You may have heard that in 2021 airlines have stopped accepting emotional support animals on flights. Due to regulatory changes from the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines no longer accommodate ESAs, even if you have a current ESA letter.
The DOT’s new rules, however, mandates that airlines accept psychiatric service dogs (PSDs) on flights. PSDs can fly in the cabin with their owners free of charge and are exempt from size and weight restrictions. If you are an ESA owner, it may be possible to train your dog to become a psychiatric service dog. Not all ESA owners have a need for a PSD, not all dogs are qualified to become PSDs, and the training process can be a challenge.
If you would like to fly with a psychiatric service dog, you are required to submit a special form from the Department of Transportation to the airline prior to departure. Owners must certify on this DOT form that their dog is a psychiatric service dog that is fully trained to perform tasks relating to their mental or emotional health disability.
If you are interested in owning a psychiatric service dog or training a dog to become one, a licensed healthcare professional can first help assess whether you meet the criteria for having a disability under the ADA and Air Carrier Access Act.
ESA Doctors works with licensed professionals that can evaluate you for a PSD letter. These professionals offer their services online, and you can see if you qualify without leaving your home.
Good News! All airlines still accept Psychiatric Service Dogs on all flights.
If you are interested in a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter, we would be happy to connect you with a licensed healthcare provider so they may assist you.
Question #1 – Should I register my psychiatric service dog?
You do not need to register a psychiatric service dog. There is also no service animal specific license issued to psychiatric service dogs. In order to qualify for a psychiatric service dog, you must fulfill the following two requirements:
- You have a qualifying mental health disability (which a licensed healthcare professional can help evaluate).
- Your dog must be fully trained to work and perform a task relating to your disability.
Question #2 – What is a PSD letter?
A PSD letter is a signed letter from a licensed healthcare professional that has evaluated your mental and emotional health. A PSD letter can come from someone like a psychologist, social worker, psychiatrist, doctor, nurse, counselor, therapist or other licensed professional. A PSD letter helps to establish whether you meet the criteria for having a mental health disability under the ADA and Air Carrier Access Act.
The following conditions can qualify for a PSD letter if they substantially limit one or more of your major life activities (such as your work, school, sleep or social life):
- Severe Anxiety
- Chronic Depression
- Bi-Polar Disorder
- Panic Disorders
See if you would qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog. Order your PSD Letter today.
Question #3 – Can my psychiatric service dog be a large dog?
Yes! There are no weight or breed restrictions for psychiatric service dogs. PSDs are often larger dogs such as Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and German Shepherds. Airlines must make reasonable accommodations for you and your psychiatric service dog.
Note that there are some limitations: your PSD must fit in your foot space and cannot block the aisles. Psychiatric service dogs are also not allowed to sit in the exit rows. PSDs are also expected to be model citizens — they cannot disturb other passengers or airplane crew members.
Question #4 – What training is required for a psychiatric service dog?
Psychiatric service dogs are differentiated from emotional support animals in that they are individually trained to perform tasks relating to the owner’s disability. ESAs do not require any special training — they perform their duties just by being around their owners.
Before boarding a flight, the PSD must have fully completed its job-related training. In addition, PSDs must be trained so that they are capable of handling public environments. A misbehaving PSD can be kicked out of the airport or off a flight. Examples of unacceptable behaviors for a psychiatric service dog include lunging at others, growling, excessive barking, and being out of control or destructive.
Question #5 – How do I prepare my psychiatric service dog for their first flight?
Flying with your psychiatric service dog can be a liberating experience. Many PSDs are the reason that their owners are able to fly and travel comfortably in the first place. However, the first time flying with your psychiatric service dog can be stressful, especially if they are larger in size. Below are a few tips you may find helpful:
- The first flight should be a short flight — 1-2 hours max. This will give you a good sense of how your PSD may respond to flying and help acclimate them to the experience.
- Do not provide excessive food or drink to your dog 2-3 hours before the flight. Give them at least 30 minutes outside before heading to the airport.
- 1-2 hours of intense exercise for your PSD on the day of the flight can help make your dog less anxious during the flight.
- Bring treats to the airport and use the entire experience as a training drill. Dogs naturally enjoy having a job, so this can be a fun experience for them.
- Consult your veterinarian about feeding your psychiatric service dog Benadryl or Dramamine for motion sickness and anxiety.
- A PSD must be under the handler’s control at all times, so don’t forget to bring a leash, harness, or tether because the airline staff can insist on it.
Question #6 – How do I tell the airline I have a psychiatric service dog?
Each airline has their own process for flying with a psychiatric service dog, but generally, you will indicate that you are traveling with a service animal when you book your flight. You must submit the DOT Form before departure (some airlines accept the form electronically through their website). For a guide to flying with a PSD on some popular airlines, click on the links below:
Question #7 – Does my psychiatric service dog need to wear a vest?
Under the latest DOT regulations, psychiatric service dogs are not required to wear vests, tags, or other accessories that indicate they are service dogs. You probably have seen service dogs with these items — they are popular with service dog owners who want to signal that their dog is on duty. Under the DOT’s rules, airlines can look at these items as one indicator that a dog is a service dog, but they are not necessary. The most important piece of verification for the airline is the DOT Form which you will submit to the airline in advance.