The benefits of service dogs are undeniable and improves the quality of life with those in need of such support. However, an emotional support dog is not the same, legally, as a registered service dog. This can cause issues in what hotels and other businesses allow them to do.
Now, emotional support animals are perfectly likely to be a part of prescribed treatment plan. Unfortunately, this does not extend the protections and privileges of a service dog to an emotional service dog. A prescription is not enough, and ADA guidelines define a service animal quite clearly to include Guide Dogs or Seeing Eye® Dogs, Hearing or Signal Dogs, Psychiatric Service Dogs, sensory signal dogs or social signal dog, and Seizure Response Dogs. It defines the duties and capabilities of these animals very clearly, all of which can be found on the ADA website.
What does this mean for staying in a hotel with an emotional support dog?
Emotional support animals are simply not covered under the ADA or most state laws. Because of this, few hotel companies extend the same protections to emotional support dogs as they do to service dogs. If there is a complaint about your dog (and all too often there are, even if the dog wears a vest and even if the dog is a registered service animal), there will be no legal protection and the hotel can refuse to accommodate you, even if your emotional support animal is a part of your medical treatment.
The best solution to this issue is to find a pet friendly hotel. Pet friendly hotels are perfectly happy to accommodate both you and your dog, whether they are an emotional support animal or not. Many of these hotels provide rooms specifically meant to accommodate animals. They furniture in the room might be more ruggedized, or at least prepared to deal with animal-induced wear and tear. The hotel will note, either in their internal documentation or on a sign for the door, that there is a pet in the room.
Often, the hotel will require you to remain in the room while the maid cleans to comfort your dog in case your dog doesn’t care for strangers. Don’t take offense to this, as it is an issue of liability for the hotel and the only way they can offer pet friendly room without legal issues. Watch a movie or read a book while the maid cleans and enjoy the chance to take a break with your dog.
Some hotel chains that offer pet friendly rooms include the Red Roof Inn, Extended Stay America, Best Western, Westin Hotels, and Sheraton. Several of these companies have weight limits. 40 pounds is common, while a few offer accommodation for dogs up to 80 pounds. It’s always wise to check on a hotel’s website or even call the front desk to see if they are pet friendly. Make sure you inform the hotel during booking that you are bringing your emotional support dog.
A number of hotels that offer pet accommodation will not allow you to leave your dog alone in the room. This is for a lot of reasons, among them damage to the room and possible sanitation issues.
Other hotels ask that you place your dog in a crate when you leave the room, so be sure to bring one when you travel. This is often more comfortable for the dog, as it gives them a place of safety to go in an unfamiliar environment. If you plan to leave your dog alone in a room and the hotel allows it, make sure you take them out to relieve themselves before you leave and give them a toy to chew on while you’re gone. Take care of your dog and your dog will take care of you!