Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Virginia Beach

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 16, 2021

emotional support animal virginia beach shoreline

If you’re looking at getting an emotional support animal in Virginia Beach, you’ve come to the right place! Life gets difficult sometimes, so it helps to know that you can have the comfort, companionship, and support of your emotional support animal (ESA) when things get tough.

These animals provide a sense of safety, companionship, and comfort to people suffering from psychiatric or emotional disabilities.

Emotional Support Animal in Virginia Beach: Specific protection

The federal law protects individuals from discrimination and affords those with mental or emotional disabilities certain rights. Specific state laws also protect the rights of disabled persons and their assistance animals.

The ADA and Virginia’s service animal law do not include pets or emotional support animals. Under Virginia law, animals providing companionship, emotional support or comfort do not qualify as performing work or tasks for a person with a disability.

ESAs provide therapeutic benefits, but they are not specifically trained to perform specific tasks for their owners. The ADA and Virginia law state that owners of public accommodations are only required to allow service animals, not emotional support animals.

Definition of Assistance Animal

An assistance animal is a type of animal that helps those with physical, mental, or psychological disabilities.

Service animals are defined as trained to perform tasks to assist disabled people. An emotional support animal can be any animal who provides comfort and safety to those suffering from mental illnesses.

An emotional support animal in Virginia Beach, as well as every other city in America, do not require training to qualify as assistance animals; therefore, an ESA will only be protected under the Air Carrier Access Act and the federal Fair Housing Act.

How to get an Emotional Support Animal in Virginia Beach: CertaPet’s simple 5 min process

To get you on your way to getting an emotional support animal in Virginia Beach, firstly you’ll need an official ESA letter written by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP). LMHPs can be a psychiatrist, licensed clinical social worker, or psychologist.

Qualifying conditions include post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD, fear/phobias, panic disorder/panic attacks, mood disorders, personality disorders, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), anxiety, and depression.

Certapet’s simple 5-minute process can help determine whether you qualify for an ESA Letter or not.

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

Under the ACAA, U.S. carriers are required to transport all types of assistance animals except certain unusual animals (e.g., snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders).

Foreign air carriers are not required to transport assistance animals other than dogs, and passengers intending to fly with a verified ESA are recommended to contact the carrier 48 hours before their flight.

The forms required may vary between Airlines to travel onboard, and you’d be wise to check each on a case-by-case basis. Documentation must always be current, that is not older than a year.

Airlines also may require confirmation that the animal will not need to relieve itself during the expected duration of the flight or that the animal can relieve itself in a way that does not create a health or sanitation issue on the flight.

Passengers accompanied by an emotional support animal should provide an ESA letter on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional stating:

  • the passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fourth Edition (DSM IV)
  • the passenger needs the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger’s destination
  • the individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional, and the passenger is under his or her professional care
  • the date and type of the mental health professional’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.

Employment Laws

Should you as an employee be considering getting an emotional support animal in Virginia Beach then it is important to discuss reasonable accommodation with your employer. While you can travel and live with your pet, state law does not make provisions for emotional support animals in the workplace.

In the best case scenario, an employer will recognize that by allowing ESAs, their staff will be in a better place to raise productivity levels!

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

The FHA prohibits discrimination against persons with a disability, which includes people with ESAs.

Landlords should act within the letter of the law in Virginia Beach as regards permitting Emotional Support Animals.

At the urging of National Apartment Association (NAA’s) affiliates in Virginia, the Senate Bill 1228 was passed. The new Virginia law requires any verifier of the disability-related need for the assistant animal to have a “therapeutic relationship” with the applicant.

ESA dog sleeping on couch

In response to reports of increased applicants, the SB 1228 outlines the legally recognized process for apartment owners to respond to reasonable accommodation requests for an assistance animal.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) representatives are concerned that a therapeutic relationship as prerequisite might interfere with the provisions of the Fair Housing Act.

The FHA sees to it that housing and shelter providers avoid policies and practices that might unintentionally discriminate against individuals with disabilities.

Tenants cannot be charged pet deposits for an ESA.

In order to qualify, the resident must satisfy certain requirements and provide:

Documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker, or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability. Such documentation is sufficient if it establishes that an individual has a disability and that the animal in question will provide some type of disability-related assistance or emotional support.

ESA Campus Housing

If you plan on bringing your ESA to campus, then it is worth asking the campus Services for Students with Disabilities Offices.

Bear in mind though that these rules must fall within the guidelines of the FHA and federal laws. Virginia Tech, for example, addresses this in their manual.

If you are thinking of studying and are looking at getting an emotional support animal, it would be wise to see to it that your ESA will tick all the boxes.

Campuses in Virginia Beach seem amenable to the reasonable accommodation of ESAs in campus housing, provided the correct procedures are followed.

Exception to Rules

Every rule has its exception, and you will likely find this to be the case with having an emotional support animal in Virginia Beach. Of course, common sense prevails and the animal should not pose a threat to others. You do have rights under the FHA, but a landlord does not have to comply with federal law in these instances:

  • Buildings that only have 4 (or less) units and the landlord lives in one of them
  • A single-family house that is rented without a real estate agent
  • When the animal is too large for the accommodation, for example, a large-breed horse

Under the ACAA, it is fair to accept that the animal is reasonably expected to fit within the context of sharing a confined space with strangers. Snakes and large spiders might not fall within the parameters of these expectations.

Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal

The state law addresses service animals per se, not assistance animals, and is aimed more at deterrence than for punishment.

The law went into effect on July 1, 2016, making it illegal to fit a dog with a harness or other signage “commonly used by a person with a disability” in order to represent the animal as a service dog.

Anyone found in violation of this law can be fined $250.

4 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

esa in virginia beach on bed with owner

  1. Animals need to be cared for regardless of how you are feeling at any given time. They need access to a nutritious diet, fresh water, a comfortable place to live, and veterinary care.
  2. Know your own limitations before choosing an ESA, and make sure you and the animal can live happily together.
  3. The person will need an official, legal letter from an LMHP to have a verified support animal. The animal is not certified or registered as such.
  4. An emotional support animal is NOT a service dog. A trained guide dog for a blind person is an example of a service dog, an ESA provides comfort and companionship for a mental/emotional disabled person.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

If your pet, be it a cat, a miniature horse or anything in between, you may already be lucky enough to have your emotional support animal.

If not, Virginia beach animal shelter or animal care and humane society may be the best option.

Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal

Learn where can the two of you safely go together for a fun outing!

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

  • Woodstock Community Dog Park
  • False Cape State Park
  • City View Park

Dog-friendly restaurants and bars

  • Abbey Road Pub and Restaurant
  • Cactus Jack’s
  • Froggies

Resorts, fitness, and spas

  • Sunset Beach Resort
  • Hyatt House Virginia Beach Oceanfront
  • Fort De Soto Dog Beach Park
  • Stumpy Lake Natural Area


Out and about?

You have interesting prospects this June: BB Girls Furbaby and Fashionable Garden Brunch. Further afield, around Autumn, you can mosey down to Chesapeake for Bark in the Park.

ESAs in Virginia Beach: How to Get Connected with an LMHP!!

An ESA is more than just an assistant, it is a constant companion and provider of comfort. Contact CertaPet to get connected with an emotional support animal in Virginia Beach today!

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