An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal, usually a dog, that provides emotional comfort to a person suffering from mental health conditions, such as:
- Severe Depression
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
Many people feel that their ESA helps them remain calmer in times of stress, and can improve their quality of life by giving them the confidence to go out into the world. Like all pets, ESAs also alleviate loneliness, and promote exercise and routine. You may also see ESAs referred to as Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs). To have a genuine ESA, you need an authorisation letter signed by either:
- A Therapist or
- A Psychologist or
- A Mental Health Professional
Under federal law in the USA, a disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment which significantly limits a person’s major life activities. So the letter must be signed by a qualified person, giving their word that the statement is true for the person requiring the ESA.
Which species can be Emotional Support Animals?
In a nutshell….Any!! Some of the various ESAs that have flown in the cabin with their owner are:
- Miniature Horses
- And even a Kangaroo!
ESAs aren’t subject to the same rules as other pets when flying on planes, so they don’t need to be in a travel carrier and can sit on your knee or the floor. So, we’re guessing the miniature horses don’t rest on your lap! From the above list, it’s no wonder that there’s been more than a few complaints from other passengers, resulting in the ACAA and DOT having to re-evaluate Emotional Support Animal Laws.
What is the difference between a Service Animal and an ESA or Comfort Animal?
A service animal is professionally trained to perform a specific task for a person with a disability. The most commonly known service animals are Seeing Eye (Guide) Dogs, but service animals can be trained to perform a wide range of tasks. For instance, Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSDs) are allowed to travel in the cabin free of charge if they have been professional trained to help their owner with a specific task. A task could be, for example, reminding their owner to take medication on time. Only dogs can be PSDs, no other animal can have this title, unlike with ESAs.
On the other hand, Emotional Support Animals are untrained, and are purely there to provide comfort and reassurance to their owners.
Are ESAs still recognised by airlines?
The ACAA and DOT in the USA now no longer recognise Emotional Support Animals as Service Dogs. ESAs will therefore now be subject to the same pet travel rules as other animals.
Following this ruling, airlines worldwide are now no longer accepting ESAs.