Moosh - taking ESA on public transport

Now that COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed, people are taking their opportunity to get out and about. After months of lockdown, ESA owners are traveling again; traversing cities and towns, and even venturing to far-flung regions on vacation.

Emotional support animals make great travel companions. And after months of lockdown, ESAs are just as keen as their owners for a change of scene. Many people have returned to using public transport to get around. So how do you travel on public transport with an emotional support animal?

Do service animals and ESAs have the same rights? Does it matter what species of ESA you have? Does an ESA need to be in a carrier when traveling on public transport? What is good ESA public transport etiquette?

Read on for a complete guide to taking your ESA on public transport safely and comfortably.

Moosh - train transport
Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay: Can I take my ESA on public transport?

What Qualifies As Public Transport?

Public transport is a system of mass transit available for use by the general public. It usually operates on a regular schedule, on fixed routes, and with set prices.

The main types of public transport are:

  • Urban buses
  • Rural buses
  • Intercity coaches
  • Intercity rail
  • Rapid transit trains such as metro and subway trains
  • Trams
  • Trolleybuses
  • Ferries
  • Airplanes

Is There A Blanket Rule That Allows ESAs On Public Transport?

Unfortunately, there is no blanket rule regarding taking your ESA on public transport. Most urban public transport is run by the local municipality. Most other types of public transport are run by private companies. There is no federal law that deals directly with ESAs and public transport, so the rules about ESAs are set by each municipality and company.

The only exception to this is air travel. The Air Carrier Access Act allows ESAs to travel in airplanes with their owners, as long as the ESA is of a suitable species and does not cause a nuisance to airline staff or other travelers.

Can Emotional Support Animals Travel On Public Transport?

Generally speaking, you can take your emotional support animal on public transport. Most municipalities in the country allow dogs and cats to travel on their public transport system provided they follow the rules and are not a nuisance to staff or other travelers.

Many public transport companies also allow ESAs to travel on their services. But it is best to check ahead with whatever public transport company you are planning to use.

Do Service Animals And ESAs Have The Same Rights?

Service animals are covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act, but ESAs are not. This means service animals are allowed to accompany their owners into any public space, including public transport. This is because service animals have a high level of specialist training, while ESAs often have no specialist training. 

Does ESA Species Matter?

The species of an ESA definitely matters when it comes to traveling on public transport. An ESA dog, cat, or potbellied pig, for example, will usually be allowed to travel on public transport. But a large, exotic, or unusual pet will usually not be allowed to travel.

Moosh - dog on train
Image by busandbeard on Pixabay: ESA dogs are usually allowed on public transport.

Does An ESA Need To Be In A Carrier On Public Transport?

Whether or not an ESA will need to be in a carrier when it travels on public transport depends on the municipality or company involved. In fact, it will often be left to the discretion of the driver or conductor who is managing the particular service you are using.

Several municipalities, including New York City and Chicago, stipulate that a pet should be in a carrier when it travels. In reality, this rule is not always enforced. Some municipalities or companies will require a dog to be muzzled while traveling.

Emotional Support Pets And Air Travel

ESAs are allowed to travel in airplane cabins with their owner, provided they are:

  • An appropriate species (usually this is restricted to a dog, cat, or pot-bellied pig)
  • Not too large
  • Clean
  • Not loud or aggressive
  • Not a nuisance to staff or other travelers
  • Confined to the footwell in front of their owner’s seat

You will need to let the airline know in advance by email or by online application submission.

How To Keep Your ESA Comfortable On Public Transport

When traveling with your ESA, it is important to make sure they have enough water and food. Also, be sure they get a chance to go to the toilet regularly, are not too hot or cold, and are allowed to stretch their legs regularly if they are confined to a carrier.

Emotional Support Pet Etiquette On Public Transport

When you are traveling on public transport with your ESA, make sure they are:

  • Quiet, calm, and well-behaved
  • Clean
  • Not wandering around, sitting in the middle of the aisle, or otherwise getting in the way of other travelers or staff

How To Get An Emotional Support Pet Letter

The best way to get an emotional support pet letter is to arrange an online consultation with a medical professional via Moosh. Once you have completed your consultation, an ESA certification letter will be sent to you immediately. This will entitle you to get your own ESA or declare your current pet an ESA.

Featured image by Amariei Mihai on Unsplash