Alas, the short answer to the question of whether hotels can refuse admittance to emotional support dogs is yes. The rights and protections granted to emotional support animals, including emotional support dogs, extend solely to flying on airplanes and living in rental housing.
No other establishment, institution or industry, including hotels, motels and all other forms of hospitality, is required by law to make an exception to a No Pet policy or make accommodations for an animal even if it’s a legitimately authorized and documented emotional support animal. Likewise, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protecting the rights of service animals to access public places that are normally pet-free, including public beaches, local government buildings, hospitals, movie theaters, public transportation and hotels, does not apply to emotional support animals.
That’s not to say you can’t convince some hotels to make an exception. They simply don’t have to. You must therefore always be humble, courteous and respectful in your request.
Fortunately, many, if not most, hotel proprietors tend to be quite compassionate when it comes to guests and their emotional support animals and will be happy to accommodate whenever possible.
Certainly making your request in enough advanced notice of your intended stay relieves pressure on both you and the hotel owner, giving the owner the freedom to say no without feeling pressured by having you and your dog there in front of him or her at the time of check-in and giving you time to find another hotel if the owner declines your request.
What follows are further details on taking your emotional support dog with you on hotel stays.
The Difference Between an Emotional Support Dog and a Service Dog
According to the ADA, service dogs must be permitted into any place where the public normally has access, including hotels. Emotional support dogs, however, are not the same as service dogs and are therefore not afforded the same permission. Service dogs are trained to perform certain specific tasks for people with physical disabilities. They may pull wheelchairs for those not ambulatory, they may alert those who can’t see or hear fully to traffic hazards, they may go off and seek help when their handler is experiencing a crisis or severe symptoms, such as a seizure. Emotional support dogs do none of these things. To the contrary, they are not trained to perform any particular task or tasks at all, but rather serve their purpose merely by their presence. If you have a service dog, you can take that dog into any hotel in the country; if you have an emotional support dog, however, you cannot.
If the hotel is a pet-friendly hotel, then of course you can bring your emotional support dog there with you. Unlike airlines and residential housing, however, the hotel is not required to waive any pet-related deposits or fees it might require for an emotional support dog.
Some pet-friendly hotels where you can bring your emotional support dog with no hassle include the following:
- Quality Inn
- Red Roof Inn
- Motel 6
- La Quinta
- Kimpton Hotels
- Holiday Inn
- Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
- Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
- Econo Lodge
- Courtyard Marriott
- Comfort Suites
- Comfort Inn
- Clarion Inns & Suites
- Candlewood Suites
- Best Western
Nowadays, with the spreading popularity of emotional support animals, many hotels that aren’t pet-friendly have started making allowances in their pet policies for certain emotional support animals, generally at least emotional support dogs if nothing else. Since these hotels aren’t legally required to allow emotional support dogs on the premises and, rather, are allowing them by choice, they can also dictate their own policies, rules and practices regarding emotional support animals.
Hotels cannot, however, ask you questions about your disability or your dog’s qualifications (other than whether it’s a certified service dog) in the process of making a determination on whether or not to allow your emotional support dog to stay there with you.
One such rule many hotels have started instituting in their pet policies to accommodate emotional support animals without intruding on the rights of other guests is that emotional support animals wear an identifying ESA vest. Note that, unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not legally required to wear vests identifying them as emotional support animals.
That said, if a hotel requires emotional support dogs to wear ESA vests in order to be allowed to stay there with their owners, that requirement is lawful and must be abided by.
AirBNB and Emotional Support Dogs
A popular alternative to hotels these days is AirBNB, the service that allows everyday people to rent out rooms in their homes, or their entire homes, to guests like a hotel would. AirBNB abides by the ADA fully, including requiring all hosts to allow guests with service animals to bring their animals with them on their stays, unless local laws place any prohibitions otherwise. Hosts are not required to accept emotional support animals, however, and each host is free to make his or her own decision about whether or not to accept pets or ESAs and, if so, whether to charge an extra deposit or fee to do so. For this reason, it can be useful when appropriate and possible to certify your dog as a service animal or psychiatric service animal.
Some emotional support dogs are also service dogs. While an emotional support dog cannot be a service dog without the proper training and certification, a service dog can also be an emotional support dog with only the proper ESA letter. This is useful if you have a service dog and are trying to bring the dog into a hotel that does not allow dogs in general. As a service dog, your dog is allowed by law to enter any public facility with you, including hotels. Therefore, if your emotional support dog is also a service dog, present it to the hotel as a service dog.
If your emotional support dog is not a service dog, you can still speak with your doctor or licensed mental health practitioner (LMHP) to see if your emotional support dog could be also be classified as a psychiatric service dog. Both an emotional support dog and a psychiatric service dog serve people with mental and emotional disabilities, as distinct from a service dog, which serves people with physical disabilities.
The key difference between a psychiatric service dog and an emotional support dog is that a psychiatric service dog is trained to detect when a person is triggered or experiencing symptoms of the mental or emotional disorder and take specific action accordingly, such as to provide affection or try to seek help. An emotional support dog is not so trained and simply provides the needed support by its mere presence. If your dog can be trained to be a psychiatric service dog and your doctor or LMHP finds that an appropriate and necessary medical tool for your condition, you can make your emotional support dog a psychiatric service dog. Then, as a type of service dog covered under the ADA, your dog will be allowed to stay in hotels with you.
Preparation is Key
Prepare your itinerary well in advance of your trip in order to ensure you and your emotional support dog have the smoothest and most successful travel experience possible. After you book your flights and before you book your hotel reservations, call the hotel where you’d like to stay and ask if you’d be allowed to bring your emotional support dog with you. This way, you can make sure you only book your hotel reservations in establishments you know ahead of time will allow your emotional support dog to stay with you. You spare yourself from unexpected and unfortunate surprises from showing up for your hotel reservation only to find out that your emotional support dog will not be allowed to enter.
By contacting the hotel in advance of your visit, you also help prepare them to serve you and your emotional support dog better. Perhaps, the hotel books you in a room on the ground floor close to an exit so you can easily take your dog outside for bathroom breaks. In addition, communicating in advance of your stay your intentions to bring an emotional support dog with you allows the hotel to inform you of any requirements it may have, such as to present vaccination records, sign a document claiming your emotional support dog is well-behaved and taking responsibility for its actions on the premises or pay a pet security deposit, so you can prepare all that in advance of your trip as well.
Follow the Rules
If a hotel allows your emotional support dog to stay there with you, follow all the hotel’s relevant rules to the absolute best of your ability. Help to make sure that hotel continues to allow emotional support dogs to stay in its rooms in the future. Even if the hotel is a pet-friendly hotel, remember that allowing animals at all is completely up to the hotel’s own discretion and, therefore, is a courtesy granted to you that you should honor and respect.
At the bare minimum, your emotional support dog should at all times be under your direct control. This can be by leash and collar or harness, voice control or hand gestures. Your emotional support dog cannot be left alone in your hotel room without you present in the hotel, but rather must leave with you whenever you leave the premises.
If your emotional support dog becomes unruly at any point during your stay, it is the hotel’s right to request that you remove the dog from the premises. Likewise, if your emotional support dog causes any damage to the rooms, lobby or other hotel or guest property, you are liable to pay for all those damages. If your emotional support dog is also a service dog, a hotel cannot charge you an extra cleaning fee to clean up after your pet, such as pet dander or hair shed. Otherwise, your emotional support dog will be treated as a pet, in which case the hotel can indeed opt to charge you an extra cleaning fee for the animal.
If a hotel has a swimming pool, it is not required to allow your emotional support dog to enter the water with you, even if that dog is also a service dog, as the ADA does not expect facilities to violate public health laws. Hotels are required, however, to allow service dogs, though not emotional support dogs that aren’t also service dogs, in the swimming pool area and deck.
Hotels are not allowed to assign special rooms to guests with service animals. Rather, you must be allowed the same freedom of choice in picking hotel rooms as any other guest. If your emotional support dog is not also a service animal, however, then it is treated as a pet. Pet-friendly hotels and hotels that decide to make an exception to their no-pet policy in order to allow you to stay there with your emotional support dog are legally allowed to designate certain rooms as “pet-friendly” rooms and other rooms as “pet-free” rooms.
Dealing with Discrimination
If, after being allowed to stay in a hotel with your emotional support dog, you are pestered, ridiculed, discriminated against or otherwise mistreated by a member of the hotel staff or one of its guests, you should ask to speak with the manager and report your experiences to him or her. Oftentimes, a staff member or guest merely needs to be properly educated about emotional support dogs. Other times an apology, disciplinary action or genuine amends may be called for. In any case, never allow yourself or your dog to be the victim of discrimination or other mistreatment for your disability or any reason without standing up for your dignity and your rights.