Getting an Emotional Support Animal in Kentucky

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: September 14, 2021

emotional support animal in kentuckyIf you’re planning on getting an emotional support animal in Kentucky, this is the guide for you! Read on to learn more about the process, all the documentation you will need, and where you’ll be able to take your ESA once you’ve got one of your own!

Emotional Support Animal in Kentucky: Specific Protection

The three important pieces of legislation that will protect you for having an emotional support animal in Kentucky are the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, and the Air Carriers Access Act.

The Acts are in place to protect the rights of people with disabilities in their place of employment, in public spaces, and during travel. Part of the protection these acts offer is supporting the rights of individuals with disabilities to bring their assistance animals into places where pets are not usually permitted.

Definition of Assistance Animal

Before you start the process of getting an emotional support animal in Kentucky, you’ll need to learn about the vocabulary. To begin with, there are three kinds of assistance animal. These types assist different people, and the legislation can treat them differently too.

Firstly, a service animal is highly trained and performs a specific task for a person with disabilities. The most well-known service animals are seeing-eye dogs, help people with visual impairments. Other service dogs can help to predict fits or aid wheelchair users with mobility-related tasks.

Emotional support animals, sometimes known as companion animals or psychiatric service animals do not need special training. Through their unique human-animal bond with their owners, ESAs can offer support to people with a mental, emotional, or psychiatric disability.

Emotional support dog with an old man on a hospital bed in Kentucky

Most commonly, emotional support animals help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic attacks and depression. ESAs can be any kind of domesticated animal, including dogs, cats, birds, miniature horses, and even pot-bellied pigs!

All of the legislation relating the Acts mentioned above relates to service dogs, and some, though not all of it also applies to ESA. The third category is therapy animals, which are not covered by this legislation. A therapy dog is used for animal-assisted therapy and might visit patients in a hospital or old-folks homes.

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

  1. The first step to getting an emotional support animal in Kentucky is to read up on what emotional support animals do. Then decide whether you think you need one! Why not start with our complete guide to ESAs, available here.
  2. Next, you will need to check if you qualify for an emotional support animal. CertaPet’s free and quick screening process can help with this step. It only takes 5 minutes!
  3. If you’re eligible, CertaPet can then connect you with a licensed mental health professional in your state. They will consult with you, and if appropriate prescribe an ESA to you. You could then have your ESA letter sent out within 48 hours.

An emotional support letter is an official document that proves your need for an ESA. It must be less than a year old, and on letterhead paper or a prescription pad from a licensed medical doctor or mental health professional. The ESA letter must state the following:

  • That you have a diagnosed mental health condition or mental health-related disability
  • The emotional support animal accompanying you is necessary for your mental health or treatment.
  • The type of animal you are bringing, and how many
  • That the issuer of the letter is a licensed medical doctor or mental health professional, and that you are under their treatment or care for a mental health disability
  • The issuer’s license number, type of license, the license issue date, and the state or jurisdiction where it was licensed.

Travel Laws (Air Carrier Access Act)

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) protects people with disabilities from discrimination by commercial airlines. It covers people traveling with both service animals and emotional support animals. The ASAA allows owners to bring ESAs in the cabin of a commercial aircraft free of charge, even if the airline does not usually permit pets to fly.

In the past year, many commercial airlines have tightened their rules about traveling with emotional support animals. Most carriers now require passengers to supply an ESA letter, and some airlines request additional medical information on the animal. Some require the passenger to submit documentation 48 hours before traveling. We go into more detail about ESA letters below.

Employment Laws

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects against workplace discrimination against individuals with disabilities. As part of this, service dogs must be allowed into the workplace, and employers must make reasonable accommodation to support them. The legislation does not explicitly covers ESAs too, but with an ESA letter, most employers will accept an emotional support animal in the workplace on a case-by-case basis.

Housing Laws (Fair Housing Act)

The Fair Housing Act guarantees people with disabilities equal access to fair housing. The Act protects tenants with disabilities from discrimination by landlords. This includes people with both service dogs and emotional support animals. Some landlords may require an ESA letter for emotional support animals, however.

Learn more about how the Fair Housing Act affects tenants and landlords.

ESA Campus Housing

The Fair Housing Act also covers university campuses, and all university housing, protecting students with service animals and emotional support animals against housing discrimination. Most on-campus housing will require an ESA letter, however.

Exception to Rules

The legislation discussed above has a few notable exceptions, in which case your emotional support animal may not be allowed in certain places. Unclean animals or those that are aggressive or disruptive (barking or going to the toilet inside, for example) may be barred.

Punishment for misrepresenting an assistance animal

Although there is no punishment for misrepresenting an assistance animal in Kentucky, people doing so may face eviction from housing or expulsion from the university.

5 Facts You Need to Know Before Receiving Your ESA

Close-up of a white ESA dog in Kentucky

Read up on the facts before getting an emotional support animal in Kentucky:

  1. Service animals and emotional support animals are different! Although they are often mentioned at the same time, legislation treats them differently. See above for full definitions.
  2. Only a licensed mental health professional may prescribe an emotional support animal and issue an ESA letter. They must hold a valid license specific to your state, and they must be treating you as a patient for a mental health related matter.
  3. Emotional support animal certification and registration services are not real! Only an ESA letter as detailed below is acceptable evidence of your need for an emotional support animal.
  4. ESAs don’t need to wear vests or harnesses that identify them in public. However, we strongly recommend getting one for clarity!
  5. A vest or ID badge alone is not enough to identify an ESA. Only an ESA letter can do that.

Where to Find a Suitable ESA!

Any place you would get a pet is a good place to get an emotional support animal. Why not start at the animal shelter, where there are lots of great animals looking for homes? Some non-profit organizations will help to connect people with suitable emotional support animals too.

Where to Take your Emotional Support Animal

Although emotional support animals are not always permitted in private businesses to the same extent as service dogs, don’t let this put you off getting an emotional support animal in Kentucky! The state has loads of great places that are animals-friendly where you can visit with your ESA.

Dog Parks and Dog Runs

Give your emotional support dog space to let off steam at a dog park. Kentucky has some great ones, such as:

Dog-friendly restaurants and bars

Relax with your ESA over some food at a dog-friendly Kentucky food spot! Try:

  • Charlie Brown’s Restaurant and Lounge in Lexington
  • Against the Grain in Louisville
  • Keystone Bar & Grill in Covington

Resorts, fitness, and spas

Why not take a trip with your emotional support animal to one of Kentucky’s many dog-friendly hotels? Hits include:

  • Ashley Quarters Hotel in Florence
  • The Candlewood Suites Paducah, and
  • The Hampton Inn Bowling Green


Each summer Kentucky hosts a number of doggy events that you could check out with your ESA. How about Festival of the Pet in Georgetown, Mutt Strut in Lexington, and Bark in the Park in Louisville?

ESAs in Kentucky: How to Get Connected with a LMHP in Your State Today!

The most important step when getting an emotional support animal in Kentucky is to get an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. CertaPet helps you connect with verified LMHPs in your area, so why not start the process today?

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