If you’re considering getting an exotic pet as your emotional support animal (ESA), you might be wondering if you’ll face any restrictions when traveling with your pet. The answer is probably yes. Here’s a breakdown of why an exotic ESA might be more challenging to take on trips.
Exotic ESAs are not allowed on most flights
Most major U.S.-based airlines do not permit exotic animals onboard, even if the animal is serving as an ESA. Although emotional support animals are protected by laws that permit passengers to travel with their ESAs in the cabin during the flight, airlines still have the ability to restrict the types of animals they allow in the air. For example, most dog breeds and cats are permitted to fly on major airlines (as long as the passenger has provided the airline with the proper documentation and is abiding by the airline’s regulations). However, Southwest, United, Delta, JetBlue, American, and Frontier have all expressly stated that exotic animals are not permitted on board. These include pretty much every type of animal other than a dog or cat, including hedgehogs, ferrets, rodents, snakes, sugar gliders, reptiles, and birds.
If you’re going to be flying with another type of airline (like a smaller company or an international airline), it doesn’t hurt to check with them before your trip to see if your exotic ESA will be allowed to fly with you. Because airlines are cracking down harder on which animals they permit onboard, it isn’t likely your exotic ESA will be allowed to travel with you, but it doesn’t cause any harm in asking just to be sure.
Going to be traveling by train, bus, subway, boat, etc.? It’s always a good idea to research ahead of time if emotional support animals are permitted onboard and if there are any particular restrictions about the type of animal permitted. You might find that some companies are more lenient than the airlines have become. However, don’t assume that your exotic ESA will be permitted everywhere you go – make sure to research all transportation options before you begin your trip to avoid any challenges.
People might express negativity about your exotic ESA
It’s important that you consider that you’re likely to face some negativity from people who might not understand your exotic ESA. Depending on the animal you have, you might observe negativity, judgment, or criticism from people around you. When traveling with your ESA, it’s also possible that you can offend individuals who have phobias revolving around your animal (like a person who is afraid of snakes, for example). Make sure you account for these possibilities before you travel so that you have a game plan if you need to change accommodations. Although you might love your exotic ESA, that doesn’t mean everyone will accept your pet or will refrain from making negative comments. Be prepared for this type of attitude if you’re going to be traveling anywhere with your exotic ESA.
Some exotic emotional support animals are not easy to transport
Depending on the type of emotional support animal you have, it might not always be easy to transport your pet around. For example, if your ESA is a miniature horse or a goat, you won’t be able to simply store them in a carrier during your travels. Aside from size, you’ll also have to consider that you’ll need to keep your ESA comfortable during your trip. There are many exotic ESAs that won’t do well in confined spaces or with a lot of movement. You’ll need to think about the best way to travel for your ESA depending on their needs (as well as your own).
Many hotels/other lodgings won’t allow an exotic pet in the rooms
Along with determining whether your ESA will be allowed onboard your transportation method, you’ll also need to figure out if your exotic ESA will be permitted wherever you’re staying once you get there. Many hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, hostels, etc. likely won’t permit exotic animals in their lodgings (especially animals that are larger or make a lot of noise). Your first step should be to contact wherever you wish to stay and explain your need for an emotional support animal. Some accommodations might be flexible once they hear about your specific circumstances. You should also expect that many places just won’t be able to make exceptions for you (especially larger chain hotels, which often have corporate mandates against certain animals onsite).
Businesses and other retail locations on your trip might not allow your ESA
Keep in mind that your exotic ESA might not be allowed into all businesses or retail locations on your trip. Follow the same tactic as with the lodging options, and explain your need for your emotional support animal to the manager or owner on duty. They might be willing to let you keep your ESA with you. However, rare animals (such as sugar gliders or ferrets) still might not be permitted, and you’ll need to acquiesce to the owner.
While traveling with an exotic ESA might be more challenging than with a traditional one, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Just make sure to do some research ahead of time, have all the proper documentation with you, and be willing to explain your situation to people that might not understand your exotic ESA. You can still have a great trip with your exotic ESA alongside you!