Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Illinois

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 16, 2021

emotional support animal in illinoisMaking sure your emotional support animal is legitimate and has the proper paperwork is essential for smooth sailing. Ensure you understand your rights and know the laws on getting an emotional support animal in Illinois.

Emotional Support Animal in Illinois: Specific Protection

United States Federal Law has specific protections for Americans with disabilities. When a person has a disability (this includes mental OR emotional, as well as physical), they are entitled to certain rights and are protected from discrimination. Illinois has laws regarding service dogs and emotional support animals.

Definition of Assistance Animal

Service dog with a disabled man on a wheelchair in Illinois

Assistance animals are considered by the Fair Housing Act as any companion animal that provides support to a person with a disability. This support has to be confirmed by a licensed mental health professional. Some examples include Psychiatric service dogs trained to provide comforting pressure during a panic attack for a person with post-traumatic stress disorder, and animals that provide comfort to a person with a mental disability – emotional support animal!

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

Unlike the “certification” websites, CertaPet connects you with a licensed mental health professional to determine if you would benefit from an emotional support animal. If so, you will receive an ESA letter confirming that your pet provides comfort for your mental illness. This ESA letter is the main thing you need for your emotional support animal.

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

During air travel, those with disabilities are protected from discrimination under the Air Carrier Access Act. These protections extend to their service and emotional support animals. Those with emotional support animals are required to have an ESA letter from a licensed health professional.

Employment Laws

Though employers are not required to allow emotional support animals in the workplace, they are required to allow service dogs.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

In any housing accommodations, landlords and property owners are required to allow emotional support animals and service animals. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects those tenants with disabilities from discrimination, and this protection applies to their assistance animals as well.

The landlord must provide reasonable accommodation, and while most emotional support dogs and cats must be accepted – your emotional support tiger may be declined for safety reasons. Landlords are not allowed to demand additional rent, or breed restrictions, for tenants with a disability under the FHA. This only applies if the person has a service dog or an emotional support animal with an ESA letter.

ESA Campus Housing

If you are a college student considering getting an emotional support animal in Illinois, you may wonder if your campus is required to allow entry to your ESA. Because college campuses are considered to be standard housing accommodations, if they receive the federal financial support they are covered under the FHA as well.

This means that colleges must attempt to provide reasonable accommodation for students with disabilities. This covers both service dogs and emotional support animals.

Exception to Rules

An emotional support animal is not covered by the same protections as a service animal, and they are not allowed to accompany their owner anywhere he or she goes.

Emotional support animals are only protected in housing by the FHA, and during air travel by the ACAA. Emotional support animals can be turned away from hotels, restaurants, and other non-pet-friendly establishments.

Punishment for Misrepresenting an Assistance Animal

Fraudulent representation of a service animal is not considered a misdemeanor in Illinois, as it would be in some other states.

3 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

Emotional support dogs on a wooden basket outdoors in Illinois

When getting an emotional support animal in Illinois, it is important to fully understand your rights. It is also important to understand the regulations and necessary (and unnecessary!) documents.

There is No “Certification” for an Emotional Support Animal

When getting an emotional support animal in Illinois, you will most definitely run into emotional support dog “certification” websites. These are a scam! No dog can be “certified” to be an emotional support animal, and there is no registry that your pet must be added to.

The only way for your dog to become an emotional support animal is for you to receive an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. This letter must state that the dog provides you with therapeutic benefits to your disability by their presence.

An Emotional Support Animal is NOT a Service Dog

Your emotional support animal will not have the same rights as a service dog. A person with a disability has a legal right to have a service dog anywhere they go, as that dog is trained to do a specific behavior that aids in their disability.

An emotional support animal simply provides comfort by their presence but is not allowed to enter any public space or building. Some examples of emotional support animals include: dogs that provide animal-assisted therapy simply through their presence – aiding in the cognitive function of their owner’s mental disability or dogs that calm their owner’s psychiatric disability during air travel.

In contrast, a service animal is trained to perform tasks that directly aid in a person’s disability. This includes psychiatric disabilities. Some examples of service animals include: seeing-eye dogs or guide dogs (or even miniature horses!), a dog trained to retrieve items for a person with disabilities who has limited mobility, and a dog trained to interrupt self-mutilation behaviors associated with their owner’s panic disorder (this is an example of a psychiatric service dog).

Your Dog Will Need Training, But Not Legally

When getting an emotional support animal in Illinois, you will not be required to provide any formal training for your dog. Though it is not required, you should still ensure your dog is properly trained. As your dog provides you comfort, it is important you have a strong bond. Positive reinforcement is the best way to strengthen the human-animal bond.

You will also be responsible for any damage your dog causes, including in your housing arrangements. An untrained or un-socialized dog can cause you more distress than comfort, and if your dog poses a danger to others they can be asked to leave.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

If you are getting an emotional support animal in Illinois, it is important to choose a healthy, happy companion. When looking for a dog, you can choose to find a rescue or a breeder. If you choose to purchase from a breeder, please ensure that you inspect where the animals are kept.

Another wonderful option is adopting a rescued dog. Treat the rescue the same way you would when inspecting a breeder. Take a look at where the dogs are kept, and the conditions they are kept in.

When searching for a dog you can utilize to locate specific ages or breeds/mixes. Ensure all dogs have up-to-date veterinary records and vaccinations.

Where to Take Your Emotional Support Animal 

It is important to understand your rights with your emotional support animal. Because your emotional support animal is not a true service animal, they are not allowed in every establishment. Take a look at the following pet-friendly locations to take your emotional support animal.

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

Some popular parks for your dog in Illinois are:

  • Prairie Wolf Dog Park in Lake Forest
  • Moraine Dog Beach
  • Park in Highland Park
  • Wiggly Field in Chicago (Ok this one has no reviews but it’s a great pun)
  • Messenger Marsh Dog Park in Homer Glen
  • Jackson Bark in Chicago

Dog-Friendly Restaurants and Bars

Some popular pet-friendly restaurants/bars in Illinois are:

  • Big Star in Chicago
  • Quigley’s Irish Pub in Naperville
  • Crosstown Pub & Grill in Naperville
  • Public Landing Restaurant in Lockport
  • Kelsey Roadhouse in Barrington

Resorts, Fitness, and Spas

Some popular pet-friendly fitness activities and resorts in Illinois are:

  • Shawnee National Forest in Harrisburg
  • Winnemac Park in Chicago
  • Navy Park in Chicago
  • Sheraton Grand Chicago
  • Harrah’s Metropolis
  • Aloft Chicago O’Hare


Mercury Canine Cruise in Chicago is a fun activity for you and your pets! Cruises sail daily.

Dancing with the Dogs Prom is being held Saturday, June 30th2018 in Chicago. The Run4Paws 5k and 2k Puppy Path are held on October 6th2018 in Downers Grove. The Craft/Bake Sale and Pictures with Santa are on December 15thin Lake Villa.

ESAs in Illinois: How to Get Connected with an LMHP in Your State Today! 

The best way to start the process of getting an emotional support animal in Illinois is to take CertaPet’s 5-minute pre-screening. After your pre-screening, you will be connected with a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP) who will determine if you qualify for an emotional support animal.

Once you are approved, you can receive your ESA letter in two business days! It’s that simple, and the pre-screening is 100% free! No muss, no fuss, all completed online with a licensed professional.

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