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Air travel with emotional support animals in the United States of America

Emotional support animals provide comfort and assurance to people with disabilities. They are different from pets, and they help alleviate symptoms in people with certain emotional and physical disabilities.

Air travel in the US with emotional support animals has always been controversial, with many people taking advantage of airline rules and bringing on board animals that do not always fit the bill of an emotional support animal. If you are planning to travel in America with your emotional support animal, here’s what you should know.

What is an emotional support animal?

Pets are our constant shadows and faithful companions; they fill our lives with happiness and unconditional love. All pet parents can vouch for the positivity and warmth their pets bring into their lives.

Similarly, emotional support animals help with the mental and emotional well-being of the parent. They are especially beneficial with mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, etc.

An emotional support animal is not restricted to any species; they can be as varied as dogs, cats, horses, hamsters to peacocks. Any animal can be an emotional support animal as long as the animal brings a sense of emotional and mental wellness in the pet parent. They do not require any specific training to be considered as an emotional support animal, unlike service animals.

To qualify for an emotional support animal in the United States of America, the pet parent must have an emotional or mental disability which has been certified by a qualified mental health professional.

Emotional support animals are not recognised under law in Australia, and they do not have the same access as service or assistance dogs.

How are emotional support animals different from service animals?

Emotional support animals are very distinct from service animals. Service animals are usually dogs that are trained to help their owners perform tasks that they are not able to do themselves due to a disability. Service animals are highly trained to perform specific tasks for their pet parents.

A service dog is invaluable for patients with medical disabilities such as diabetes, seizures, heart disease, autism, and more. A service dog can be a seeing eye for the visually challenged and can alert pet owners of health emergencies. They are required to meet specific behavioural standards before they can become service or assistance dogs, unlike emotional support animals.

Service dogs are allowed by law wherever their human goes and are permitted to fly on all airlines.

What are the new rules for travelling with emotional support animals in America?

American airlines were required to allow emotional support animals to fly in the cabin of the airline with their pet parents. However, the rules were recently amended because several people were found to be misusing the rules to bring on board pets that were not actually emotional support animals. With the rule change by the US department of transportation, airlines are not required to recognise emotional support animals as service animals. Airlines are now allowed to treat them as pets and fly them accordingly. They are also allowed to limit service animals to only dogs under the new rules.

These rules aim to clear the air about the definition of service animals and emotional support animals, which were not clear to begin with. Earlier, service animals and emotional support animals were allowed to fly free of cost on American airlines. With the new rules in place, only service animals that are dogs will fall under the assistance animal category and other animals have to fly as pets by paying the required pet fees.

The new rules came into being after airlines received complaints of support animals misbehaving during the flight and several instances of dog attacks on passengers and crew. Air travel can be stressful for both people and animals, and untrained animals can behave unexpectedly during the flight.

The rules for international pet travel with a service dog or an assistance dog is different from other pets. If you are planning to travel with your service dog to an international destination, get in touch with Petraveller for more information on relocating a pet abroad and a free pet travel quote.