Knowing the difference between an Emotional Support Dog or a Service Animal can be confusing especially if you are flying with your dog.
Knowing when your dog can fly inside the cabin with you or go in baggage area under the airplane.
I will try to clear up any confusion you may have so you can decide whether or not to take your furry friend on the airplane.
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A Service Dog or Psychiatric Service Animal (SA/PSA)
is a DOG regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the handler with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.
Examples: helps individuals who are blind or have low vision. They can alert the handler of an epileptic seizure before it happens.
A Emotional Support Animal (ESA)
is designed to bring comfort and does not perform any specific tasks/service for the handler.
Service Animal or Psychiatric Service Animal are DOGS that can fly in the cabin regardless of the breed, size and weight. The airline cannot charge a fee for the dog.
Emotional Support Animals are now considered pets and must follow the airline’s pet policy guidelines. The airline can charge a fee for a pet.
Q&A about flying with Service Animals or Emotional Support Animals
Q: Can I fly with my Emotional Support Dog in the cabin of an airline?
A: Yes, only if it meets the airlines pet requirements.
Emotional Support Dogs are now considered pets by airline standards. They are not a Service Animal/Psychiatric Service Animal. They do not provide a specific task/service.
Therefore, your ESA must meet the pet requirements each airline has. For example: they must fit in a soft sided carrier of a specific size. This carrier must be able to fit under the seat in front of you. The pet and the carrier together must not weigh more that 20 lbs.
Q: What if my dog cannot fit in a small carrier under the airline seat and I want it inside the cabin with me?
A: In order for it to fly with you in the airline cabin it must be determined to be a SA/PSA dog. Refer to the chart below.
Q: If my dog does meet the SA/PSA requirements, how do I let the airline know.
A: For a Service Animal (SA) or a Psychiatric Service Animal (PSA) the airline will require a medical document issued by licensed therapist or psychiatrist, certifying that you have a medical, mental or emotional disability and need a service animal while traveling to the final destination.
How To Determine If Your Dog Is A ESA OR SA/PSA
Summary of DOT Regulations For ESA & PSA Beginning January 2021
Service Animal / Psychiatric Service Animal
A SA / PSA animal is a DOG regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.
Emotional Support Animals (ESA)
ESAs do not perform certain tasks. Airlines are not required to recognize Emotional Support Animals as service animals anymore and may treat them as pets.
Example of a Service Animal / Psychiatric Service Animal
Guiding people who are blind
Alerting people who are deaf
Pulling a wheelchair
Alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure
Reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications
Calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack
Airlines are permitted to limit SA/PSA animals to dogs only.
Health, Behavior and Training Form
As a condition of transportation, airlines are permitted to require passengers to complete a form acknowledging that the SA/PSA animal has been trained for certain tasks and meets Department of Transportation (DOT) Service Animal requirements.
As a condition of transportation, flights 8 hours or longer, the airlines are permitted to require passengers to complete a form acknowledging that the service animal
(a) will not need to relieve himself
(b) can relieve himself without causing sanitary issues; must explain how.
Number of SA/PSAs per Passenger
Airlines are permitted to limit the number of SA/PSAs traveling with a single passenger with a disability to 2 service animals.
Large Dog Service Animals
Airlines are permitted to require that a SA/PSA animal fit on their handler’s lap or within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft.
Control of Animals
Airlines are permitted to require a SA/PSA animal to be harnessed, leashed, or otherwise tethered in areas of the airport that they own, lease, or control, and on the aircraft.
Service Animal Breed or Type
Airlines are prohibited from refusing to transport a SA/PSA animal based solely on breed or generalized physical type, as distinct from an individualized assessment of the animal’s behavior and health.
Background: When did the airlines stop allowing Emotional Support Animals?
It all started back in January of 2021 when The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a revision to its Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation on the transportation of service animals by air.
On Jan 11, 2021, U.S. airlines no longer allowed Emotional Support Animals (ESA).
However, it continued to allow Psychiatric Service Animal (PSA) and Service Animals (SA) that are DOGS only.
This revised ACCA, told airlines they could no longer allow miniature horses, cats, rabbits, birds, and other animals as Emotional Support Animals (ESA) which were simply for the comfort of the passenger.
ESAs must fly as a pet, either in the cargo hold of the airplane or inside the cabin with certain restrictions. There is a fee.
Pets inside the cabin must fit in a specific sized carrier, fit under the seat in front of you, and be under a certain weight (with the pet inside the carrier).
Check each airline for pricing and their pet policy.
Final Thoughts About Service Animals
Service dogs are trained from puppyhood by specialized programs. The dog will have been trained to behave properly in public so that the pet can be called a legitimate service dog.
Putting a vest on your pet dog does not make them a service animal. There are plenty of online service dog registries that will gladly take your money and issue a certificate. That does not make your dog a true service animal.
If you do not have a disability but try to make your pet dog into a service dog to get them on a airplane with you, into a restaurant, or into some other public place, you will only add to the mistrust business owners sometimes have towards service animals.
The simple truth is this: it is unethical and immoral to pretend your dog is a true service dog.
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