What to know when flying with your ESA
As of March 2018, major US airlines including United Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta changed their travel policies for emotional support animals. It is our expectation that additional US based carriers will adopt similar changes in the future. Thus, our goal at the ESA Registration of America is to inform and educate our community while providing the necessary tools to make travel with an ESA a seamless and stress-free process. Understating the changes to airline ESA regulations will ensure a smooth flying experience for and other passengers onboard.
If you're traveling with an ESA you should now expect to provide more information to the airline well in advance of your departure date. Here's what you should know:
Veterinary Health Forms
Certain carriers such as Delta also require proof (see above link) of your ESA's vaccinations. A Veterinary Health Form must be completed by a veterinary professional and submitted to the airline prior to travel. Delta allows a traveler to submit a copy of vaccination records in lieu of this form if the records include vaccination dates and veterinary office information. Airlines want to ensure that ESAs on board have had rabies and distemper vaccines. We recommend reaching out to your vet a minimum of a week in advance before a flight.
Knowing the laws and individual airline rules for emotional support animals is critical before traveling with your ESA. It's more important than ever to prove that your ESA is well trained and vaccinated days before you travel. Planning ahead is always the best policy and being in touch with your vet to provide airlines this documentation is necessary. As the ESA Registration we work with a team of therapists that are available via HIPAA compliant video conference software to assess clients. Booking a session to see if you qualify for a housing or travel letter is simple with most assessments completed within 48-72 hours. We have a team of therapists across the country that are waiting to be matched with clients.
Confirmation of Animal Training
Airlines are paying closer attention to animal training and rightfully so. After all, an unruly ESA makes travel stressful for both its owner and everyone around. As of March 2018, Delta passengers are required to sign a document that ensures the airline that their animal has been trained to behave in a public setting and takes direction upon command. Further, Delta passengers must sign off that if their animal acts will be denied boarding or will be removed from the aircraft. It is our expectation that other airlines will follow Delta's lead when it comes to ensuring only calm and trained ESA's are aboard their flights.
We always recommend that ESA owners use their best judgement before getting on a plane. ESA's that have not had proper toilet training or basic socialization skills training should probably not be flying on a plane.
Unacceptable ESA Animals
According to the law any animal can be considered an emotional support animal regardless of size or species. However, airlines are adopting policies to limit the types of ESA's allowed to fly. At ESA Registration we support this policy and believe that ESA owners and fellow passengers should adhere to societal norms when flying. There have been instances of passengers attempting to fly with peacocks, ducks, and other exotic animals. Here is a typical list of unacceptable ESA's that many airlines have adopted:
- Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game bird, & birds of prey)
- Animals improperly cleaned and/or with a foul odor
- Animals with tusk
- Sugar gliders
ESA Travel Size Limits
The first step a traveler should take is reaching out to the airline and determine whether their ESA fits the size requirement. Certain airlines have changed their rules and now require ESA's to fit in a dog carrier under a seat or on the owner's lap. Large breeds which take up room in the aisle making it hard for the food service carts to pass are now being excluded from certain airlines.
ESARA has joined forces with a team of mental health professionals with an expertise in Emotional Support Animal Evaluations and Prescription Letters to help you with your ESA and to provide you with your evaluation letter which is required by law to travel with your animal.