Are emotional support animals still allowed on flights? Sadly, as of March 2021, U.S. airlines no longer accept ESAs on flights due to regulatory changes. That means that emotional support animals can only fly if they meet the airline’s requirements for pets. That usually entails paying a hefty fee ($100 – $200 each way) and abiding by stringent limits on the size of your dog.
The only type of dogs that can still fly free of charge and exempt from size limits are psychiatric service dogs (PSDs). Psychiatric service dogs are like emotional support animals in that they assist with a mental or emotional health disability. That’s where the similarities end, however. Unlike an ESA, a PSD must be trained to perform a task or work relating to the handler’s disability.
Therefore, the PSD performs tasks like retrieving psychiatric medications, pawing, pressure or licking to comfort during periods of distress, reminding the handler to perform daily tasks, or interrupting dissociative spells or panic attacks. A PSD must also be trained to cope with being in public environments at their handler’s side since PSDs have greater public access rights than ESAs. If you are an ESA owner, it may be possible to train your dog to become a psychiatric service dog, but you should keep in mind that not all ESA owners need a PSD, and not all ESAs are capable of becoming PSDs.
If you want to fly with a psychiatric service dog, you must certify that your PSD is trained, vaccinated, and will be under your control and well-behaved on a new form created by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
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 ever 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.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Emotional support dogs are no longer allowed on flights. Please see the information above for more details. The article below regarding emotional support dogs is no longer applicable and is retained for historical purposes only.
More than likely, you have heard about emotional support dogs. Emotional Support Dogs are a great tool but have developed a bad reputation in the media. Unfortunately, even top news organizations are getting the rules and regulations around Emotional Support Animals wrong. Emotional Support Animals have saved many lives and could help you improve yours. Below is an overview of the rules and regulations on Emotional Support Animals so you can decide if having an ESA is right for you.
Ready to qualify for your own ESA letter? Complete the questionnaire in the link below and get connected to a licensed mental health professional that can assist you personally.
What is an Emotional Support Dog?
An Emotional Support Dog (ESD) is a type of Assistance Animal that comforts their owners with mental disabilities like depression, PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) can be any animal (such as a cat, bird, or even snake) and is one of three types of assistance animals. ESAs or ESDs should not be confused with Service Dogs or Therapy Animals.
An Emotional Support Animal is an assistance animal that provides love, comfort, and support to its handler. The most common type of ESA is an Emotional Support Dog. An ESD does not need to perform a task that aids in their handler’s disability. This is an important distinction between an Emotional Support Dog and a Service Dog. Although an ESD does not need special training, they need to be well-behaved and cannot pose harm to others. If an ESD causes harm to others, a landlord or flight attendant has a right to deny access. We will address this further when we address specific ESD rights.
“There are three types of Assitance Animals and each is important in their own right. They have specific jobs and have different access rights. We should not get them confused.”
How can I certify my Emotional Support Dog legitimately? Is registration required?
The only way to qualify for an Emotional Support Dog is to have an ESA Letter from a licensed mental health professional. You are not required to register your dog with any government agency nor the ADA. If you show an ESA registration card and do not have an official ESA letter, the airline will deny your support dog access and you will be required to transport your dog via the cargo hold.
An ESA letter is a recommendation letter written by a licensed mental health professional who understands the mental health benefits of animals. It is important to get a letter from a therapist that is well versed in the benefits of comfort animals since there are therapists that do not believe in animal therapy.
In order to qualify for an ESA letter, you will need to have a disability as outlined by the DSM 4 or 5. In addition, your disability must impact your ability to perform a daily task.
What rights do Emotional Support Dogs have?
Emotional Support Dogs have two special access rights. One is for air travel and the other is for housing. We will address flying rights in detail below.
Emotional Support Dogs are allowed to fly with you in cabin for all domestic flights and all flights flying into and out of the US
Emotional Support Dogs have special access rights to fly with you in the cabin of the plane, without an additional fee, based on the Air Carrier Access Act. American carriers and all foreign carriers flying into and out of the US are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of a patron’s mental or physical need for an assistance animal to assist with their disabilities. Therefore the airlines are required to grant reasonable access to people with disabilities and need to fly with their ESD.
If you are flying with your support dog, you are not allowed to sit in the exit row. Your dog is not allowed to take up a passenger’s seat and must sit by your legs. Your ESA cannot cause a disturbance or cause harm to your fellow passengers. You must also contact your airline as soon as possible and at least 48 hours in advance and inform them you are traveling with an emotional support dog. You can find ESA airline policies here.
Can I qualify for a legitimate ESA letter online for my ESD?
Red Flags to look out for when looking for an ESA letter online
- As mentioned earlier and is worth repeating, do not pay for ESA registration. This will not make your ESA legitimate and is not required by law.
- Once you have submitted your request, the company should connect you directly to a therapist.
- If you are approved for an ESA letter, it should contain the therapist’s direct contact information and their licensing details.
- It should not disclose any sensitive medical information.
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