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**Please note that as of 2021, most airlines no longer recognize emotional support animals. You must check with your country’s laws and regulations to see if ESAs are still accepted for travel. As of writing this, Icelandic Air is one airline that accepts ESAs**
If you’re here, it’s probably because you are wondering how to get an emotional support animal. If you suffer from anxiety or any type of mental illness, some airlines allow you to bring an emotional support animal with you in cabin to help you feel calm and at ease while you fly.
An emotional support animal (ESA) is an animal that a psychiatrist, psychologist or medical professional has deemed beneficial for an individual with a disability.
The steps to getting an emotional support animal are actually not too difficult, providing you have a legitimate reason for an emotional support animal. An emotional support animal (unlike service dogs) do not need to undergo any special training. They just need to be able to behave properly in public (no growling at people, no viscous behavior).
Secondly, emotional support animals are not just limited to dogs. Any animal can be added as your emotional support animal.
An emotional support animal is not to be confused with a service dog. Service dogs go through rigorous training and are allowed in all public spaces. Emotional support animals are for the purpose of flying are not allowed in the same places as a service dog, aside from airports and in airplanes.
Today, we are going to cover the steps to get an emotional support animal. Taking these steps will not ensure that you are guaranteed a spot on an airplane with your ESA, as it varies by country and by airline whether or not they accept ESA’s. ESA’s are accepted in the USA, but they may not be accepted in other countries.
Step 1: Learn If You Qualify
Typically, anybody with some type of mental/emotional condition is able to qualify for an emotional support animal. These types of conditions could be anxiety, depression, PTSD, phobias, social anxiety, sleep disorders, etc.
You will need to find a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP) who is able to verify that your illness requires an ESA.
If you are unsure if you qualify for an emotional support animal, you will need to speak with a professional and get their opinions.
Step 2: Get Your Animal
Perhaps you already have an animal or maybe you still would like to find one. Although dogs are one of the most popular choices for ESA’s, you are not limited to having a dog.
My advice if you don’t have an ESA? Drop by your local animal shelter and find yourself a loving animal that will be able to provide companionship like none other for you.
Keep in mind that you still may get denied as having your pet as an ESA, so if you decide to adopt or get a new animal, you are doing so because you will care for them regardless.
Step 3: Get In Touch With A Mental Health Professional
In order to complete the process of getting an ESA, you need to have a note stating that you have a mental/emotional illness that is greatly reduced through your emotional support animal.
If you have a therapist, you should speak with them about writing you up a note. This note serves as your prescription, essentially, and is the note you will need to provide to any airlines when needing to travel with your animal.
While some airlines just require a note from a licensed mental health professional, airlines are always changing and revising their emotional support animal policies. It’s best to also check with the airlines to see what else is required before spending money on a doctor’s note.
And those are all the steps to get an emotional support animal! For further reading, check out my tips for flying with an emotional support animal.
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About the Author:
Dana owns a Sheepadoodle and a rescue merle Labradoodle. She has years of experience fostering dogs and has helped find homes for a variety of different breeds, both large and small! After seeing so many dogs end up unwanted and in shelters, she began blogging about different dog breeds (specifically Doodle dogs, since that’s what she knows best) to help people make informed choices when adding a new member to their family.
When Dana’s not brushing her Doodles’ hair (it takes a lot of time for two!) you can find her playing nose work games and fetch with her two amazing pups.