Now more than ever, travelers are eager to fly with their faithful furry companions by their side. Recently though, airlines have started cracking down on pet policies and regulations.
If you’ve ever wondered what an ESA dog is, and whether or not your pup qualifies as one, keep reading! We’re giving you the low-down on all things travel, and how to do it happily and safely with your furbaby.
Is My Dog a Service or Emotional Support Dog?
A U.S service animal is one that has been trained to help a person with a disability. Service dogs must go through temperament training and other intense tests before they are cleared to provide stability for their owners. Once trained, service dogs are eligible for certificates, I.D cards, and leashes/vests denoting their service dog status. (Pretty snazzy if you ask us!)
An emotional support dog is one that provides emotional or psychiatric relief to its owner. While an ESA does not require the same level of official training as a service dog, it does require an ESA letter. This letter must:
Be written on professional letterhead by a doctor or mental health provider.
Contain the doctor/provider’s license number.
Be signed and dated by the doctor/provider.
Clearly explain the owner’s need for an ESA.
Get a Pet Passport
In order to fly with an ESA, you must also obtain a passport. (We know - just thinking about your pup’s passport photo shoot is almost too cute to comprehend).
Requirements for the passport vary depending on where you’re jetting off to, but in general, prepare to show proof of the following:
- Rabies & other general vaccines
- Animal health certificate
- Rabies titer test
- Parasite treatment
Preparation is Key
Travel comes with its fair share of surprises for humans, and we want traveling with your pup to make things calmer, not more stressful. Here are some things to think about before flying:
Even if you’ve already submitted paperwork online, bring an extra set of all necessary records just in case. Be sure to have vet documents stating your pet’s breed & general stats, as well as your vet’s license number & contact information.
If you’re new to traveling with your ESA, look into training before your upcoming flight. Growling and barking are strictly prohibited, so prep your pup with training before you go to ensure happy travels!
Notify the airline
Let's talk about emotional support animals and airlines. Different companies have different policies when it comes to emotional support dog travel. Some require passengers to fill out a sanitation form, and others only allow certain dog breeds to fly as an ESA. Notify your airline ahead of time so that you can adhere to their policies and avoid surprises on travel days!
Emotional Support Dog Travel Tips
In addition to all of the pre-travel preparation, here are some day-of travel tips for you and your furry BFF:
Exhaust your ESA before the flight: getting rid of excess energy before boarding is recommended. Be sure to give them a good run-around on the day of travel. Sleepy dogs are less likely to stress mid-flight.
Limit food and water pre-flight: in addition to lessening the likelihood of motion sickness during travel, limiting food & water also helps to avoid travel day accidents.
Know your airport: look at a map of your airport and figure out where pet relief areas/pet-friendly spaces are in comparison to your gate.
We know that the brass tacks of traveling with your pup can feel overwhelming, but once you get through the paperwork and first flight jitters, you should be on your way to snuggles and smooth sailing. Happy trails, furry friends!