Traveling with your emotional support dog

Mar 19, 2024
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emotional support dog

What is a ESA?


Emotional support animals (ESAs) refer to dogs and other pets that provide emotional support and comfort to their owners on a daily basis. ESAs legally must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional like a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist.


Emotional support animals differ from service dogs in a few key ways. Service dogs have been trained to perform specific tasks for individuals, and as such, as usually granted access to anywhere their owner goes.


Emotional support animals do not require any specific training, although owners should make sure they’re well-trained in public. ESAs are not granted access to establishments such as restaurants or malls like service dogs are.



Emotional Support Dog Airline Ban


The U.S. Department of Transportation (Department or DOT) is issuing a final rule to amend the Department’s Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation on the transport of service animals by air. This final rule is intended to ensure that our air transportation system is safe for the traveling public and accessible to individuals with disabilities.


The new regulations take effect in early 2021 and at that point, passengers with Emotional Support Dogs will no longer be permitted to fly with them. If you have previously flown with your ESA and were planning to do so again for an upcoming trip, you will need to make different arrangements for traveling by either leaving your dog at home with a pet sitter or depending on your airline carrier your ESA may be able to fly with you as a pet.


When the new regulations take effect, ESAs will be considered the same as any other pet. Meaning if the airline permits small dogs to travel in a carrier under seat, owners can purchase that add-on to their ticket but do not have any access or privileges for their dog different than they would if their dog was a pet and are subject to all pet-related fees, restrictions, and limitations. When the new regulations take effect, individuals whose ESAs are large breed dogs will not be able to fly with their pets at all unless those dogs are flown cargo, same as any other large pet dog.



U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Final Rule on Traveling by Air with Service Animals

The final rule: 

  • Defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability;

  • No longer considers an emotional support animal to be a service animal;

  • Requires airlines to treat psychiatric service animals the same as other service animals;

  • Allows airlines to require forms developed by DOT attesting to a service animal’s health, behavior and training, and if taking a long flight attesting that the service animal can either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner;

  • Allows airlines to require individuals traveling with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) up to 48 hours in advance of the date of travel if the passenger’s reservation was made prior to that time;

  • Prohibits airlines from requiring passengers with a disability who are traveling with a service animal to physically check-in at the airport instead of using the online check-in process;  

  • Allows airlines to require a person with a disability seeking to travel with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) at the passenger’s departure gate on the date of travel;

  • Allows airlines to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals; 

  • Allows airlines to require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft;

  • Allows airlines to require that service animals be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times in the airport and on the aircraft;

  • Continues to allow airlines to refuse transportation to service animals that exhibit aggressive behavior and that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others; and

  • Continues to prohibit airlines from refusing to transport a service animal solely based on breed.

Recommended products for traveling with your dog.

NaturVet Quiet Moments Calming Aid Dog Supplement 

Complete Service Dog Vest with Exclusive Patch

The Original Doggy Bag™ - Dog Travel Bag for Supplies 


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