Just because dogs are man’s best friend, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily treated accordingly in the eyes of an airline. Due to the range of varying laws and regulations put into place by each individual airline, along with general state and country laws, traveling with an emotional support dog isn’t always as easy as you’d expect.
Sure, any animal lover would prefer to be able to fly with their furry companion sat lovingly in their lap or nestled under the seat in front of them. But for those who require the comfort that an emotional support dog provides – especially as flying often goes hand-in-hand with severe anxiety – it’s not simply a preference but rather a genuine necessity.
Many airlines allow small dogs to travel in the cabin on domestic flights within the United States – with Fidos on the larger side being restricted to cargo. However, if you find yourself traveling with an airline which doesn’t permit this as standard, a special letter from a licensed mental health professional require airlines to accommodate reasonable requests – so long as they’re informed 48 hours prior to departure.
Of course, the best thing any owner of an emotional support dog can do for them and their pet is to travel exclusively with airlines which accept canine passengers. Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Southwest, United, and Virgin America all generally allow small dogs in-cabin on domestic flights – for a fee ranging anywhere between $95 to $125.
Regardless of which airline you choose, an emotional support dog will more often than not require a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) if crossing state borders, with exceptions if traveling to California, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Pennsylvania, Texas or Washington. And keep in mind, no airline with allow any furry friend on board who is visibly sick or injured.
Several breeds of dogs are prevented from traveling onboard a plane due to safety reasons. If Rover is a Pit Bull Terrier or Rottweiler (among others), they are likely to be considered dangerous and prohibited from boarding the plane. While breeds such as Boxer, Shar-Pei, and Shih Tzu are susceptible to increased risk of heat stroke and breathing problems when exposed to stress. Fortunately, United Airlines lifted the ban on several dog breeds in 2013.
Further complications can arise through aspects unrelated to the breed. For example, JetBlue have a designated weight limit for each animal; on Delta, pets can’t fly first class; and Southwest limit the amount of pets allowed on each flight, operating on a first-come, first-served basis.
Assuming your emotional support dog is healthy, modestly sized, and not considered potentially dangerous, the majority of domestic flights within the United States are very reasonable indeed; accommodating most dogs, as well as cats, rabbits, ferrets, and sometimes even birds.
While flying above American soil is all well and good, traveling further afield across country borders is where things get a little trickier. Airlines which offer domestic travel for dogs don’t always provide the same luxury when it comes to international – Southwest being the primary offender. And Airlines such as British Airways only allow pets as checked baggage – something else to keep an eye on.
If pooch is being whisked through the air to a different country, researching an airline’s requirements simply becomes step one. While airlines such as Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta, and Lufthansa support jet-setting emotional support dogs in-cabin, the country of destination may be the ones dictating what you can and can’t do.
Take the United Kingdom for example. You may consider booking a flight with Delta due to their in-cabin pet policies, and while this is fine if flying to several countries within the EU, the UK do not allow any animal coming into the country to be transported within the cabin; due to the way the animal is processed through customs, they are required to be solely stored in cargo.
Most countries also have specifications regarding the animal itself. Rules such as the restriction on traveling with potentially dangerous dogs are similar to those found within the United States. For any transatlantic immigration, dogs also require their very puppy passport. Microchips and recent proof of up-to-date vaccinations are also a common requirement – more specifically against rabies.
While this may sound daunting for any owner of an emotional support dog traveling abroad, there are numerous reputable companies within the United States that offer their expertise in the moving process: PetMovers and AirPetsAmerica to name a couple. For a fee, they’ll make sure everything is taken care of as swiftly and conveniently as possible, no matter the country.
If air travel with your four-legged friend is a common cause for concern, you can rest assured that more airlines than ever are making the process a relatively trouble-free experience. While traveling internationally can add a few additional spanners into the works, domestic aviation with an emotional support dog is often a fairly painless affair.