The use of Emotional Support Animals has risen over the years. This is due to more mental health professionals recognizing the many benefits an ESA provides for their patients.
However, when you rely on an Emotional Support Animal, you will not only want to take it with you, you may also need to have it with you at all times; this includes traveling. But in some parts of the world, this may be an issue.
Are Emotional Support Animals recognized in Puerto Rico?
The answer is “yes.”
Flying to Puerto Rico With Your Emotional Support Animal
In order to fly with your emotional support animal, you must first obtain an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional. You can either talk to a licensed mental health professional face to face or connect with one online.
If you are traveling to Puerto Rico by air with your Emotional Support Animal, you should do so through the International Airport in San Juan. You will also want to give your airline notice that you are traveling with an animal, so they can prepare for your arrival.
If you are not sure about your airline’s emotional support animal policy, you can find your airline’s policy here: Emotional Support Animal Policies for Airlines.
Mental Health Professional Licensed in Puerto Rico
If you are currently in Puerto Rico and need an ESA letter to fly to the US, you must get a letter from a local licensed mental health professional. Puerto Rico licensed mental health professionals can assist you face to face or online.
Microchip Your ESA
Although it is not a requirement for animals to be microchipped before entering Puerto Rico, it is highly recommended. This simple procedure is harmless to your ESA and only takes minutes; however, it could mean the difference between finding your Emotional Support Animal (should he become lost) and not.
If you decide not to microchip your animal, you will want to be sure it is wearing tags with your contact information clearly written on it.
Vaccinate Your ESA
Your Emotional Support Animal must be vaccinated for rabies within six months of entering Puerto Rico. Be sure the vaccine is the one-year variety and not the three-year, as this vaccine is not acceptable.
Note: if your ESA is a puppy or kitten under six months-of-age, it should not have the vaccine until it reaches this age.
Some regions do require a Rabies Titer Test; Puerto Rico is not one of those areas.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
“A rabies antibody titer is essentially an estimation of an immune response against rabies virus (either through exposure or vaccination). The RFFIT is one method which provides a laboratory measurement of the ability of an individual human or animal serum sample to neutralize rabies virus.”
Within 30 days of traveling to Puerto Rico, your veterinarian must fill out a Health Certificate on your pet. This is basically telling the authorities that your ESA is healthy (not carrying any infectious diseases) and fit to enter the country.
Puerto Rico does have breed specific legislation in place. This means certain dogs are not allowed into the region. Banned breeds for Puerto Rico include Pit Bulls, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Terriers, and all crosses of these. Regardless of whether these breeds are being used for emotional support purposes has no bearing on this law and therefore you will be denied access with your ESA.
Returning to Puerto Rico With Your ESA
If you are returning to Puerto Rico after 30 days, your ESA must meet the same requirements as if you were entering for the first time. This means you will need a health certificate from a veterinarian in the region you were visiting.
Living with an Emotional Support Animal in Puerto Rico
Are you currently living in Puerto Rico or considering moving to Puerto Rico with your emotional support animal? Great! Puerto Rico follows US Fair Housing laws and upholds ESA laws. As a person with an emotional support animal, you have the same housing rights that you would have on the mainland.
According to Inman & Strickler PLC, a condominium association in Puerto Rico was recently sued and ordered to pay $20,000 in damages and a $16,000 civil penalty for denying a resident the ability to live with his emotional support animal. The Fair Housing Act dictates that a person with a disability must be allowed to live with their support animal, regardless of the HOA or Condo Association rules.
Other Types of Emotional Support Animals
If you have an ESA that is not a dog or cat, some terms must be followed. Birds entering Puerto Rico will need to be quarantined for 30 days. However, birds that were obtained in the United States may enter Puerto Rico without quarantine. All birds will need a permit number and an endorsed health certificate issued right before travel and proof of negative test results for Avian influenza, Chlamydia psittaci, and Newcastle disease.
Other animals such as reptiles, rabbits, and small rodents will need a current health certificate and import permit to enter Puerto Rico.
If your ESA is a turtle or a parrot, you should verify that it is not protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). You will also need to apply for additional permits if this is the case.
Puerto Rico and Your ESA
Although Puerto Rico does recognize the Emotional Support Animal, know what you need to make your travel plans a success. Spending the time now getting your ESA ready to enter this region is far better than being turned away.