Having an emotional support animal can be life-changing for people suffering from mental health issues, whether that be depression, anxiety, or PTSD. Being able to live and move freely knowing that you have the legal ability to do so settle the nerves of many people that own an ESA and if you already have an emotional support animal then you should know the ins and outs of what you can and can’t do, but if you don’t or if you’re thinking about getting an animal for emotional support then here some legalities you should know before traveling.

Firstly I want to cover housing for those of you who are thinking of getting an ESA and don’t know anything to do with what you are entitled to regarding owning an emotional support animal. The fair housing act lets you live in any rented accommodation, whether it be an apartment, a condo, or a house, with your emotional support animal. Landlords have no rights when it comes to these animals and aren’t allowed to charge any money for them being in the property, neither are they allowed to impose any rules, or ultimately they cannot deny you living quarters.

Travel Laws

Under the ACAA (Air Carriers Access Act) you are legally allowed to fly with your ESA for free, they define an emotional support animal as any that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability. Documentation will be required for proof and there is some small print worth noting, whilst a wide variety of service animals will be allowed onto a flight there could be some situations where you won’t be allowed on with your ESA. These include if your animal is too large to be accommodated in the cabin, I can’t imagine a swiss mountain dog being comfortable on a plane. If they pose a direct threat to staff or other members of the public, poisonous snakes come to mind. If they are going to cause disruption to the flight, or if they aren’t legally allowed into the country you’re flying to.

Let’s now look at some of the information you should know as an ESA owner in case you find yourself in a situation where you are being challenged and it’s unlawful. If anything stated is too complicated or something doesn’t quite make sense then get some more information from the professionals at Therapetic, as they will be able to guide you in more detail regarding yours and your dog’s rights when traveling. Being able to talk to people with extensive knowledge but also an understanding of the need to have your pet by your side, is invaluable when it comes to feeling comfortable when traveling.

Here are however some of the basic information that you would definitely want to keep in mind:

  • No Airline is allowed to charge you a fee in connection with your ESA. This means no extra charge for coming on the plane and no charge for a seat. There isn’t a situation where an airline can legally ask for money for your emotional support animal.
  • The Airline cannot impose a ban for any specific breeds of an emotional support animal, whether that be a cat, dog, or rabbit. There’s a stigma against many breeds of animals about how they are dangerous which hopefully can be proved wrong if they’re there as an ESA.
  • The Airline might ask you to call 48 hours in advance to make them aware that you will be flying with an ESA, this is completely normal and understandable from the airline’s point of view. If you plan on traveling anywhere and have your ESA with you then it’s always best to just call ahead and make sure they are aware of the situation.
  • The Airline might require you to supply a bill of health from your veterinarian before being able to fly, this could be for a number of different reasons but essentially for everyone’s safety. 
  • Airlines are now able to deny exotic or unusual animals. I for one wouldn’t like to be flying next to someone holding a snake, or even worse, a tarantula. It might be emotional support for you but if it sends the entire plane into shaking wrecks then it’s probably not best to get on with it.
Traveling with ESA

What You’ll Need to Travel

Now we know that you can travel with your ESA. It’s worth finding out what is required to do so. Firstly, we need to make sure that our animal is known as an emotional support animal, and all that means is that we need a letter from our therapist or medical health professional stating that it is as ESA and we are good to go. There are two types of ESA letters so make sure you have the right one that refers to travel. Traveling is a stressful time for us all, and even more so if you’re going through a traumatic time or struggling with depression. Having an ESA is such a brilliant and life-changing way to be able to cope with the more difficult situations in life, and being able to travel with them makes things all worthwhile.

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