mini-horses. Next, therapy animals are trained animals that work in hospitals and other public institutions together with their handlers. Unlike them, ESAs do not require specialized training or certification, are not restricted by species or breeds and help their owners just by being with them and not by performing a trained function. It’s a distinctly different legal category of animals. 

This is important because Kansas Statute 39-1112 considers misrepresentation of a dog as a service or therapy dog a class A misdemeanor. Make sure not to dress or otherwise identify your emotional support dog as a therapy or a service animal.

Federal regulation about ESAs

There are other three main pieces of legislation that pertain to emotional support animals.
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and other related regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation obligate air carriers to take ESAs as well as service animals to the cabin free of charge. There are however some caveats:

  • You have to inform an air carrier about your ESA 48 hours in advance;
  • An animal must be of a size to fit on your lap or under your seat;
  • You need to provide valid documentation (i.e. an ESA Letter) that is not older than one year from the scheduled flight; 
  • Air carrier doesn't have to take an unruly or an aggressive animal on board;
  • Air carriers don’t have to take rodents, reptiles, ferrets, snakes, sugar gliders, and spiders; 

But the main area where ESAs have an advantage over pets is housing. There are two pieces of legislation Section 504 and the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). The first one covers government-funded housing, the second one applies to all the housing with some exemptions. These exemptions include owner-occupied buildings with four units or less; also, single-family housing, which was rented without using advertising or agent; private clubs and churches that lease apartments to members or affiliates. While there can be reasons for using one law or another, they are pretty similar in regards to ESAs. So, let's talk about FHA more in detail.

The FHA obligates a landlord to provide reasonable accommodation to a disabled tenant. When it comes to ESAs, landlords: 

  • Must waive a “no pet” policy if they have one;
  • Can’t take a pet fee or a pet deposit for ESAs;
  • Must allow an ESA to a common area, if there is one;
  • Must allow a tenant to make small modifications to a property to accommodate an ESA;
  • Can't deny potential tenants applying for or inspecting a potential rental property on the basis of having an ESA with them.

If a landlord does not comply, you can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Developments (HUD) or sue for discrimination in court. 
Contrary to popular belief, the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not cover ESAs. The Department of Justice's amendments to it clearly define assistance animals as trained service dogs. That is why ESAs are not guaranteed access to public establishments and workplaces by law like service dogs are. Although, many companies still make exceptions to ESAs.

How to get your landlord to comply and Other tips

When you apply for housing, a landlord can’t legally ask you to provide any information about your health. However, you may be asked some questions about your animal. A landlord may ask you whether it is a service animal and whether it performs a function for you. To which you should answer that it is an emotional support animal and it helps you with one of your unspecified symptoms. A landlord isn’t allowed to inquire about the medical specifics of your handicap.

After you asked a landlord to accommodate a need for an ESA in one of the aforementioned ways, they might request relevant documentation: an ESA letter that proves the existence of a condition, and prescription of an ESA by a mental health professional.

If they still deny your request, don't jump to concluding discrimination. Most people are simply uninformed. Tell them about their obligations or simply refer to a relevant resource. If it doesn’t work, proceed to file a complaint with a clear conscience.  

But beware, there are legal reasons to deny you housing because of an ESA if: 

  • Your animal is feral, aggressive, or poses danger to other tenants, note that these qualifiers aren’t related to species or breed, but rather an animal's personal behavior and history, regardless of an animal type; 
  • You are negligent towards your ESA and failing to properly look after it;
  • Your ESA is disrupting the lives of other tenets either by extreme noise, smell or mess;
  • One of the other tenants has medical concerns like an allergic reaction to it; 
  • Your ESA is of a particularly large or a hard to keep type, that it requires extensive modifications to a property; 
  • Keeping it would force an insurance company to raise rates on the property. 

All in all, these are a rare set of circumstances but it is still something to be aware of.

Another thing to consider is that different airlines can still have additional internal regulations that differ from carrier to carrier. So, it's better to inquire about it in advance. And the same goes for colleges and universities. Contact administration or disability resources at your place of study to find out more.

How to get an ESA letter in Kansas

Really simple. You need to get your psychological disorder diagnosed by a mental health professional (LPC or M.D.) licensed in Kansas. Medical licenses generally don’t extend over state borders.
There are numerous disorders that warrant an ESA, including but not limited to: depression, bipolar, acute stress disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, panic disorders, phobias, anorexia, bulimia, mood disorders, OCD, ADD, ADHD, and many others. Then, you need the same or another mental health professional to prescribe you an ESA as a treatment. Don't forget to ask them for an ESA letter as it is necessary for you to prove your animal's ESA status. This letter is generally valid for a year since it was signed by your doctor or counselor.

Sometimes, it is hard to go through life if you’re alone. Maybe you need to care for someone to feel fulfilled? Maybe, to live a harmonious and happy life you lack a certain something? Maybe this certain something is a cheerful puppy or a cute kitten? Maybe this certain something is some other type of an animal? Perhaps you've already met your fluffy sweetheart, and have some other obstacles in your way. Well, good luck!

We hope that this article helped you to navigate important legalese of ESA ownership. We are happy if we have helped you to make your life that precious little bit more comfortable.