Before finding out about emotional support animals I was a mess when flying. Every bad thing I’d ever heard or seen about planes were suddenly at the forefront of my mind filling me with dread the second that I stepped inside that terrifying cabin. But that all changed when my psychologist introduced me to the glorious world of ESAs! With my gorgeous Pomeranian by my side, my anxiety around flying has decreased dramatically, without having to knock myself for six on the meds before take off.
Emotional support animals are so important to the lives of many and can make traveling much more manageable if you experience anxiety like me. Of course, there’s the oddball (or five) that abuse the system, and of course they’re the ones that the public knows about. But apart from that small minority, the majority of ESA owners have their lives enhanced by these wonderful helpers, without causing any problems for others that travel.
This is a guide for new or potential ESA owners keen on traveling with their pets—and doing it without unnecessary stress.
Preparation is Key
First things first—before taking the plunge and traveling with your ESA, it’s essential to prepare your pet for and yourself for this new experience. There are a number of things to take care of before you arrive at the airport, so let’s have a look at what you need to do.
Before traveling with your ESA, you’ll need to make sure you’ve gone through a legitimate emotional support animal registration process. This letter can be drawn up by a doctor or a licensed mental health professional as part of your treatment plan. This will allow you to travel with your pet on some forms of transportation. More on that later.
Training your pet for the stresses of travel is super important. Even the most well-trained of pets can freak out a little when faced with the realities of traveling, especially long distances. It’s a great idea to train up your ESA so that they’re ready to travel when you are.
Packing for Your Pet
When you travel with your pet, you’re packing for two. Try to nail this one, as it can be a hassle to find Blinky’s favorite toy in a new city that you don’t know too well! Make a thorough list and check it twice.
Flying with an ESA
The primary mode of long-distance travel for most ESA owners is plane. This is the simplest and most effective way to travel a long way–fast–with minimal distress to your pet.
The Aircraft Carrier Access Act
The law that supports your right to travel by your emotional support animal on the plane is the Aircraft Carrier Access Act (ACA). This law ensures that you are able to travel in the air with your pet, pursuant to the policy of the airline that you will be traveling with.
Before traveling with your ESA, it’s essential to check the requirements that the airline has so you don’t run into any nasty surprises at the airport. Most airlines will require documentation to be submitted before you fly, so check the website for details.
Check Airline Policy
Another thing that airlines have been cracking down on lately is the type of animals that can be brought on the plane. Due to some ESA owners behaving badly, most airlines now only allow cats and dogs as emotional support animals on the plane. If you have a different species of ESA, you may not be able to fly.
Documents At the Ready
On the day that you travel, make sure you bring a copy of all the documents that you’ll need for your trip so you don’t get caught out. It’s also a wise idea to have a copy of airline policies on hand just to make sure everything goes smoothly. With all the documents you need on hand, you’ll be ahead of any dramas that you might face.
Traveling on Public Transportation with an ESA
Unfortunately, unlike air travel, public transportation such as buses and trains do not afford the same allowances to owners of ESAs. While service animals are allowed, generally ESAs are not permitted on these types of transportation, although there may be some exceptions. Get in touch with the company that you’d like to travel with and see what your options are.
Is Your Destination Pet Friendly?
Another important thing to check out if you’re going on holiday is how pet-friendly your destination is. Some hotels do not allow pets, or charge a fee, regardless of whether the animal is an ESA or not. It’s also wise to note that private businesses are not obligated to allow emotional support animals on their premises, and so access is at their discretion.
Traveling with an ESA is a wonderful thing for both owner and animal. Whether it’s visiting friends and family or taking a long overdue vacation, being able to bring a furry support system with you is an invaluable tool for making travel feel manageable again.