A Guide to Flying with Your Emotional Support Animal

Support dog in a plane supporting people in medical need
Support dog in a plane supporting people in medical need

Emotional support animals are crucial for their owners’ health.

The comfort they provide helps make one’s life more manageable and easier to navigate.

If you own an ESA and have a trip coming up, you might be wondering whether or not your animal can accompany you on the plane.

Here’s everything you need to know about flying with your ESA.

Know Your Legal Rights

As an ESA owner, you should know about the Air Carrier Access Act. This legislation requires airlines to permit ESAs to accompany their owners on the plane.

Note that the law distinguishes between service animals and ESAs. If you have a service animal, you won’t need to provide documentation or advanced notice.

If you are traveling with an ESA, however, an airline can require you to give notice. You may have to submit documents including:

  • A letter from a medical professional (see this resource for getting an ESA letter online)
  • Proof of vaccinations
  • Behavior school certification or other documentation that verifies good behavior

Be sure to check your airline’s policies beforehand. This will help avoid problems when you get to the airport and ensure you have a smooth flight.

Learn how to crate train your dog here

Mariembourg dog support animal looking out of a cafe window

Talk to Your Vet

There are no breed restrictions for ESAs. However, some breeds may not be suitable for flying.

Breeds like bulldogs and Boston terriers tend to be high-risk flyers because of their breathing problems. So, if you have an at-risk ESA, you should talk to your vet before flying with them. They may determine it’s best to leave them at home for their safety.

Prepare for the Flight with Your Animal

Once you get your animal approved and the go-ahead from your vet, you should start preparing for the flight. Some ways you can do this include:

Watch What You Feed Your Animal

On the day of the flight, refrain from feeding your dog. This will help prevent them from experiencing motion sickness. You should also limit their water intake so that they won’t have to pee on the plane.

You should also think about your animal’s diet the days leading up to the flight. Do not give them any foods that they aren’t used to eating. New treats may lead to an upset stomach during the flight.

Skip the Sedatives

Some owners might be tempted to give their animal a sedative. While this will relax them, it can prevent them from being able to regulate their body heat at a high altitude.

If you want to calm your animal, consider doing the following:

  • Give them CBD oil or treats (check your airline’s policies to see if this is permitted)
  • Have them wear a thundershirt
  • Bring their favorite toy

Bring a Blanket

A blanket is another way to comfort your animal. It will also provide a “border”; having them lay on the blanket can help them know to stay in one area.

Take Them to the Bathroom Before Takeoff

This should be an obvious tip, but make sure to take your ESA to the bathroom before takeoff. Airports have pet relief areas that you can take advantage of.

Bring Pee Pads

Most ESAs shouldn’t have to use the bathroom during a short flight. But, accidents happen. And, if you’re on a long flight, you’ll definitely want to bring pee pads. You can take your ESA to the bathroom and have them go on the pee pads. It will keep your animal comfortable and prevent messes. 

It can be stressful to flight with your ESA, especially if you’ve never done so before. But, as long as you read up on your airline’s policies and prepare, your flight should be smooth sailing!

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