How to Register an Emotional Support Animal in Illinois

A person hugging a cat serving as an emotional support animal; the cat has secured an emotional support animal letter in Illinois

If you or someone you know has an emotional support animal or assistance animal in Illinois (or is in the process of getting one), you might have questions about the requirements for emotional support animal registration in Illinois, how they differ from service animals, and what legal rights they and their owner have.

If so, this complete guide is for you. Sploot Vets is here to provide straightforward answers to commonly asked questions about Emotional Support Animal (ESA) registration in Illinois.

What’s in This Guide?

What is an Emotional Support Animal or Assistance Animal in Illinois?

It is important to note that emotional support animals are different from service animals. According to the ADA (American Disabilities Act), service animals are dogs that are trained to perform a task directly related to a person’s disability. Meanwhile, emotional support animals do NOT necessarily have to be dogs that are specially trained.

Emotional support animals, referred to as assistance animals in Illinois, can be any animal as long as they provide assistance, perform tasks, OR give emotional support to a person with a disability. Emotional support animals do NOT need any special training or certifications.

However, emotional support animals are also different from standard pets due to the support they provide — as confirmed by a licensed mental health professional in an official ESA letter.

Emotional support animals may be prescribed for therapeutic benefits for individuals who have conditions like the following:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Panic disorders
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Phobias
  • Learning disabilities
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  • Postpartum depression
Note: While dogs and cats are the most common types of ESAs, other domesticated animals can also be prescribed as emotional support animals or assistance animals.
An emotional support animal dog in Illinois comforting their owner

How Many Emotional Support Animals Can One Person Have?

Though one person can have more than one ESA, a mental health professional would have to indicate that more than one emotional support animal is required.

Why Declare a Dog or Cat as an Emotional Support Animal in Illinois?

Declaring an emotional support animal or assistance animal may be an important step for individuals who benefit from the ESA’s companionship and support. Unlike pets, ESAs are granted certain privileges under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), which is federal law. 

Further details regarding housing for ESA owners are also stated in The Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act. In line with the Fair Housing Act, The Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act states that housing providers must provide reasonable accommodation for owners of emotional support animals or assistance animals. 

Housing providers may not collect pet-related deposits or pet-related fees for the verified ESA

However, landlords may require repair fees for damage that is caused by the ESA to the dwelling or common areas. 

Can a Landlord Reject or Evict an ESA Owner?

Landlords may at times also deny a request or evict a tenant with an ESA. These can happen if the ESA is a direct threat to the health and safety of others — or if an ESA’s uncontrolled behavior is not corrected by the owner. These are just some of the stipulations under The Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act

Responsibilities of ESA or Assistance Animal Owners

To maintain a harmonious relationship with landlords and with the community, responsible pet ownership is vital

We highly recommend owners of emotional support animals to ensure that their ESA is properly cared for, is up-to-date on necessary vaccinations, and has beneficial house training and obedience training, if possible. 

It is also important to note that ESA owners are required to adhere to state-wide pet laws as well as municipal regulations. 

Note: As an example, in the state of Illinois, all dogs and cats over 16 weeks old need to be vaccinated for rabies. On a municipal level, Chicago requires all dogs to be registered and must always be leashed when going to any public place, unless spending time in a dog-friendly area (DFA).
An ESA dog going for a walk in Chicago while on a leash, abiding by Chicago pet laws

Is ‘Emotional Support Animal Registration’ Necessary?

No, there is no official registry or requirement for Emotional Support Animals in Illinois or any other state in the U.S. While some websites offer registration services, these databases are not recognized by any governmental agency. 

The sole documentation required to attest to the therapeutic benefits from an emotional support animal (or assistance animal) is an updated, official ESA letter. This letter must come from a licensed mental health professional.

What is an Official Emotional Support Animal Letter?

An emotional support animal letter is issued by a licensed mental health professional; this letter verifies that the individual has a diagnosed condition or disability and that the presence of the emotional support animal is necessary for the person’s emotional well-being or treatment.

Emotional Support Animal Registration in Illinois: Steps & Requirements

Abiding by The Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act, owners of emotional support animals must have a legitimate emotional support animal letter for their ESA. The letter can be obtained and used, with the following steps:

1. Consultation with a Licensed Mental Health Professional

The first step in obtaining an ESA is to consult with a licensed mental health professional or healthcare provider who can evaluate your condition and determine if an emotional support animal would be beneficial for treatment.

2. Obtaining a Legitimate Emotional Support Animal Letter

Once a mental health professional has determined that an ESA would be beneficial for an individual, they will issue an ESA Letter. This letter would state that an individual has a diagnosed mental or emotional disability — and that the emotional support animal is beneficial for the person’s treatment.  

3. Presenting the ESA Letter to a Housing Provider

Even in places with a “no pets” policy, ESA owners may request reasonable accommodation, as stated by the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and detailed further in The Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act. 

Landlords and housing providers are within their rights to request reliable documentation if needed, particularly in cases wherein the disability-related need is not readily apparent. The rights of landlords and housing providers are further detailed in The Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act.

4. Keeping Your ESA Letter Updated

The FHA and The Illinois Assistance Animal Integrity Act do not currently have guidelines regarding when ESA letters need to be updated. However, housing providers may request an updated ESA letter, issued within the last 12 months

Closeup of a mental health professional updating someone’s emotional support animal registration or emotional support animal letter in Illinois

Final Thoughts on Emotional Support Animal Registration (Dog or Cat) in Illinois

As a final reminder, obtaining an ESA letter is essential for accessing the rights and protections granted to ESAs under federal law. 

Furthermore, individuals with emotional support animals, akin to pet owners, must uphold the duty of ensuring their ESAs are cared for and do not pose a risk to fellow community members or pets

It is important to ensure that ESA dogs and cats are well-mannered, reasonably quiet, and up-to-date on required dog vaccines or required cat vaccines to prevent the spread of transmissible diseases.

Seamless Veterinary Care for Dogs & Cats in Chicago

If you have any questions about your emotional support animal’s health or needed vaccinations, Sploot Veterinary Care is here to help!

Sploot Veterinary Care is a provider of primary and urgent care for dogs and cats. Our Chicago vet clinics are open 365 days a year, for extended hours. Book an appointment online or through the Sploot Vets app We welcome same-day appointments and urgent drop-offs. 

As always, we’re with you every pounce of the way!