Flying with an emotional support dog (ESDs) used to be a very straightforward process. Most airlines, particularly in the USA, used to recognise ESDs as service dogs, however, the rules and regulations for flying with an ESA dog have gotten much stricter. Unfortunately many airlines no longer recognise emotional support animals as service animals, as of January 2021. This means that emotional support dogs may now only be able to fly under airlines standard pet policies.
However, some airlines still allow flying with an emotional support dog, with the correct paperwork. The following airlines still allow flying with an ESA dog in cabin, in 2021:
In this article, we will discuss in detail the process of flying with an ESA dog and the rules and regulations of different airlines.
We’ve also included some travel tips, to ensure that flying is as stress-free as possible for you and your ESD.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What are Emotional Support Dogs?
- What is the difference between an Emotional Support Dogs and a Service Dogs?
- What is the process of flying with an Emotional Support Dog?
- What are airline requirements for flying with an Emotional Support Dog?
- Which airlines allow flying with an Emotional Support Dog (in cabin)
- Tips for flying with an Emotional Support Dog
- What dog breeds work well as Emotional Support Dogs?
- Do I need to pay to fly with my ESA dog?
- Can I fly with a large emotional support dog?
- What other animal’s are permitted as emotional support animals on planes?
- Can I take my emotional support dog on international flights?
What are Emotional Support Dogs?
Emotional support dogs (ESDs) are dogs that are required for a person’s ongoing mental health treatment by a licensed mental health professional. These professionals include licensed therapists, psychologists and doctors (GPs). An ESD brings comfort and minimises the negative symptoms their human companion’s emotional or psychological ‘disability’.
Unlike service dogs, emotional support dogs do not need any specific task-training because their very presence alleviates the symptoms associated with a personal psychological or emotional disability. The only requirement is that the dog is fully under control in public and does not cause trouble in or around the domestic environment.
It’s important to note that there is no official registry for ESDs, and no official certificate. Rather, in order to prove your dog is your emotional support dog, you will need a letter from a credited medical health practitioner.
What’s the difference between an Emotional Support Dog and a Service Dog?
While considering to have your dog approved as your emotional support dog, it helps to understand what makes ESDs different from other types of service dogs, including guide dogs and therapy dogs.
In their most basic definition, ESDs are simply dogs who provide their owners with therapeutic benefits. An ESD is there to provide emotional support to their human through their love and companionship. As anyone who has ever had a dog knows, they have an incredible ability to connect with humans on a deep level. For many people, a beloved furry friend may be the first one a person goes to when they need someone to comfort them and talk to without judgement. This comes without the training that a service dog or therapy dog must go through.
Service dogs must go through an intense process to become official service dogs. This includes a temperament test and intense training to help perform tasks, such as providing stability for a person who has difficulty walking, picking up items, detecting the onset of a seizure, among many other tasks.
Though ESDs provide incredibly important services, they are considered to be somewhere in between the realms of service or therapy animals and standard pets. So while they don’t generally get the same legal rights as service animals, they do get some.
What is the process of flying with an Emotional Support Dog?
The process of flying with an emotional support dog, in 2021, is as follows:
- Obtain a medical assessment letter / ESA letter
- Obtain your dog’s pet passport
- Book flights and inform your airline you will be flying with an ESA dog
- Complete sanitation form
Obtain a Medical Assessment Letter / ESA Letter
It’s important to know that you cannot officially ‘certify’ a dog as an ESD. There are no official certificates and no official registration database for Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). In order to fly with an emotional support dog, you will need an ESA letter, which is a letter from a medical health professional.
When flying with an ESA dog, you do not require a certificate, just a ESA letter. This is a recommendation letter from a licensed medical professional stating your need for an ESD. Medical professionals include therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists or other duly-licensed and/or certified mental health professionals.
The letter should:
- Be legitimate—i.e., on professional letterhead and written by a qualified physician and/or mental health provider.
- Include the professional’s license number, as well as their signature and the date the letter was signed.
- Clearly explain your need for an emotional support animal.
If you don’t already have a mental health provider, you have two options:
- You can either make an appointment with one and get your letter that way, or;
- You can use an online ESA letter service, such as Emotional Pet Support, ESA Doctors, or CertaPet. Please note that these services will charge you, and you will need to complete a mental health evaluation before receiving your letter.
What qualifies you to own an emotional service dogs?
Many people who suffer from a variety of illnesses, including mild to severe depression, phobias, PTSD, anxiety, and panic attacks have found that companionship of an emotional support dogs alleviates symptoms, sometimes even when prescription medications failed or had adverse side effects.
To qualify for an ESD, a licensed medical health care professional will determine whether you have a disability and whether an ESD would help alleviate your symptoms. A “disability” for purposes of qualifying for an Emotional Support Dog means a mental health condition like depression or severe anxiety. It includes any mental health condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as the ability to study, work, travel or sleep.
Please note that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), emotional support are not considered service animals and are therefore not given the same rights and privileges. However, ESDs in many instances, such as traveling, have more rights to accompany their owners than standard pets.
Obtain your Emotional Support Dog’s pet passport
In order to fly with emotional support dogs, they must have a pet passport.
The requirements for obtaining your emotional support dog’s pet passport will differ depending on where you are travelling to and from. However it is likely that your dog will need the following:
- Rabies vaccination
- Animal health certificate
- Additional vaccinations
- Rabies titer test
- Parasite treatment
The following is just a guide on what is required, please check the requirements for the specific country you and your ESD are visiting.
a) Microchipping your ESD.
Your emotional support dogs can get microchipped at your local vet or a charity, such as RSPCA.
Not only is it a requirement when getting a pet passport, it is in your best interest. If your emotional support dog was to go missing whilst abroad, then you are far more likely to be reunited.
b) Rabies vaccinations.
If you want to fly with an emotional support dog, it is mandatory that he/she has a valid rabies vaccination.
Most countries require dogs to have their rabies vaccination between 30 days and 12 months prior to importing, however this can differ between countries. Some countries recognise both 1 year and 3 year rabies vaccinations, while others only recognise the 1 year vaccine.
You can get your pet’s rabies vaccination at your local vet, alternatively some charities offer this service for free or for a discounted price.
c) Animal health certificate (AHC).
Most countries will require an official animal health certificate issued by an accredited veterinarian in order to export and import dogs.
In most cases, your animal health certificate will also need to be endorsed by the country’s authority responsible for the import and export of animals. For example, if you are traveling from the US, you will need your documents endorsed by the USDA. If you are traveling from Canada, you will need to have your documents endorsed by CFIA.
d) Additional vaccinations.
Depending on where you are flying to, your ESD may also require additional vaccinations or treatments. Common vaccinations include the following:
e) Rabies titer test.
Some countries require dogs to pass a rabies titer test before entering. This is usually the case when you are traveling from a country that is considered high risk for rabies.
If your ESD requires a titer test the process is as follows:
- Your dog will have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after the rabies vaccination.
- Your vet will then send the blood sample to an approved blood testing laboratory.
- Your dog’s blood test results must show a rabies antibody level of at least 0.5 IU/ml.
- You must wait 3 months from the date the blood sample was taken before you travel.
- The vet will give you a copy of the test results.
f) Parasite treatment.
Many countries require that dogs are treated against internal and/or external parasites before entering. This includes treatment for tapeworm, fleas, ticks, nematodes and cestodes.
For example, if you are traveling to the UK, Ireland, Malta or Norway, dogs are required to have a tapeworm treatment within 5 days of importing.
Book flights and inform your airline you will flying with an Emotional Support Dog
It’s important to check that your airline allows emotional support dogs on board with you, as many do not. Furthermore, different airlines have different restrictions on the dog breeds they allow on their planes. If your airline does not allow flying with an emotional support dog, your dog will need to adhere to the airlines standard pet policies.
Complete a Sanitation form
A sanitation form is required by some airlines, if your flight is over 8 hours long.
This form states that during the flight, your emotional support dog will not defecate or urinate on a flight. Furthermore, the forms requires you to inform the airline how you’d go about dealing with a scenario in which they will need to defecate or urinate.
Check the airline policy of who you are flying with, to see if a sanitation form is required.
Airline requirements for flying with an Emotional Support Dog?
a) Your ESD must be an approved breed and size.
Firstly, your emotional support dog must be an approved breed. Different airlines have different policies on which breeds you can take on a flight.
For example, dogs that are likely to be dangerous defined by the French Ministry of Agriculture are prohibited in both the cabin and hold on Air France flights:
- Staffordshire Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier (Pit Bulls)
- Dogs that are similar in morphology to the Rottweiler Breed
Check the airline policy for who you are flying with, to ensure your dog breed is permitted to fly.
Some also have restrictions of the size dog they permit on board. If you have a large dog, call your airline as soon as you have booked the tickets. Ask the airline to reserve the bulkhead so that your ESA can sit at your feet with more room. However, it’s important to note that not all airlines will allow you to reserve seats beforehand. In these cases, you will need to show up early to talk to the airline representative at the counter.
c) Your ESD must be well behaved and calm on the flight.
All airlines require your emotional service dog to be well behaved in public and calm on the plane. Your ESD won’t be allowed to fly in the cabin if they display any form of disruptive behaviour that can’t be successfully corrected or controlled. This sort of behaviour includes (but isn’t limited to):
- Growling at others;
- Biting or attempting to bite others;
- Jumping on or lunging at others
If the airline observes any of this behaviour at any point during your journey, then you may be liable to pay the fees required to fly with a pet. In some cases, your ESD may be checked in to fly in the kennel compartment of the plane.
You may want to look into training your ESA, to ensure your experience is as pleasant as possible for you both.
d) You must have an ESA Letter.
As mentioned above, you will need an ESA letter from a medical health professional, stating that your dog is there to provide you with emotional support. For more information on this check the ESA letter section above.
e) Your ESD must have a pet passport.
It is important to note that when it comes to pet passports, both service and emotional support dogs are subject to the same requirements as other pets. This means you will need relevant documentation to show that your ESD is fit for travel.
A Pet Passport contains a record of your dog’s health and vaccinations. Additionally, a pet passport will often allows dogs to travel without the need for quarantine. However, this is providing that they meet certain conditions, such as having the correct documentation, identification, vaccinations and treatments.
For more information on obtaining a pet passport, check the pet passport section above.
f) You may require a sanitation form.
A sanitation form is required by some airlines, if your flight is over 8 hours long. This form states that during the flight, your service animal or ESD will not defecate or urinate on a flight. Furthermore, the forms requires you to inform the airline how you’d go about dealing with a scenario in which they will need to defecate or urinate.
Check the airline policy of who you are flying with, to see if a sanitation form is required.
Which airlines allow flying with an Emotional Support Dog (IN CABIN)
The following airlines still allow flying with an ESA dog in cabin, in 2021:
The rules and regulations for flying with a emotional support dog differ slightly between airlines. We will outline the different airline policies in detail below.
China Air’s policies for flying with an emotional support dog, in 2021, are as follows:
- The ESA dog should be able to fit on your lap or within the foot space of passengers on the aircraft.
- You must provide the following documents:
- Professional medical or mental certificate signed by the passenger’s physician or psychiatrist
- Service dogs declaration form
- ESA dogs must be well behaved and obey commands. If disruptive behavior is observed at any point during the journey and isn’t corrected or controlled, in the reasonable exercise of our discretion, China Air reserve the right to refuse carriage or to claim for any loss and damage caused by the service dogs.
- Emotional support dogs are only accepted free of charge in the cabin on the direct flights to/from the U.S.A. (including Guam). For other routes, emotional support animals are recognized as pets and need to be transported as checked baggage. You will have to pay for this.
- You must inform China Air at least 48 hours prior to departure, and passengers are obliged to meet the relevant animal transit and entry requirements with all the necessary documents.
- Your ESA dog must be vaccinated from rabies and must be free of pests and diseases that would endanger people or public health.
- Emotional support animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered or stayed in their travel carrier at all times.
- Passengers travelling with emotional support animal’s are not permitted to seat in the exit row, for safety reasons.
Latam Airlines’s policies for flying with an emotional support dog, in 2021, are as follows:
- You may only travel with one large ESA dog.
- Your ESA dog must be at least 4 months of age.
- Your dog must not show any signs of bad behavior (barking, growling, jumping on other passengers or relieving themselves in inappropriate areas) at any time during the trip. If they do, the airline will ask that you control your dog and/or take necessary hygiene measures (put on a muzzle, diaper, clean it, etc.).
- Your ESA dog can travel at your feet, under the seat in front of you, or on your lap if it’s smaller than a 2-year-old child.
- Your ESA dog is not permitted to occupy more than your space, block aisles, take up a seat or sit in the emergency exit.
- ESA dogs are only permitted to fly with you in the cabin on flights to or from Mexico, Colombia, and on domestic flights within Colombia. If you are planning on travelling on other routes, you can request to travel with your dog in the cabin or to transport it in the hold of the airplane, by contacting their pet service.
- You must fill out a request form at least 48 hours before your flight departure time via the Contact Form. This document is valid for 1 year from when your treating physician signed it. It can be used for all flights you take during that year. However, you must travel with all the original documents, since they may be requested at the airport or during the flight.
- Final approval to board will be given when you Check-in at the airport. This is to ensure that you have met all the requirements and conditions (behavioral and size) needed to guarantee its safe transportation in the cabin of the airplane. If all the conditions are not met, then your dog must travel in the hold of the airplane, inside an appropriate carrier at no additional cost to you.
Norwegian Air’s policies for flying with an emotional support dog, in 2021, are as follows:
- You must notify Norwegian Air that you’re flying with an emotional support animal at least 48 hours prior to departure.
- Norwegian air do not accept emotional support dogs under 4 months.
- You’ll be assigned a suitable seat, and your ESA dog must lie or sit on the floor in front of you.
- You will be required to present documentation from a licensed mental health doctor (e.g. psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, including a medical doctor specifically treating the passenger’s mental or emotional disability). The document must state the following:
- That you have a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—Fourth Edition (DSM IV).
- That you need the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger’s destination.
- The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional, and the passenger is under his or her professional care.
- The date and type of the mental health professional’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.
- Documentation must not be older than one year from the date of your flight.
- Emotional support dogs are only allowed in the cabin on direct flights to and from the U.S (excl. flights to the UK).
- You are only permitted to fly with your emotional support dog, mentioned in your ESA letter.
- All emotional support dogs are expected to be sufficiently trained to behave in public.
- Norwegian air do not accept emotional support dogs under 4 months.
- Only one emotional support dog per passenger is permitted.
- On flights lasting over 8 hours, Norwegian Air require documentation stating that your ESA will not need to relieve itself on the flight or that they can relieve itself in a way that does not create a health or sanitation issue on the flight.
Singapore Air’s policies for flying with an emotional support dog, in 2021, are as follows:
- When flying with ESA dogs, they must sit on the cabin floor in front of the passenger seat, or on the your lap if they are no bigger than a 2 year old child.
- Your ESA dog is not allowed to obstruct the legroom of other customers, and must not block the aircraft aisle or emergency exit.
- Dogs must be at least 4 months of age.
- ESA Dogs must be trained to obey commands, behave appropriately, and must not pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other customers.
- A moisture absorbent material must also be placed on the cabin floor underneath your ESA dog at all times during the flight.
- ESA dogs must not occupy a seat.
- ESA dogs must be harnessed and leashed, or remain in a pet carrier at all times.
- You are required to have the following documentation:
- Import/transshipment/export permits (subject to country-specific regulations)
- Veterinary health certificate
- Rabies vaccination letter
- A completed acknowledgement form
- Signed statement from a licensed mental health professional no older than one year prior to your flight date stating:
- you have a mental or emotional disability recognised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and is under his or her professional care
- you need the emotional support dog for air travel and/or for activities at your destination
- licence information of the mental health professional (issue date, licence type, and jurisdiction and state where it was issued)
- If your flight duration is over 8 hours, you will have to provide an additional document (sanitary form) to certify that your ESA will not need to relieve itself on the flight, or that it can do so in a way that does not create a health or sanitation issue on the flight.
- If your dog is one of the following breeds (including mixes), you must muzzle them and must provide additional documents regarding your dog’s behaviour:
- Bull Terrier
- Doberman Pinscher
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Brasileiro
- German Shepherd Dog, Belgian Shepherd Dog, East European Shepherd Dog
- Mastiffs, including Bull Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Cane Corso and Dogue De Bordeaux
- Perro De Presa Canario
- Pit Bull, including American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bulldog
Virgin Australia’s policies for flying with an emotional support dog, in 2021, are as follows:
- When flying with an ESA dog, they must sit at your feet, without obstructing aisles and other passengers seats.
- Emotional Support Animals are only permitted on board flights to and from the United States.
- You must request to travel with an emotional support animal on an international flight, prior to your flight. You will need to call their Guest Contact Centre.
- Your ESA dog must be harnessed at all times. It must also wear an identifying coat. Handlers must supply a suitable restraint or an approved in-cabin kennel for smaller Service Dogs in-flight.
- You must accompany your emotional support animal at all times at the airport and during the flight.
- If you are travelling on our international long haul services with a group of 10 or more Service Dogs, you must contact Virgin Australia at least 10 days before departure so that they can ensure your needs are met on board.
- Your dog must sit on an absorbant mat for the whole duration of the flight.
Volaris’ policies for flying with an emotional support dog, in 2021, are as follows:
- Flying with ESA dogs is permitted as long as they can be seated at your feet without protruding into the aisle, and without occupying the foot space of adjacent passengers. Animals are not permitted to occupy a seat.
- ESA dogs must behave properly in public and follow directions from its owner.
- You must check in at least 3 hours before your departure time if boarding a domestic flight, and at least 4 hours before an international flight. This is to ensure your ESA meets all conditions of flying.
- All ESA dogs must be harnessed and leashed at all times.
- You must confirm that your ESA dog doesn’t pose a threat to the health and safety of other and assumes full responsibility for the safety, well-being, and conduct of its dog.
- You must provide Volaris with the following documents at least 48 hours before your flight:
- Veterinarian health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian. This certificate must be (1) on a headed paper containing the license number of your veterinarian (2) the date of expedition must be less than 5 days from your flight date (3) must contain your full name and address (4) has to state that your ESA dog has been inspected before the trip and is clinically healthy.
- Vaccination card issued by a licensed veterinarian. The card must show that your ESA dog has had a rabies vaccination between 30 days and 1 year before your flight. It must also show that your dog has received anti-parasitic mediation within the last 6 months, from your flight.
- Headed letter filled by a licensed mental health professional. It must state (1) the license number of your mental health professional (2) that you have a mental or emotional disability (3) that you need your ESA dog (4) the date and type of the metal health professional license and the state in which it was issued (5) the date of the letter must be less than a year since the date of the flight.
- Brachycephalic dogs are not allowed to travel with Volaris.
Westjet’s policies for flying with an emotional support dog, in 2021, are as follows:
- ESA dogs are permitted on board, as long as the dog fits in the space by your feet. Emotional support dogs are not permitted in the emergency exit row on any aircraft or to occupy an empty seat.
- If you feel your emotional support dog requires additional floor space to ensure its comfort and safety on board, you should contact the airline at least 48 hours before your flight. You will need to inform them of your dog’s breed, weight, length, height and width. The airline will use this information in accordance with Canadian Transportation Agency’s requirements to determine the seating needs of your dog.
- You can fly with your ESA dog on your lap as long as they are no bigger than a 2 year old child.
- Only one ESA dog is allowed per guest.
- ESA dogs must be at least 4 months of age.
- The airline strongly recommends a form of restraint so your dog is always under your control (a harness and leash).
- Westjet strongly suggest that your ESA dog wears its identification (e.g. vest) at all times while on the aircraft.
- Any dog that poses as any type of threat to health and safety to crew members or other guests may be denied transport as an emotional support dog.
- Any dog that has not been trained to behave properly in a public setting (and therefore may cause a significant disruption to cabin service) may be denied transport as an emotional support dog.
- Westjet require the following forms are printed, completed, and emailed to SpecialCareDesk@westjet.com no later than 48 hours before you leave. The forms must be dated no more than one year before travel and kept with you while travelling
- Confirmation of animal training – to be signed by the owner/trainer of the dog.
- Medical/mental health professional – to include your medical professional’s license number, type of license, and jurisdiction in which the license was issued. Must be signed by your medical professional (e.g. psychiatrist, psychologist, or general practitioner).
- Veterinary health – to be signed by the dog’s veterinarian.
- Animals are not accepted on flights to or from:
- Bridgetown, Barbados
- Montego Bay and Kingston, Jamaica
- United Kingdom (Great Britain and Scotland) – only service animals are accepted, emotional support animals are not accepted.