Emotional Support Animal Policy Requirements: Protect Your Practice Today


If you haven’t noticed, the number of Emotional Support Animals (ESA) is skyrocketing, along with owner expectations to be able to bring their animals with them everywhere. This includes your physician practice. But pinning down when you have to accommodate ESA versus Service Animals is really tricky.

How you and your staff handle an animal in your doctor’s office can have a dramatic effect on your practice. Handled poorly, ESA owners can file a discrimination lawsuit, make a scene, or plaster negative comments across the web. Or, if you incorrectly turn away a Service Dog, you’ll have to deal with an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violation.

The answer to protecting your practice against allegations of discrimination or legal violations is to have a clear policy in place and to train your staff on how to handle specific ESA situations. This is where healthcare compliance attorney, Heidi Kocher, BS, MBA, JD, CHC, can help. Heidi’s 60-minute online training is specifically designed to help healthcare practices handle patients who want to bring Service and Emotional Support Animals into their office in a way that avoids legal violations, litigation, and reputational damage.

Here are the key Emotional Support and Service Animal management takeaways you’ll receive by attending this expert-led training:

  • Understand new state law changes to comply with animal definition overhaul
  • Pin down how to respond to patients falsely claiming that their pet is an “Emotional Support Animal”
  • Exact steps to update your policies and processes with the revised Service Animal rules
  • Cut through the confusion and quickly differentiate between Service and Emotional Support Animals
  • Implement an ADA-compliant policy for service animals that works for your practice
  • Avoid the most common service animal questions asked that will leave you in an ADA lawsuit
  • More easily identify qualifying animals to avoid costly violations and negative publicity
  • Teach your staff how to communicate your changed ESA policy to patients without causing a scene
  • Successfully navigate patient complaints due to allergy concerns and the ADA
  • Defeat disruptions due to ESAs (barking, pet messes, etc.) without violating applicable laws
  • And so much more…

Many patients believe that their Emotional Support Animals are the only thing that allows them to function normally.  This makes how you manage these patients even more complex. Without a clear policy in place, it’s easy to make an innocent mistake that can lead to a patient filing a costly, stressful discrimination lawsuit. Or, just as damaging, your patient could wage a negative online campaign against your practice, which tarnishes your reputation and drives new patients away.

By attending this online training, you can receive the practical, step-by-step solutions you need to be prepared the next time a patient and their animal walks into your waiting room. Don’t wait, register for this must-see online training today.

Support Animal in Doctors Office

Meet Your Expert

Heidi Kocher
B.S., M.B.A, J.D., CHCHealthcare Attorney, Liles Parker PLLC

Heidi has 20 years of experience in health care legal and compliance related issues. Her experience includes positions at a large hospital corporation, serving as a compliance officer for a sleep lab/DME company and a compliance director, chief privacy officer and interim chief compliance officer at a medical device manufacturer.

In addition, she has represented and advised critical access and long-term care hospitals, physician groups, home health agencies, DME companies, pharmacies (including compounding pharmacies), non-profit organizations, and licensed individuals. As a result, she understands the complexities and challenges that providers large and small face in complying with increasingly varied and complex laws.

She is an expert in all aspects of compliance and privacy programs, including developing and deploying policies, procedures and training. Her experience includes implementing the various requirements and aspects of a Corporate Integrity Agreement, responding to and defending audits from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers up through the ALJ level, guiding clients through voluntary self-disclosures, seeking advisory opinions from the OIG, and defending FDA audits.

Heidi developed criteria for and implemented an aggregate spend system, permitting a medical device manufacturer to timely report correct information under the Physician Open Payments Acts (also known as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act).

In addition, she is experienced in developing and implementing a compliance program to address Foreign Corrupt Practices Act requirements, including Eucomed guidelines. She also has significant reimbursement experience, addressing coverage policy issues, challenging denials, recoupments, and loss of billing privileges, obtaining HCPCS codes, and other reimbursement related issues.


The webinar provided useful information.
Alison Sudol