The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that over 25 million Americans over the age of five report disabilities that make travel a bit more challenging. The problem is that there isn’t a lot of information out there about how to travel with an animal such as your emotional support animal (ESA), and that can make the whole thing that much more stressful. To make traveling with your ESA bit easier, you should familiarize yourself with the procedures and policies of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) before you go. That way you and your ESA know what to expect and how to make the whole process run a little bit smoother. Here’s what you need to know about TSA and emotional support animals to help you get started.
What is the TSA?
As a part of the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA helps to protect passengers through creating policies and implementing security procedures in airports as well as highways, ports of entry, railroads, pipelines, buses, and mass transit systems. They screen baggage at airports, too.
TSA PreCheck is a program that helps to streamline getting through security for travelers. If you go through the TSA PreCheck process, you can usually get through airports faster and with less hassle.
What Are Your Rights?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects those with disabilities when it comes to employment, government services, transportation, commercial facilities, and public accommodations, but it doesn’t extend to traveling on an airplane. Thanks to the Air Carrier Access Act, though, airlines are required to provide accommodations to people with disabilities to help them travel safely – and this protection extends to your emotional support animal, too.
Each airline is different when it comes to traveling with your ESA, but most require you to submit the proper documentation at least 48 hours before you fly and you must have a current (less than one year old) ESA letter, as well as documentation that the animal is up to date on its vaccinations and in good health.
Going Through Security
So, what is TSA’s policy on ESAs? If you’ve been wondering this, or asking yourself “How will I get my ESA through a TSA check?”, we’ve got you covered! Your emotional support animal will be subject to a search, just as you are. Make sure that you have a copy of your ESA letter handy for this, as you must let the TSA officer know you are traveling with an emotional support animal.
You and your ESA will be required to walk through a metal detector. You can go through it together or individually and may be subject to a pat-down. If the metal detector beeps as you go through, additional screening will certainly happen.
Note that any accessories you need for your ESA such as a harness, leash, vest, backpack, or other items are also subject to screening by the TSA.
Which ESA Is Best For Travel?
The best animals to travel with if you’re considering an ESA are those that are small and can be trained to behave well in potentially stressful environments like airports. Airlines usually have rules about the size and behavior they require an ESA to follow.
For example, ESAs must not exceed the “footprint” of your seat when traveling with you, so a large dog or another large animal may not be ideal if you are considering an ESA. The ESA also needs to be well trained – if it does things such as eating off the tray table, barking or growling, acting aggressive, or relieving itself in the cabin, it will not be acceptable to the airline.
Just remember that traveling with your ESA requires extra planning. Always remember to be considerate of others when traveling with your ESA. Do your research on the airline and airport and ensure you’re aware of all you need to know about TSA and ESAs so the travel process goes off without a hitch.
You’ve been blessed with this furry and protective best friend that is here to not only help you to manage your challenges and live your life to its fullest, but also to share your life. Traveling with an emotional support animal can be extra work, but it’s always going to be worth it!