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Flying With an Emotional Support Dog – Everything You Need to Know!

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on July 24, 2024 by Dogster Team

dog in airport carrier

Flying With an Emotional Support Dog – Everything You Need to Know!

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) created changes in rules for traveling with emotional support animals (ESAs) that became effective at the beginning of 2021 1. One of the main reasons for this change was the COVID-19 pandemic and the significantly reduced amount of travel.

Before the rule change, airlines had to accommodate ESAs. Now, the DOT allows individual airlines to decide if they want to permit ESAs to board their planes.

Let’s take a look at how the DOT’s rule change has impacted travel for individuals with ESAs.

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Airlines That Allow Emotional Support Dogs

Since the DOT left it up to individual airlines to decide on their rules for traveling with ESAs, many airlines have opted to no longer accommodate ESAs.

There are now only a couple of North American airlines that allow ESAs:

  • Latam Airlines
  • Volaris

The list of international airlines that permit ESAs has also dwindled significantly:

  • Air France
  • Singapore Air
  • Virgin Australia

Although these airlines currently allow ESAs onboard without additional costs, rules and policies are susceptible to change. So, make sure to call the airlines beforehand for the most updated information.

Even though many airlines do not accommodate ESAs, they still allow pets to travel. These airlines will now treat ESAs as regular companion pets. So, some may only restrict pets to travel in cargo while others still allow them to fly in the cabin. You’ll also have to pay the same pet fees for your ESA as airlines are no longer required to waive these fees for ESAs.

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How To Prepare Flying With an Emotional Support Dog

Each airline will have its own rules for traveling with emotional support dogs. Here are some general steps to take before your flight departure date.

Call the Airline Help Desk

If you happen to be flying with an airline that allows emotional support dogs, make sure to call the help desk. These airline companies will have a set of rules that you must follow in order for your pet to board with you. So, contact their helpdesk right away to make sure you have all the information you need.

woman making a phone call
Image Credit: guvo59, Pixabay

Gather The Required Documentation

Some airlines require passengers to submit an application days before boarding, while others only need passengers to present a form at check-in.

You’ll also have to present documentation for your pets. Here are some common documents airlines can request:

  • Rabies vaccination letter
  • Veterinary health certificate
  • ESA letter
  • Import/export permits

If your flight is more than 8 hours, most airlines will request a letter from your veterinarian stating that your dog will not need to relieve itself for the duration of the flight.

Book a Seat With the Most Space

If it is your first time flying with an emotional support dog, or if flying stresses your dog out, make sure to do your best to make the flight as comfortable as possible.

Try to book a seat with more space, such as a premium economy or business class seat. Although the ticket may be more expensive, it’ll be worth the extra room for your dog to stretch its legs and move around.

Some airlines may not let your dog use the seat next to you. So, the extra space will help you both fit comfortably in your space.

Get Your Emotional Support Dog Comfortable With Its Travel Carrier

Dogs can see carriers and kennels as safe dens that they can retreat to when they’re feeling uncomfortable or nervous. So, getting your emotional support dog used to its travel carrier can make the flight more comfortable and less stressful. Note that not all airlines necessarily require ESAs to remain in their carriers, so this is something to check with the airline as well.

There are many different kinds of travel carriers, so make sure that you find one that’s airline-approved.

Once you obtain an airline-approved carrier, make sure to give your dog time to get used to it. This process may take several weeks.

If your dog uses a crate at home, switch it out with its travel carrier, and let your dog use it like its usual crate. You can place your pup’s favorite blankets and toys inside to encourage rest and play. Feeding meals and hiding favorite treats inside the carrier can also help form a positive connection.

black and tan dachshund in airport carrier
Image by: Masarik, Shutterstock

Exercise Your Dog Right Before Your Flight

A tired dog will be less likely to be restless during your flight. Go on a longer walk or play extra games with your dog to expend its energy right before your flight. You can also provide a lot of enrichment activities to exercise your dog’s mind. However, be careful with how many treats you provide so that your dog doesn’t have to relieve itself during the flight.

Locate All Pet Areas at the Airport

Most major airports will have designated areas for pets to rest and relieve themselves. Make sure to visit one of these areas right before you board your flight to let your dog relieve itself one last time before flying.

Bring Calming Equipment on Your Flight

If your pet gets anxious with travel, you can pack a bag of things that can help keep your dog calm:

Each dog will react differently to these products, so you might have to do some extensive research and try out products to see what’s effective for your dog. You can also consult with your veterinarian to see if anti-anxiety medication or medication for nausea would be appropriate for your dog. Note that some dogs may not need anything but a few pets and cuddles before they calm down.

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Wrapping Up

Flying with emotional support dogs has changed drastically after the DOT removed travel requirements for ESAs. Although most airlines no longer accept ESAs, a few still accommodate emotional support dogs.

To make the process as easy as possible, make sure to call the airline helpdesk before you book your flight so that you can receive all the updated rules for ESAs. If the airline allows ESAs, make sure that you prepare all the proper documents and have an airline-approved travel carrier to make flying with your emotional support dog as stress-free as possible.

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Featured Image Credit: Monika Wisniewska, Shutterstock

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