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Emotional Support Animals: Travel with your ESA

So you’ve got your Emotional Support Animal (ESA) letter to travel with your pet, but how do you travel with your ESA?

First and most importantly, you must remember at all times that you are being granted a privilege and not just a right. Yes. It is your right to travel with your ESA, but this “Right” is a privilege being granted to both you and your pet.

But, what does this mean for you, The Traveler accompanied by an ESA?

It involves several things. Let’s take a closer look at these conditions set up by this right/privilege dynamic. The first, and maybe the most important thing you must do once you receive your ESA letter is to call your airline, train or coach company and let them know that you will be soon traveling with your ESA. They will likely have some questions about your pet, such as weight (size) of your pet, training history, and whether or not they are certified as a service animal.

So, Can An Airline Deny ESA Recommendation for My Pet?

Fly with you pet in cabin

Since these laws are so new, many employees working at these companies might not be aware of the rules concerning ESAs. It is at this time that you might have to do some polite “educating” of whomever you’ve got on the phone. You can quickly tell them particulars about your animal such as breed or weight or what have you, but none of your answers should be used by the employee to prevent your ESA from traveling with you.

For example, the airline cannot say that your Black Lab is too large to travel with you and so must ride in baggage for an additional cost. If this happens, politely tell the employee that they are misinformed and the law allows you to travel with your ESA – regardless of their size – without restriction in the cabin at no additional cost. If they counter your statements, then continue to politely inform them that they are mistaken and the law, as it now stands is the law, and the law allows for you to travel with your ESA unrestricted.

The Airline Company is Liable to Accomodate you

If your animal is considered inappropriate to travel in the cabin because of size or any other quality, then it is up to the company to find a way to accommodate you. If you are riding on a plane, this might mean that the company gives you the seats at the very front or back of the cabin, thereby allowing other passengers to pass freely. This might be one excellent working solution when an ESA is considered too big to be in the cabin.

Okay. That’s one huge hurdle jumped.

Inform the Company About Your Arrival

On the day of your travel, arrive at your flight or Coach or train station as early as possible. As soon as you arrive inform someone in charge that you are traveling with an ESA. This person might be the conductor, the driver, or the clerk who checks you in. You may again have to go through the hassle of educating this employee, too, of the laws surrounding travel with an ESA. If this is the case, don’t despair. Remain calm. Explain the laws and Hold your ground. Remember, the law is on your side.

Always Be Respectful to Fellow Pessangers

Likely, they will have you board your transport either first or last. When boarding, always be cognizant of other passengers. If you are traveling with a dog, remember that some of your fellow passengers might be deathly terrified of dogs of all shapes and sizes. Though you adore your little pooch Fido and you know she would never bite anyone remembers that the old lady beside you does NOT know Fido and might be unreasonably afraid of her because she was bitten by a dog once while still a child.

So be respectful of other passengers, and this doesn’t mean just explaining that Fido would never hurt anyone, but instead holding onto Fido’s leash tightly enough that there is no way Fido could possibly even reach the little old lady just beside you.

Train Your Pet for long Journeys

What do you do if your flight is seven hours and halfway through Fido starts prancing around in circles, indicating that her bladder needs to let go?

This is a tough one.

You definitely don’t want your ESA to piddle on the floor. That would be more than embarrassing. It would be downright unsanitary. This is where some foresight comes in handy…I know, I know. Fido is well-trained to piddle outside and not on the carpet, but traveling on moving vehicles has a way of testing even the most reliable bladders, making the best of us have to urinate. Remember that foresight I mentioned?

Here’s what I meant by that…

Several months before you travel start training Fido to let loose in the house on one of those puppy house training pads. They are like a flat, rectangular diaper that you spread out on the floor for a puppy to do their stuff upon. But use them now to begin training Fido on getting used to using the pads.

Ensure Everything Before Journey

Then on the day of your trip ensure you bring several of these puppy pads in the cabin with you and then when Fido begins doing her little pee dance you can whip out a couple of training pads for her to do her business upon. Simple, really — but it will earn you the great respect of both your fellow passengers and the cabin crew if Fido is not pissing on the floor.
At the end of your travel, the cabin crew will likely direct you to either disembark either first or last, depending on what makes the most sense to them. Follow their directions to ensure the smoothest transition from traveling to arriving, and all will go well.

Conclusion: How to travel with your ESA is something we all need to learn — from the travelers to the company employees — during this legal transition period. But as more and more people travel with their ESAs, it will become easier to do so. Just know your rights and practice calm patience when dealing with company representatives who might not be as well-informed on the law as you are.
And all will be well.

Darren M. Jorgensen

Darren M. Jorgensen

About Post Author

Darren M. Jorgensen has a fondness for all animals, though dogs especially, have a huge home in his heart. He enjoys quilting, making handcrafted soap and bodyworks and anything that produces practical products. Jorgensen lives with his own service dog who doubles as an Emotional Support Animal. He gets it.