Are you planning to travel with your emotional support animal any time soon? If so, there are a couple of things you need to know before getting to the airport or train station that will significantly reduce the stress associated with traveling with an animal.
What You Need to Know About Using an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter
Nowadays, airlines are required by regulation to accommodate reasonable requests from passengers to fly with a Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) or Emotional Support Animal (ESA). Likewise, you are required to contact the airline early enough (at least 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure) and to have a valid ESA letter.
A valid ESA letter must fulfill the following requirements.
- Must not be more than one year old.
- Must be on a professional’s letter head.
- Must be obtained from a mental health professional.
An ESA letter should state that you suffer from a mental health-related disability that is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (DSM-IV). Rather than attesting to a mental illness diagnosis, the letter should also indicate that the mental illness considerably limits one or more major life activities.
The manual states that airlines should not require the letter to mention the specific diagnosis or mental health disability. The letter must, however, indicate that the diagnosis is included in the DSM-IV. The ESA letter must also attest that the presence of the pet is required for your treatment or health during the flight and/or at the destination.
The individuals writing online ESA letters must be licensed mental health professionals and you must be under their care. The mental health professionals should clearly indicate their specific mental health profession, such as clinical social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, etc.
Tips on Traveling With Your Emotional Support Animal
Traveling by plane
Make sure you have your ESA letter with you to prove that your pet is in fact an emotional support animal without whom you cannot function normally.
Different airlines have different rules regarding the steps you need to take to fly with your emotional support dog. So make sure you call the airline before going to the airport and inform them that you’re planning on traveling with your emotional support dog.
The Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines to let you travel with the pet. Nonetheless, coordinating with the airline saves time and potential hassles at the airport.
Traveling by car
When traveling with your emotional support dog by car, especially on extended road trips, it’s a good idea to for you to map out your trip. You and your pet will be better off if you can find out where the closest dog-friendly restaurant, hotel, or rest shop is.
There are numerous dog-friendly restaurants and hotels across the US, but there are some that have a no-pets policy. Note that they aren’t legally required to allow pets in the restaurant or hotel because they are covered by the Fair Housing Act or Air Carrier Access Act, so an ESA may not help here.
Anya S. Smith is a dog lover and shelter volunteer. In addition to handling selected range of vet-approved and recommended products, Anya blogs about pet related topics such as traveling with pets and online ESA letters.