Our Emotional Support Animal FAQs
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ESA letter important information.
Once you have a letter of prescription for an Emotional Support Animal all you need to do is present this document at the ticketing counter during check-in that's it! THE AIRLINE CANNOT CHARGE ANY ADDITIONAL FEES.
The airline may ask to make a copy of your prescription letter, which must be no older than one year old and then verify that your pet will not be a nuisance or danger to other passengers. Basically this is done by visual observation, if your pet appears vicious, excessively noisy, or presents any other indication of being a threat or nuisance to others, the airline has the right to deny you service.
ESA's are Pets and are not required to wear uniforms or have any other kind of identification or picture ID Card of any kind. All that's required is the pet owner obtain a valid prescription for an Emotional Support Animal.
Please note that "registering" or "certifying" your pet through various online registration services does not give you or your pet any additional rights - only a prescription from a licensed mental health professional can.
Emotional Support Animals are required to sit on the floor if they cannot be safely held in the passenger's lap. There are no size restrictions and pets as large as German Shepherds regularly fly with their owners.
Most airlines will try to leave the seat open next to a passenger flying with an Emotional Support Animal if they can (if the flight is not full) and passengers with ESA's get priority boarding and bulk-head seating preference (the seating near the front of the plane which has more leg room) at no additional cost. This is done because airlines know passengers with Emotional Support Animals need the extra room and time to board
It is even more important to arrive at the airport early so the airline can accommodate you and your pet (if necessary) by keeping the seat next to you open and provide you with a pre-boarding pass (allowing you to board first).
Please note airlines are not obligated by law to give emotional support animals’ priority boarding or bulk-head seating but rather offer such conveniences as a courtesy. If your pet is large they HAVE TO make a reasonable effort to accommodate you or reschedule your flight.
Recommended Airlines (Updated March 5, 2018):
AirTran (Now part of Southwest)
Allegiant (Low cost and excellent service)
Frontier (Now part of Republic Air and ESA friendly)
Southwest (the most leg room of the value Airlines; *Jamaica not available).
Sun Country (Smaller airline with great service)
Spirit (Spirit Airlines has made HUGE improvements in customer service since being fined by the FAA and is recommended for passengers with ESA's)
Avianca (They LOVE pets!)
ESA friendly Airlines but 48 hour advance notice recommended and specific ESA Forms:
American Airlines (48 hour notice recommended) (Merging with US Air)
Delta (48 hour notice recommended)
United (48 hour notice recommended)
USAirWays (48 hour notice recommended)
Please clearly write your flight number, pet breed/weight on your prescription and then fax/email to your airline.
Please remember, Service Animals are trained to assist their owners with a specific task(s) and can travel ANYWHERE their owners can. Emotional Support Animals are not trained and are still pets (thus uniform not required) that enjoy their special status at airports and in long term rental housing ONLY - as provided for by the ACAA (Air Carriers Access Act) and the FHA (Fair Housing Act).
*E-Therapy Café operates independently and is not affiliated with any of the above airlines
Federal law mandates that your prescription letter expire one year from the date issued (please read our "Legal Page" to see where this law is codified in the Air Carriers Access Act.
E-Therapy Café is committed to the full protection and confidentiality of all patient information in compliance with Federal Laws.
Pursuant to C.F.R. § 164.506 airlines are only permitted to verify the authenticity of your prescription, however we are not permitted to reveal any other personal information without your express consent.
ESA letter faqs.
Q. Do I need to Register or Certify my Pet?
No. Since emotional support animals are not trained and are still pets there is no need to register or certify your pet. The only document you need is a prescription letter for the pet's owner from a mental health professional (therapist or doctor).
Q. Do I need to show the airline my Pet's vaccination paperwork before flying?
No. You do not need your pet's vaccination paperwork, except if you are flying into Hawaii. Hawaii is the ONLY state in the U.S. with it's own rules regulating pets traveling by aircraft to prevent the spread of rabies. Please visit Hawaii's Department of Agriculture for more info.
Q. Can Airlines require passengers with Emotional Support Pets give 48 hours notice prior to departure?
Airlines can suggest passengers with Emotional Support Pets give advance notice 48 hours prior to departure as specified in CFR 382.27(b) BUT they cannot refuse passengers service if you are unable to do so CRF 382.27(g). C.F.R. § 382.27(g) states: If a passenger does not meet advance notice or check-in requirements you establish consistent with this section, you must still provide the service or accommodation if you can do so by making reasonable efforts, without delaying the flight.
Q. Can the airline call to verify my prescription?
Yes, in the same way a pharmacist verifies a patient's prescription we are obligated to verify the authenticity of a prescription but cannot release ANY personal information without your approval.
Q. Can a Airline refuse my pet or prescription?
If your pet is well behaved and you fly on one of our approved airlines this would be VERY unusual. But if this ever did occur the Airline MUST provide you with a written explanation within 10 days of the incident pursuant to CFR 382.117(g) which can be viewed in our "legal" section.
Q. What kind of Mental Health Professional will evaluate my case?
Licensed Mental Health Professionals (including Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), Licensed Family Therapists (LFT) or Licensed Professional
Counselors (LPC) will evaluate your test results and write your letter of prescription for an Emotional Support Pet if eligible.
Q. Will a letter of prescription written online be Valid?
Yes. The online field for psychological services continues to grow at a fast pace. At the moment we are unaware of any law that would invalidate a letter
of prescription written online.
Q. How long is my prescription valid for?
Q. Can the Mental Health provider I currently see write me a prescription for an Emotional Support Pet?
Yes, ANY LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL CAN!
Q. Will a prescription for an Emotional Support Pet written in Virginia be valid in other states?
Yes. Emotional Support Pets are recognized on a Federal level under the ACAA (Air Carriers Access Act) which permits individuals with an identifiable psychological disorder to fly with a Emotional Support Pet.
Q. Can the airline ask WHY I have a Emotional Support Pet?
Airlines can ONLY ask to see a copy of your prescription; any other information is NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS! Even the method of how the prescription was written (online or in person) is no one's business!
Q. Who can be an Emotional Support Pet?
Any behaved dog or cat. NO SPECIAL TRAINING IS REQUIRED!
Q. Can the airline refuse me service if my pet is noisy or appears out of my control?
Q. Can the airline charge me extra for my Emotional Support Pet?
No! Federal law prohibits airlines from charging any extra fees.
Emotional Support Pets enjoy their federally protected status as codified below:
Code of Federal Regulations
C.F.R. § 382.117
(e) If a passenger seeks to travel with an animal that is used as an emotional support or psychiatric service animal, you are not required to accept the animal for transportation in the cabin unless the passenger provides you current documentation (i.e., no older than one year from the date of the passengers scheduled initial flight) on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional including a medical doctor specifically treating the passenger’s mental or emotional disability (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker) stating the following:
(1) The passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition (DSM IV);
(2) The passenger needs the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger’s destination;
(3) The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional, and the passenger is under his or her professional care; and
(4) The date and type of the mental health professional’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.
(f) You are never required to accommodate certain unusual service animals (e.g., snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders) as service animals in the cabin. With respect to all other animals, including unusual or exotic animals that are presented as service animals (e.g., miniature horses, pigs, monkeys), as a carrier you must determine whether any factors preclude their traveling in the cabin as service animals (e.g., whether the animal is too large or heavy to be accommodated in the cabin, whether the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others, whether it would cause a significant disruption of cabin service, whether it would be prohibited from entering a foreign country that is the flight’s destination). If no such factors preclude the animal from traveling in the cabin, you must permit it to do so. However, as a foreign carrier, you are not required to carry service animals other than dogs.
(g) Whenever you decide not to accept an animal as a service animal, you must explain the reason for your decision to the passenger and document it in writing. A copy of the explanation must be provided to the passenger either at the airport, or within 10 calendar days of the incident.
48 Hour Advance Notice
C.F.R. § 382.27(c) You may require a passenger with a disability to provide up to 48 hours' advance notice and check in one hour before the check-in time for the general public to receive the following services and accommodations. The services listed in paragraphs (c)(1) through (c)(3) of this section are optional; you are not required to provide them, but you may choose to do so.
(#8) Transportation of an emotional support or psychiatric service animal in the cabin;
C.F.R. § 382.27(g) If a passenger does not meet advance notice or check-in requirements you establish consistent with this section, you must still provide the service or accommodation if you can do so by making reasonable efforts, without delaying the flight.
Confirming Your Prescription
Airlines are permitted to retain a copy of your prescription for validation purposes pursuant to C.F.R. §164.50