ESA Weekly News Report August 13th: DOT Issues ESA Air Travel Guidelines

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Dog reading the esa news

This week, we’ve seen some interesting emotional support animal news. Today, we’re sharing it with you. Our first story is about the Department of Transportation’s new guidelines for airlines. The second is a cautionary tale about abiding by airline regulations when flying with animals, whether they are ESAs or not.

Department of Transportation Clarifies ESA Air Travel Regulations

Just this week, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a new guideline for flying with ESAs. It will help airlines make flying with an ESA safer for passengers and the aircrew. This document came out after a series of incidents with emotional support animals aboard flights in the United States.

Up until now, regulations weren’t clear about what questions airline workers could ask ESA owners. They could ask to see the emotional support animal letter. However, questions about the animal’s training and behavior weren’t explicitly allowed.

This has now changed. According to the Department of Transportation’s Final Statement, these questions are now encouraged. This will hopefully help the airline determine whether the ESA will be a danger to others. The DOT reinforced the fact that flying with an animal in the cabin can become dangerous if the ESA is not properly trained.

emotional support dog in carrier


Emotional Support Animal Denied Boarding to Hawaii

Melissa Martin and her emotional support animal got on a flight from Toronto to Dallas and then on another to Los Angeles. However, when they were in line to board a flight to Hawaii, they were denied and turned away. According to American Airlines, the woman and her canine companion did not have the correct paperwork to travel to Honolulu.

Martin insists she asked customer support what she needed to travel with her ESA. Airline officials told her she needed an ESA letter, a certificate of vaccination, and a veterinary form proving good behavior. Yet, in Los Angeles, she was told she needed quarantine papers.

Hawaii has a strict policy on animal travel. This is because the state has never had a reported case of rabies, among other contiguous animal illnesses common in the United States. Thus, with no quarantine forms, no animal can travel to any Hawaiian island.

After many hours of back and forth, Martin and her ESA were given hotel and food vouchers. They had to delay their trip and stay in Los Angeles for longer.

fluffy white dog dressed as a pilot


CertaPet’s Thoughts on This Week’s News

We’re happy to see the Department of Transportation taking action to prevent incidents onboard involving ESAs. Too many preventable accidents have happened. We believe the new guidelines will help make flying with an ESA safer and less stressful for everyone.

Although unlike service animals, ESAs aren’t legally required to undergo training, unlike service animals. Biting, growling, jumping, and not following commands are serious problems when around other people. Thus, we encourage all ESA owners to socialize and train their companions from a young age.

The Canine Good Citizen (CGC) course is a great place to start! If you plan on taking your ESA into public places, it is your responsibility to control your dog!

We are also sad to hear Martin and her ESA weren’t able to enjoy their trip to Hawaii. An emotional support animal letter gives ESAs and their owners the right to fly together. However, we always alert our readers to the possibility of the airline asking for other documents. An ESA letter isn’t always the only thing needed to fly with an emotional support animal!

It is up to you to do your homework and research not only the rules and regulations of the airline you are taking but also the requirements your destination may have for bringing your animal along!

Of course, you won’t go anywhere with your ESA if you don’t have an ESA letter. If you don’t have access to mental health care, our licensed mental health professionals (LMHPs) are here to help you. Start out by taking our free 5-minute pre-screening. If you qualify for an ESA we’ll put you in touch with a LMHP in your state. They will issue your ESA letter if you qualify for one.

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