Traveling with an animal isn’t always the easiest, but for some people, it’s entirely worth it.
Many people struggle with travel anxiety and find relief in the presence of an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). For those who are looking ahead to years of gypsy nesting and wild adventures, the idea of having a beloved furry friend by their side makes things feel more manageable.
Getting your pet registered as an emotional support animal is one way you may be able to bring your pet along for the ride. However, there are limitations to consider that might throw a wrench in your plans down the road. Here’s what you need to consider before traveling with an emotional support animal.
Benefits of an ESA
Registering your pet as an ESA comes with a whole host of benefits. From travel and housing advantages to emotional support, getting your pet certified ESA can vastly improve your life. Some of the major emotional areas of improvement include:
- More motivation
- Increased sociability
- Boost to self-esteem
- Increased feelings of safety and comfort
- Reduction in mental health disorder symptoms
- Boosted sense of purpose
Other benefits outside of mental health include (but aren’t limited to):
- Reduced heart rate
- Boost of oxytocin (the feel-good hormone)
- Allowance to travel with the animal
- Allowance to live with the animal even in pet-free housing
Limitations to Consider
There’s still some gray area in the laws about emotional support animals. Where they’re allowed to be and what they’re allowed to do are up to the discretion of business owners. Because of this, you might run into some limitations when trying to use your pet’s ESA certification.
First off, while ESAs are very important to many people, legally they can still be denied in places like restaurants, hospitals, and hotels. Since these animals aren’t service animals, they don’t have as much freedom and don’t have as many rights.
It’s always a good idea to ask about your ESA when making a reservation. Even though their policy might not support ESAs, many business owners are compassionate to the needs of customers.
There are also some limitations when it comes to housing and travel. ESAs are covered under the Fair Housing Act, but with some stipulations.
Your pet will be allowed, even if it’s a no-pet place. But if the animal is too large, or your landlord lives amongst 4 or fewer units, it doesn’t apply. For those renting a single-family unit without real estate agent involvement, this might not apply either.
When traveling, most American airports and airlines will allow emotional support animals on board. However, recent changes and perspectives on the laws mean that airlines might be getting stricter on what they will allow on board, restricting access to trained service animals in most cases.
It’s also important to realize that many foreign airlines are not bound to these same guidelines and may not allow your ESA on board.
Before traveling, it’s smart to check with the airlines you plan to travel with to make sure they’ll be able to come along for the whole trip. The last thing you’d want is to be stuck in a foreign country unable to return with your pet.
While the guidelines and laws around emotional support animals aren’t the clearest, the best thing to do is just ask for permission. Many places are understanding and will work to accommodate you and your ESA the best they can.
Even still, there’s always a risk that traveling with your emotional support animal could put you in a tough spot down the road of your travels.
Before you decide on what to do with Fido, carefully consider how things might unfold and make the best choice for both you and your pet.