How to Travel With Your Emotional Support Animal
Traveling can be stressful for many people and that is especially true if you suffer from a physical or mental illness. In order to make traveling easier, many people use an emotional support animal to help ease their anxieties as it helps them live a more ordinary life. An emotional support animal or ESA is different from a service animal. While service animals receive training for specific tasks like allergy detection, seizure or diabetic alerts, mobility assistance, or guiding the blind, emotional support animals often receive no specific training.
If you’re thinking of traveling with your emotional support animal, there are many things that you need to know before you finalize any travel plans. If your pet isn’t yet recognized as an ESA, you will first need to get a letter from a licensed mental health professional. We recommend you first read a comprehensive ESA guide to find out if you qualify for an ESA letter and to learn how to choose the best online ESA letter service supported by a licensed professional.
Travelling on Planes with your Emotional Support Animal
For those that suffer from a disability, the traveling process can oftentimes be a very stressful and difficult time. Traveling on an airplane can already be stressful enough and if you suffer from anxiety, it can make things much worse. Thankfully, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) allows you to bring your emotional support animals on airplanes while traveling and this can make all the difference for those that find traveling stressful.
The Air Carrier Access Act was enacted in 1986 and it requires the Department of Transportation to allow qualifying support animals to board planes with their owners. The act allows those with either physical or mental disabilities to board planes with their emotional support animals and has made many people’s lives easier as it allows them to live a more ordinary life and travel comfortably.
Make Sure your Animal is Certified
When it comes to traveling with your support animal the first thing you will need to do is understand the difference between pets and emotional support animals. Pets are regarded in a much different light when it comes to airlines and hotel chains and while your emotional support animal will be granted special travel privileges, your pet may not.
The difference between an ESA and a pet is that ESAs are for people that suffer from disabilities such as PTSD and anxiety and they provide emotional support for their owners. In the eyes of the law, a pet has fewer rights than an ESA when it comes to traveling. The first step to being able to travel with your ESA starts with emotional support animal registration.
Before you register your pet, it is important to make sure that you and your animal both qualify for the designation as only people who genuinely need a support animal will be able to have one and only certain animals are allowed to become support animals. There are a lot of resources online that can help you determine your eligibility and you can always speak to a mental health professional (like those at BetterHelp) as they have extensive experience with ESA registration.
Generally, a person must be deemed emotionally disabled by a licensed therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist. While some airlines may accept verification from a medical doctor, this is generally not acceptable to qualify for registration.
No Additional Costs
Due to the ACCA, airlines cannot discriminate against people that wish to board a place with their Emotional Support Animal. This means that you will be able to travel with your animal without paying extra costs. However, depending on what airline you choose, there may be some additional requirements that you need to fulfill in order to safely travel with your ESA.
Most airlines will require your support animal to be well behaved and not be a disruption to other passengers. If you have a well-trained animal, you should have no problem with this requirement, but it is important to make sure that your animal has been trained to deal with the travel so that you do not run into any issues.
Commonly accepted emotional support animals include the usual domestic animals such as dogs, cats, and birds. More exotic species can legally be refused, meaning it may be difficult to bring your beloved emotional support alligator onboard. However, there are stories of unique emotional support animals such as ducks and turkeys being allowed on flights, experiencing flight without ever having to beat their own wings
Staying in Hotels with your Emotional Support Animal
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) will allow you to bring your emotional support animal into places that you are renting, but you must make sure your animal is a certified ESA. Generally, hotels will have rules that prohibit pets from staying in your room, but if your pet is also certified as your ESA, then the hotel may allow you to bring them along. With that being said, hotels are not required by law to allow your emotional support animal access because they are not covered under the FHA.
Hotels will not be in violation of the FHA if they deny you and your emotional support animal access to their property, but a long term rental would be a different story and the FHA would apply. If you are planning on booking a room at a hotel, it would be a good idea to call them ahead of time to see what their guidelines are regarding emotional support animals., Hotels will often be very understanding of your situation and they will do their best to accommodate you and your support animal to the best of their abilities.
Traveling can be a very difficult process for people that suffer from mental illnesses. Having a support animal to help comfort you during travel is a great way to feel relaxed during stressful travel situations. When you are traveling with your support animal, it is important to make sure that your animal has the proper certification and always carry your registration papers with you so that you have proof of your ESA status. Also, remember to review the governing acts that are in place to help protect your rights when it comes to safe travel as this will help you understand when you are being discriminated against.