Moosh - woman at airport

For many people, flying with an ESA (emotional support animal) is the only thing that allows them to travel with any sense of security. Emotional support animals are important tools in helping people with emotional conditions live a full and happy life without being hampered by their illnesses, but people who own an ESA must also be conscious of the effect that they can have on other passengers in certain situations.

Emotional support animals can be used to treat a variety of conditions including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They provide necessary company, support, and reassurance to people who are forced to live with debilitating conditions. The company of an emotional support animal can sometimes be the difference between someone being crippled with anxiety and stuck in their homes and someone being able to leave their house and be a happy and engaged member of society.

If you think that you may benefit from having an emotional support animal, the process for having an animal certified is relatively easy. If you have access to a laptop or smartphone as well as an internet connection, you can log on and connect with specialized medical professionals online, who will be able to provide you with the document you need to have your pet certified. An emotional support animal letter must be provided by a trained medical professional and it shows that the animal is being used for emotional support and has certain protections under the law. The letter will be stamped, dated, and signed and is valid for one year. When your letter expires, you must get a new one, or else you and your ESA are not protected.

Moosh - woman and dog on beach
Emotional support animals allow many people to travel who might not otherwise have had the confidence to do so.

While you might be slightly nervous to log on, the appointment will be very similar to a traditional doctor’s appointment. They will ask about your condition and how you feel your pet supports you in the treatment of the condition. If they feel that you are an appropriate candidate for treatment, they will prepare a letter for you and it will be posted to you shortly after your consultation. When it arrives, you will be able to travel safely with your emotional support animal without fear of persecution.

There has been a lot of coverage recently regarding emotional support animals on airplanes and most of it has been negative. Thanks to some irresponsible pet owners, patients flying with an ESA have a slightly unfair reputation and some airlines have taken certain precautions to ensure that the system is not taken advantage of. Some responsible ESA owners are now worried about affecting their fellow passengers, but the good news is that there are certain things you can do to ensure your emotional support animal does not ruin someone else’s flight.

While it’s good to be conscious of other people, before taking any precautions, it’s important to remember that the law is on the side of people who need emotional support animals. The Air Carrier Access Act protects ESAs alongside service animals such as seizure dogs and guide dogs, and airlines are not legally allowed to refuse you access to air travel because of an emotional support animal. As long as you have an emotional support animal letter that is valid, you are protected under the law to continue flying with an ESA, and the airline is also required to have their staff undergo training to ensure that customers with disabilities are properly looked after.

Moosh - cat in suitcase
When traveling/flying with an ESA, it pays to be considerate of the people around you.

The good news is that people usually do not want strangers to be unhappy or uncomfortable, so most passengers will be happy to accommodate your emotional support animal, as long as it doesn’t impinge on their journey. Make sure that your emotional support animal is small enough to travel comfortably in the cabin and that you have an appropriate carry case for them. Make sure that you are aware of when they need to go to the toilet and bring them to the bathroom with a puppy pad so that your seatmates don’t have to smell anything bad. If your animal is particularly furry, ask if anyone near you has allergies and if they do, ask if it’s possible to be moved so that they don’t have to spend the trip sniffling and sneezing. Don’t assume just because you have an ESA that your comfort takes precedence over that of others, because that’s what gives ESA owners a bad reputation.

By being willing to help your fellow passengers have a comfortable flight alongside your ESA, you’ll be ensuring that airlines are happy to host you and your emotional support animal, and you’ll also be breaking the stereotypes of ESA owners that the media is currently pushing. Emotional support animals are necessary, but they are not a license to behave badly. Make sure that they’re well taken care of and on their best behavior and there is no reason why everyone can’t have a happy and healthy flight.

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