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How to get an Emotional Support Animal Letter for Flying

inside airplane

Step by Step Guide – How to Get an ESA Letter for Flying

Have you seen dogs in the airport and wonder why they are allowed to fly? Chances are, they are emotional support animals. Below we will address steps to qualify for an ESA Letter so you may travel with your dog.

Step #1 – Understand and identify your disability

Do you qualify for an ESA letter?

You can be eligible for an ESA letter if you have disabilities, as noted in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). A few examples are:

  • Depression
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Panic Attacks

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

An Emotional Support Animal is a pet that provides comfort and love to their handler. An ESA can be any type of animal through an Emotional Support Dog is the most common choice.

Unlike a Service Dog, an Emotional Support Dog does not require special training but does have to be well behaved.

Step #2 – Understand your rights

Are Emotional Support Animals allowed to fly?

Woman flying with an emotional support animal
A few airlines allow you to fly on an airplane with an Emotional Support Animal.

On January 11, 2021, rules by the U.S. Department of Transportation went into effect, giving airlines the option to no longer recognize emotional support animals. As a result, many airlines are no longer accepting emotional support animals on flights. A few airlines still allow ESAs into the cabin of the airplane at no extra cost, but their rules and policies may be adjusted at any time.

Please check with your airline prior to booking a flight to confirm their current policy for ESAs as it may change. It is better to contact the airline ahead of time to feel confident that you have all the required documentation needed for your trip.

If you’re flying with an airline that no longer has an ESA program, your animal must meet the airline’s requirements for regular pets.

Step #3 – Qualify for a Legitimate ESA letter

How to qualify your dog as an Emotional Support Animal?

If you feel that you may qualify for an Emotional Support Animal, you may contact your therapist for support. If your therapist is unaware of ESA regulations, you may refer to a legitimate online referral company. It is important that you work with a therapist who believes in animal therapy and understands the regulations as the ESA letter requires specific language.

How to get a legitimate ESA letter
Click here to qualify for your ESA letter

If you qualify for an Emotional Support Animal and have an ESA letter, we recommend that you submit your ESA letter to the participating airline ahead of time for approval. Each airline has their policy and procedure, so it’s best to inquire about their requirements as soon as possible not to run into any problems at the airport.

You are not required to register your Emotional Support Animal – only an ESA letter from a licensed therapist may make your pet an official Emotional Support Animal.

Step #4 – Train your ESA to be a “good citizen”

Although an Emotional Support Animal does not require special training, they need to be well behaved. If you plan on taking your ESA onto an airplane, the participating airlines has the right to deny you access if they determine that your ESA may cause harm to others. 

Examples of good citizen behavior are:

  • Walking with you and within the leash length; not pulling or lunging
  • Ignoring food on the floor or in other passenger’s hands
  • Not barking or lunging
  • Sitting and staying on command

Step #5 – Prepare your ESA for success

Exercise and prepare for your ESA’s flight

As mentioned earlier, inquire with your airline regarding their assistance animals policy well in advance. We recommend contacting the airline as soon as you book your flight and submit any required documentation at least 48 hours before departure.

Here are some helpful tips for travelling with your ESA:

  • Do not give your ESA food or water 3-4 hours before the flight. Make sure they have ample opportunity to relieve themselves before the flight.
  • Prepare treats for good behavior in the airport. This is an excellent opportunity to reward them for positive behavior and enforce it for the next trip. Your ESA should associate the airport as a fun place where they get tons of treats in return for behaving well.
  • Make sure your ESA exercises 1-2 hours before the flight. This will help them get rid of excess energy.
  • Outfit your ESA with an easily identifiable vest. Although not required by law, accessories like vests and tags make identifying your dog as an ESA easier and may prevent unnecessary confrontations.
  • You may also choose to give your ESA Dramamine for motion sickness or Benadryl to help them sleep. Each animal is different; please consult your veterinarian before giving your ESA medicine.

See if you qualify for an Emotional Support Animal letter from ESA Doctors by clicking the link below.

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