Tips for Traveling with an Emotional Support Animal

VinnieVanGO loves animals and knows they often play an important role for their owners. He asked his friends at CertaPet for tips on traveling with them.

Tips for Traveling with an Emotional Support Animal

If you’re a fan of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, you may be familiar with this. There’s a story about Christopher Robin getting ready for an “expedition” to the North Pole. On seeing Christopher pulling on his boots, Pooh readies himself for an adventure. Part of Pooh’s planning is to be ready for anything!

You may not be traveling to the Arctic Circle with a bear in tow! But nevertheless, if you’re traveling with an emotional support animal by road, air, or sea it pays to plan ahead! Make the journey as easy as possible for both you, and your animal, and follow these tips for getting from A to B.

Know Where You’re Going

This one may sound obvious – you know you’re going from one place to another, right? What people often forget about when they have an animal with them is where they may stop along the way.

Emotional support animals, unlike trained service animals, are not automatically allowed in all public areas. There are animal and pet-friendly restaurants, cafes, and hotel accommodation, but you should check first.

Do a little online research for animal-friendly places, or check with establishments before you set off. That way you will know where your emotional support animal will is welcome to dine and/or stay with you.

Check Your Transport – Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Catching a flight?

Under the Air Carrier Access Act, you may fly with an emotional support animal. The animal flies free of charge. But, airlines do have their own individual policies and procedures that need to follow (see the Delta pet policy for example). Most ask for at least 48 hours’ notice, and a copy of your current emotional support animal letter. Some also now ask for evidence that a veterinarian considers your animal’s health is well enough to fly.

Many have also introduced restrictions on animal species, breeds, and size. This is for the health and safety of everyone on the flight, including your animal. Avoid disappointment, and check with carriers before you get to the airport.

North America’s largest passenger rail network, Amtrak, does allow animals and pets. However, there are a few limitations on specific routes and long train journeys. You’ll need to have an appropriate animal carrier to contain an emotional support animal too. Look for more information on train company websites if you’re planning a journey by rail.

It is at the discretion of rental car providers on whether animals and pets can travel in their vehicles. Most will have a clause in their contracts around paying for any damage or spoilage caused by animals or pets. All the more important to pack right and prepare!

Pack Supplies

Whatever your emotional support animal needs in their day to day life at home, have it on hand while you travel, and a few extras.

  • Food and water – depending on the type of animal, you may not be feeding your pet while you are in transit. But do bring their regular food. That will be best for them in terms of routine and familiarity. Treats are always a good idea too, and don’t forget their bowls!
  • Medications – if your emotional support animal is on any medications or supplements, remember to bring them.
  • Carrier/harnesses – make sure your pet carrier is secure, and the right size for your animal to be comfortable. Carriers should also be leak-proof or lined on the base with waterproof material! Don’t forget collars, leashes, or harnesses, if appropriate for the type of animal.
  • Identification and documentation – your emotional support letter will need to be dated within the last 12 months. It can also be wise to have evidence of current vaccinations, including rabies shots for dogs. If your animal does not have a collar with an identification tag, consider having them microchipped, just in case you find yourself separated.
  • Comfort items – traveling or being out of a usual routine is a time when many need something to help them feel good. So bring along your animal’s favorite toy, blanket or bedding if you can.
  • Clean up gear – have on hand some wet wipes, poop bags or a litter box.

Take Care in Transit

People have their emotional support animal with them while they travel for the very comfort they provide. Traveling can also be an anxious time for an animal too, so to take care of each other at all times!

  • Keep your animal with you when you’re in any public places or on public transport.
  • Allow time for toileting before you start your journey.
  • Have their comfort items and clean up gear easily to get to in case you need it.
  • In a vehicle make sure your animal is safely harnessed or contained. If you need to stop suddenly, they may be injured or not survive the sudden impact.

Be an Authentic Emotional Support Animal Owner

Get to know the differences between the different types of assistance animals. That way you can represent your need to have an emotional support animal with you fairly. So what are they?

Emotional Support Animals

ESAs are considered to be of therapeutic value to a person with a psychological or emotional disability. The person who owns the emotional support animal has been assessed by a mental health professional. They may have a condition or disorder such as anxiety, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, or depression. The animal itself doesn’t receive any training.

An emotional support animal can be any species of animal, but most often they are dogs and cats. Legally, people with emotional support animals have some protection under two federal laws. These are the Air Carrier Access Act, and the Fair Housing Act.

Service Animals

Service animals receive extensive training to do specific tasks for a person with a disability. This may be things like helping with mobility and movement, or to alert a person to certain symptoms. Seeing Eye dogs for the visually impaired, for example. Service animals are legally allowed in a wider range of circumstances and public places.

Enjoy Your Travel!

Just a little planning and preparation before you set off is going to make it easier to travel with your emotional support animal. Remember to check with any transport operators on their rules and regulations. Pack gear for yourself, and your animal. Last, but not least, remember to take care of each other on your travels!

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