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Is Your Pet an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) or Service Animal?

Is Your Pet an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) or Service Animal?

Procedures for traveling with service animals, emotional support animals, and pets

According to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT), more than 2 million animals are transported each year by airlines. In addition, the number of people traveling with service or emotional support animals is increasing each year.

DOT has its regulations to control the movement of pets, service animals, and emotional support. Before embarking on a journey with an animal, learn how to proceed, what steps you must take, and what your rights are.

Defining a Service or Emotional Support Animal

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) regulates airports and terminals when it comes to the movement of service animals. Additionally, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulates airlines when they transport animals.

According to the ADA and its definition of what is a service animal, only dogs are recognized in this category, which are dogs trained to do a job or task for a disabled person and a service animal is not a service animal. pet.

In addition, the ADA states that these service animals must be allowed to accompany persons with limited abilities at all times in any area where the general public is permitted to attend. A person who needs and owns a service animal may not be singled out, treated differently, or asked to have their animal removed from its location.

In other words, a person with a disability who has a service animal is authorized to circulate freely in an airport as well.

On the other hand, ACAA defines a service animal as any animal that is individually trained to provide assistance to a person with limited ability, or any animal that assists a person with a disability by providing emotional support. Under this rule, airlines accept that their passengers travel with animals for service or emotional support and do not restrict it only to dogs.

However, most airlines do not accept exotic animals, such as snakes, spiders, reptiles, rodents, among others, or animals that could endanger the lives of other passengers. It is recommended that you consult before your trip.

In addition, service and emotional support animals usually travel without paying, but each airline has its own rules in this regard, and they will require proof and documents certifying that the animal you are carrying is for service and not a pet. for these you must pay.

Rules when traveling with a service animal or emotional companion

In an effort to avoid confusion and establish some consistency, DOT has revised its rules and recommendations when traveling with a service animal. Among the procedures, the following stand out:

  • Airlines may request evidence to confirm whether the animal is a service animal or an emotional support companion. The owner can show an identification card, some written document, verify the presence of the harness, or the official letter from a certified psychiatrist of the passenger’s disability and the need for the animal during their trip. The airline can even observe the behavior of the animal.
  • The airline must allow the service animal or emotional companion to be near the seat of the individual with a disability, without the obstruction of the aisles or emergency exits. If this is not possible, the airline must provide options to the passenger to accommodate the animal.
  • The airline must not impose additional charges for service animals or emotional companions of travel
  • Airlines must provide all the safety amenities required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the passenger and the animal.
  • And the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will require a notification card explaining that you are traveling with a service animal.

Documentation for traveling with a service or emotional support animal

Airlines will generally require documentation certifying the need for the service or emotional support animal. The document must have the following characteristics:

  • It should not be valid for more than one year.
  • Since you need to notify the airline that you are traveling with a service or emotional support animal at least 48 hours before travel, you will also need the document in advance.
  • The letter must note that the individual has a mental or emotional limitation recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
  • You should also explain that you need the animal’s emotional or psychiatric support during the journey, or that you require it when you arrive at your destination.
  • The person writing and signing the letter must be a licensed mental health professional and must also be your treating physician.
  • Include the date, type of license, state, and jurisdiction.

traveling with pets

If the animal you intend to travel with is not a trained service animal, nor is it an animal trained to be an emotional support companion, then it is considered a pet and is treated differently. Most airlines allow your pet to travel on the plane, and you must pay a fee, which is usually between $125 and $200 depending on the company. It is recommended that you notify the airline in advance that you plan to travel with a pet so that they can make the necessary arrangements.

Pets can travel in the cargo area of ​​the plane; but, if it is a decent size and can fit in a small pet carrier, and fits well under the seat, then you can travel with it in the cabin.

It is important to note that all animals, regardless of whether they are pets, service animals, or emotional support partners, will be subject to review by TSA officials, and must also go through the X-ray area as well.

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