Traveling with Emotional Support Dog – Tips and Tricks

By: Kathryn Anderson Updated: October 14, 2022

ESA owner with her Emotional Support Dog

Traveling with an Emotional Support Dog can make or break a vacation depending on if you plan properly. We at CertaPet wanted to make sure all of our ESA owners have all the ins and outs for what they need to travel with their ESA. 

Let’s ensure your vacation goes smooth and is an enjoyable experience for both dog and owner!

Traveling with Emotional Support Dog: All in the Planning

For some, traveling is stressful or if you an ESA owner, was stressful. Now that you have your pup or cat in your hands (or by your side) nothing is stopping you from exploring the wide open spaces of America. However, there are a few tips and tricks to keep you and your emotional support animal ahead of the game.

If it rings a bell in your mind that traveling is a bit of a struggle to go based upon an emotional and/or mental disability, find out if you qualify today to receive your own ESA letter and a furry friend that will travel all through life with you at your side.

Emotional Support Animal Laws

The two main emotional support animal laws – Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act – are there for you when you travel and decided to live with your pup. But let’s just concentrate on the latter!

Traveling by Plane: Thanks, Air Carrier Access Act!

**Please note, as of January 11, 2021, under new regulations passed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the allowance of Emotional Support Animals onboard flights may vary from airline to airline. Please contact your airline of choice for their most up-to-date policies on Emotional Support Animals.

When preparing to fly with their emotional support animal, an owner must first ensure that they have their prescription letter. This must come from a licensed medical or mental health professional approving your use of your pet as an ESA.

With an ESA Letter, you have an official and legal document from a licensed mental health professional deeming you an emotional support animal owner. The letter itself cannot be over 1 year old (renewals at CertaPet are in place) and must be prescribed by your LMHP in your state. The ESA letter must state the following:

  • That you have a diagnosed mental health condition or mental health-related disability
  • The emotional support animal accompanying you is necessary for your mental health or treatment.
  • The type of animal you are bringing, and how many
  • That the issuer of the letter is a licensed medical doctor or mental health professional, and that you are under their treatment or care for a mental health disorder
  • The issuer’s license number, type of license, the license issue date, and the state or jurisdiction where it was licensed.

With a fake ESA letter, chaos ensues.

Different airlines have different rules or steps for flying with your canine friend. Be sure to call the air carrier you’re traveling with to let them know you intend to travel with an emotional support dog. The Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines to allow you to travel with your emotional support animal. Coordinating with the airline will save time and lessen the chance of a nightmare situation.

Check out our Airline ESA and Pet Policy pages for more information on which specific airlines require which specific documentation. Anything ranging from a vet’s health form, signed testament to your animal’s behavior, and more!

Traveling by Car

When traveling with an emotional support dog by car, especially on long road trips, it’s very important for an owner to map out their trip. It’s always nice to know where the closest dog-friendly rest stop, hotel or restaurant is. There are many dog-friendly hotels and restaurants across this great country, but some places might have a no dog policy.

This policy is permitted since hotels and restaurants are not covered under the Fair Housing Act or Air Carrier Access Act.  It is very important to remember that an emotional support animal is not legally required to be allowed in a restaurant or hotel just because it is an ESA.

Traveling by Train

Unfortunately, Amtrak, the nations largest train operator does not recognize emotional support animals. They do allow service and therapy dogs to travel freely with their owners. Service and therapy dogs go through specialized training which emotional support animals do not have to go through. You can travel with your emotional support dog on Amtrak, but it must be in a kennel and they charge a fee of $25.

Traveling by Bus

Greyhound also does not recognize emotional support dogs. Just like Amtrak,  they allow service and therapy animals to travel with their owners, but they do not allow emotional service pets as there is no legal requirement for them to do so.

emotional support dog at tampa airport

The Key Things to Remember when Traveling with an Emotional Support Animal

Once again, when traveling with an emotional support dog, planning is key.

When flying, make sure you have your letter from a licensed medical or mental health professional. Also, make sure the airline knows ahead of time of your intentions to fly with an emotional support dog.

When traveling by car, make sure to plan out rest stop places and dog-friendly lodging. This way you aren’t stuck halfway on your trip with no place to stay with your four-legged friend.

If you are planning to travel and would like to see if you’re a good candidate for an emotional service dog, then start by taking CertaPet’s simple 5-minute survey to see if you qualify.

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