Do you ever wonder if your emotional support dog can join you for a meal out? Surprisingly, emotional support animals (ESAs) are not usually allowed in eateries. Our post will guide you through the rules about ESAs and service animals, clarifying where they can go.

Keep reading to find out more.

Understanding Emotional Support Animals and Service Animals

Emotional support animals provide companionship to people with mental health challenges. Service animals, such as guide dogs, are specially trained to perform tasks for individuals with physical disabilities.

Differences between the two

To grasp the distinctions between Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) and Service Animals, it’s crucial to note their roles, rights, and the legal protections each receives. The table below outlines these key differences:


AspectEmotional Support AnimalsService Animals
PurposeProvide comfort and companionship to reduce symptoms of emotional or psychological conditions.Perform tasks and provide assistance directly related to a person’s disability.
Legal ProtectionsLimited to fair housing and air travel as per the United States law.Permitted in public places including stores, hotels, and restaurants under ADA guidelines.
Access RightsGenerally, not allowed in restaurants and other public establishments without pet-friendly policies.Have broad public access rights, including in places that serve food.
TrainingNo specific training required for their role.Must be trained to perform specific tasks that aid a person’s disability.
Recognition in the UKNot regarded as assistance animals under UK law.Recognised as assistance animals, providing support and allowed access to public spaces.

Service animals, especially guide dogs, are trained to aid individuals with disabilities, ensuring they can engage in everyday activities with greater independence. These dogs undergo rigorous training to perform tasks that directly alleviate aspects of a person’s disability. Unlike ESAs, their presence in public establishments like restaurants and cafes is widely accepted due to their essential role in supporting their handler’s needs.

On the other hand, emotional support animals offer valuable comfort and aid in mitigating symptoms of mental and emotional conditions with their presence alone. Despite their significant role in their owner’s well-being, they do not enjoy the same access rights as service animals. This distinction is vital to understand for those relying on these animals’ support to navigate their daily lives.

Legal protections for both

Service animals and emotional support animals have different rights under the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows service animals in all public places, like stores and restaurants.

This is because they perform specific tasks for people with disabilities, such as guiding blind individuals or alerting deaf ones to sounds. On the other hand, emotional support animals don’t get this kind of access.

Their main role is to offer comfort and companionship, which doesn’t qualify under ADA’s guidelines.

For housing, however, both types of animals receive protection through the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Landlords must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate tenants with emotional support or service animals, even if they usually have a no pet policy.

They cannot charge extra fees for these animals but might ask for an ESA letter or documentation for assistance creatures. Moving on from legal protections offers insight into where emotional support animals are allowed.

Where Are Emotional Support Animals Allowed?

Emotional support animals are allowed in public establishments with pet-friendly policies and under the Fair Housing Act. Guidelines for documentation and identification are essential.

The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act makes sure that people with mental health issues, including those who need emotional support animals, can live in their homes without facing discrimination. This law says landlords and housing providers must allow emotional support animals even if they usually do not allow pets.

They can’t charge extra fees for these animals because they are not pets; they are needed for health reasons.

Landlords must follow this act to prevent disability discrimination. It helps protect the rights of individuals with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental impairments.

By following the Fair Housing Act, housing providers support equal access and opportunity in tenancy agreements for everyone, regardless of their need for an emotional support animal.

Public establishments with pet-friendly policies

Moving from housing acts, we shift our focus to public places like restaurants. Many of these spots have policies that welcome pets.

  1. Some cafes and small eateries offer outdoor seating where emotional support animals can join their owners. These areas often provide water bowls and sometimes even a special menu for dogs.
  2. Pet-friendly hotels might permit emotional support animals and provide specific amenities for them, such as beds or treats upon arrival.
  3. Various retail stores, especially those selling pet-related products, welcome emotional support animals inside to shop with their owners.
  4. A handful of pubs and bars have open-door policies for pets, allowing people to bring their emotional support animals along while they socialise.
  5. Air travel with airlines such as British Airways and EasyJet accommodates assistance dogs in the cabin, but strict rules apply regarding documentation like the emotional support animal letter.
  6. Certain beaches and parks allow pets during off-peak hours or in designated areas, making it easier for owners to enjoy leisure time with their companion animals.
  7. Libraries and bookstores may invite patrons to bring their well-behaved emotional support animals while they browse or attend events.
  8. Art galleries and outdoor festivals often welcome pets, understanding they provide essential support to some attendees.
  9. Some gyms and fitness centres are becoming more open to members bringing emotional support animals, recognising the mental health benefits they offer.

These pet-friendly establishments understand the importance of supporting individuals with mental disabilities by allowing their companion animals into public spaces. It’s always best to check a place’s pet policy beforehand as rules can vary widely.

Guidelines for documentation and identification

Emotional support animals provide comfort to their owners but they need proper documentation to do so in certain places. Service dogs, on the other hand, have more freedom because of their training and roles. Here’s a list about what you need for emotional support animals’ documentation and identification:

  1. Obtain a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating the need for your emotional support animal. This letter must specify how the animal helps with your condition.
  2. Make sure the letter includes the date, the professional’s contact information, and their license number or type.
  3. The document should be less than a year old to ensure it reflects your current health status.
  4. For travel under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), you might also need to fill out a form provided by the airline that confirms your animal is in good health and trained for public settings.
  5. If you’re planning to rent housing, the Fair Housing Act requires landlords to make reasonable accommodations for emotional support animals even if they have a no-pet policy. Present your ESA documentation as part of your rental application.
  6. Carry an identification card or vest for your emotional support animal when possible, although it’s not legally required, it can help avoid questions in public spaces.
  7. Understand that even with proper documentation, some businesses, like restaurants not following pet-friendly policies, may still not allow your emotional support animal inside due to health codes.
  8. Familiarise yourself with any specific rules or forms each company or landlord may require aside from the standard ESA letter; this could include additional verification forms or specific details about your animal’s role.
  9. Know that while service dogs are widely accepted in public areas including restaurants and stores due to their training and direct assistance roles for disabled people or blind people, ESAs might not be given access since they’re seen differently under laws like Equality Act 2010.

Following these steps will help ensure you and your emotional support animal can navigate through public life as smoothly as possible while respecting regulations and private policies.


Restaurants usually don’t allow emotional support animals inside. These animals don’t have the same rights as service dogs do. Yet, people with service dogs can bring them into places like eateries and shops.

Each place has its own rules, so it’s smart to check ahead. Knowing the laws in your area helps a lot too.


1. Can I bring my emotional support animal to a restaurant?

Yes, but it depends on the restaurant’s policy. Some places might say no because they want to avoid indirect discrimination against people with allergies or fears of animals.

2. What if a restaurant says I can’t bring in my emotional support animal?

If a restaurant stops you from bringing your emotional support animal, this could be seen as discrimination. You might want to talk to the Equality and Human Rights Commission for advice.

3. Are there any rules about emotional support animals on budget airlines like Ryanair?

Yes, the Air Carrier Access Act talks about accessibility for passengers with disabilities, which includes flying with emotional support animals on airlines like Ryanair.

4. What should I do if I feel discriminated against by lettings agents or landlords over my emotional support animal?

If lettings agents or landlords try to evict you or discriminate because of your emotional support animal, seek help from legal services that understand eviction and discrimination laws.