Emotional Support Animals

A Helpful Travel Guide to Emotional Support Animals

If you’ve ever flown with a dog before, you know the journey is necessary, but unpleasant; like almost flying with a baby. Or my little brother Timmy when he was six years old.

Rules for flying the family pet differ from airline to airline; some are okay with dogs (and their cages) under 20 lbs., and others say no way to any animal.

If airline travel with your canine buddy is in your future, let’s talk through your options for air travel.

Note: as always, please check with your airline for the most up-t0-date information.

Flying With Your Dog

Most airline policies for canine air travel is divided into two parts.

1. Pets (and cages) that weigh 20 lbs. or less that fit under the seat back in front of you are allowed in the main cabin.

That’s the “good news.” The bad news? Fees range upwards of $150 per flight.

2. If you’re traveling with a larger pet, say the family Labrador, then you are out of luck. Larger pets are crated and placed with cargo underneath the plane.

It’s a toss-up whether the hold is well-maintained, properly ventilated, and heated.

ESAD Int’l does not recommend transporting animals in the cargo hold. Our concern is injury, loss of the dog, or even the death of the furry companion. The problem is so prevalent that the Department of Transportation has to keep a record of pet deaths via cargo hold transport.

So, what are the air travel options for those with a larger pet?

If you suffer from anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD or one of many other mental illnesses, then consider certifying your pet as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). Not to be confused with a Service Animal, an ESA is a particular category of assistance animal. Recognized by Federal Law, an ESA is not considered a pet and may fly with you (for free) in cabin regardless of breed or size.

Essential ESA Documentation

Just provide an overview of your mental health history and we’ll setup an appointment with a local provider. Speak to them over a secure video or telephone call. Explain how the animal helps you. It’s that simple.

Our providers are licensed, reside, and practice in your state or province. Our entire process is 100% HIPAA and PIPEDA compliant, so your health care information is guarded using the best technology on the market.

Legal requirements

Per US and Canadian law, a client’s disability must also fall within the recognition of the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

Additionally, the following items must be included in an ESA travel letter:

  • Confirming the client’s need for the emotional support animal during travel and at the final destination.
  • Client must currently be under the care of a licensed professional issuing the ESA letter.
  • Contain the provider’s licensure information.
  • On the provider’s letterhead.
  • Dated no later than six months from travel date.

Need More Information?

An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that is recognized as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act.

Getting qualified for an assistance animal is as simple as 1-2-3.

1: Place an Order.

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2. Complete an Assessment.

After you place an order, you'll complete our proprietary HIPAA-compliant comprehensive online assessment.

3: Engage With an Expert.

Finally, you'll engage in therapeutic care with a local, licensed health care provider via secured video technology

Being Approved.

An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that is recognized as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act. An emotional support animal is not a pet. An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability.

Individuals Seeking an ESA.

  1. Must have a “disability and disability-related need for an assistance animal” that can be verified.
  2. Has a disability that meets the law’s definition as having a “major impact on a life activity,” commonly referred to as a functional limitation.
  3. Usually experiences the effects of the disability through difficulties with sleep, focus and social interaction.
  4. Has an animal (and ESAD Int'l only considers dogs and cats) that relieves the symptoms of the disability and its effect on major life activities.

New HUD Guidelines.

HUD's new rules are an update to the Fair Housing Act (FHA) that sought to equalize the ability of people with disabilities to enjoy housing. Under the law, housing providers had to exempt those with disabilities from “no pet” rules and pet fees. But some of the gaps in the rules have been abused by those simply trying to bypass pet rules and fees. Others who are providing the letters have exploited uneducated consumers To comply, Housing Pro 2020 provides multiple clinical sessions between client and an in-state licensed provider.

Therapeutic Relationship Required.

Documentation submitted in support of an assistance animal request must come from a person who has a “therapeutic relationship” with the resident seeking the accommodation. A therapeutic relationship is “the provision of medical care, program care, or personal care services, in good faith, for and with actual knowledge of, an individual’s disability and that individual's disability-related need for an assistance animal by:

  1. a physician or other medical professional;
  2. a mental health service provider; or
  3. a non-medical service agency or reliable third party who is in a position to know about the individual's disability.”

Because a therapeutic relationship requires that care services be provided, in good faith, for an individual’s disability, documentation submitted on the basis of a single visit to a health care provider solely to obtain a “doctor’s note” will generally not be legally sufficient.

Significant impacts on major life activities.

In summary, a disability can be verified if it has a significant impact on major life activities (sleep, concentration, focus, social interaction). If an animal helps mitigate those symptoms (sleep better, etc.), then an individual can be recommended for an assistance animal.

Examples.

Qualify: John Doe suffers from PTSD which results in high levels of anxiety. His anxiety keeps John awake, so he can’t get enough rest to go about his daily life. John has a very strong emotional bond with his cat, Mr. Mittens. Thankfully, the feline helps relieve his disability by reducing the level of anxiety to the point John can sleep. With his cat, his substantial limitation is alleviated — thus a necessary part of accommodating his disability. Mr. Mittens satisfies the definition of assistance animal because it: “... provides emotional support that alleviates one or more identified symptoms or effects of a person's disability.” [see FHEO Notice FHEO-2013-01, April 25, 2013] Deny: John Doe is having issues with his landlord. Facing eviction, John turns to ESAD Int'l for assistance. John wants his 120-pound German shepherd approved. Since there's no disability, he was denied.

Emotional support animal letter for travel.

An emotional support animal provides comfort to support a customer’s diagnosed mental or emotional disorder. Emotional support animals need not have specific training for that function. All must be trained to behave appropriately in a public setting. Acceptable ESAD Int'l emotional support animals are limited to dogs and cats. Your animal must behave appropriately in a public environment. If your 10-pound Chihuahua acts like Cujo, running around the airport on attack mode, the "best ESA letter in the world" won't matter. To qualify, an individual must have a health professional verify:

  • A mental health-related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition (DSM IV).
  • A need for the emotional support or psychiatric service animal to remedy the disability’s effects during air travel and activity at your destination

The passenger/client must be currently under the care and treatment of a licensed professional. To comply, Travel Pro 2020 provides a clinical session between client and an in-state licensed provider. Read: ESAD Int'l's service dog fraud policy.

Getting Pre-Qualified.

An emotional support animal is a type of assistance animal that is recognized as a “reasonable accommodation” for a person with a disability under the federal Fair Housing Act.

An emotional support animal is not a pet. An emotional support animal is a companion animal that provides therapeutic benefit to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability.

Individuals Seeking an ESA

  1. Must have a “disability and disability-related need for an assistance animal” that can be verified.
  2. Has a disability that meets the law’s definition as having a “major impact on a life activity,” commonly referred to as a functional limitation.
  3. Usually experiences the effects of the disability through difficulties with sleep, focus and social interaction.
  4. Has an animal (and ESAD Int’l only considers dogs and cats) that relieves the symptoms of the disability and its effect on major life activities.

Learn more about qualifying for an assistance animal.