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How to Travel with an Emotional Support Animal

Cat and dog ready for travel wearing with funny hats in front of suitcase

If you are one of the many people who suffer from a mental health disorder, traveling can be extremely stressful. If your disorder is prohibiting you from traveling, consider registering your dog or cat as an emotional support animal. Or if you don’t have a dog or a cat, now is a great time to consider getting one!


What is an emotional support animal?

An emotional support animal provides support and comfort through companionship and affection to those who suffer from mental or emotional conditions. Unlike service animals, emotional support animals are not required to perform certain jobs.

These animals provide emotional support for those who suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, phobias or fears and various other emotional or psychological conditions.


Who can travel with an emotional support animal?

In order to travel with an emotional support animal, you are required to have a special letter from a licensed doctor or mental health professional. The letter must state that you need to travel with a support animal for your condition.

The letter must include certain elements. For example, the letter must not be more than one-year-old, be on a professional letterhead, and be from a mental health professional or a doctor.

Additionally, the note must state that you have a mental health-related disability that “substantially limits one more major life activities”. ( The note is not require to state the specific disability, but it does have to be in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

The letter must include that the support animal is necessary to your health or treatment during the flight. The professional writing the letter must be licensed and state that you are under their current care.


Tips for traveling with an emotional support animal

  • If you are traveling with your emotional support animal, they will be able to sit in the main cabin with you, even if they are over the approved weight or height limit (often 20 pounds of less). There is no additional charge for traveling with them.
  • Make sure your animal is well-trained and well-behaved in public settings. No one likes a loud, rowdy animal on a long flight!
  • In order to ensure the airline can accommodate you and your emotional support animal, make sure you contact the airline at least 48 hours prior to your departure. They often require a copy of the letter in advance so they can verify it. Some airlines will even call your doctor’s office to verify the letter.
  • It is recommended you book a bulk head seat so that your animal has enough space. Emotional support animals are not allowed in exit rows.
  • If you don’t contact the airline at least 48 hours before departure, the airline could turn you away and not let you on the plane with your support animal.
  • Purchasing an “Emotional Support Animal” vest or collar can help others easily identify that your animal is legally able to travel with you and avoid any conflict or questions.
  • Consider bringing vaccine records and a health certificate to show they are healthy and up to date on their vaccines.
  • To prepare for a flight, restrict your animal’s meals and waters. Restricting food and water for at least four hours before your trip will reduce the chances of them getting sick. Make sure to make a bathroom break before going in the airport!
  • Passengers with emotional support animals qualify for pre-boarding. This will allow you and your animal to get settled while other passengers are boarding.


Traveling with an emotional support animal does not have to be stressful! Use these tips to help make your trip as smooth as possible. To learn more about emotional support animals and to see if you are qualified, make sure to check out MyPetCerts Free Online Evaluation.


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