Frequently Asked Questions
ARE EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS “SERVICE ANIMALS”?
No. Service Animals are trained animals that are used primarily to assist their owners in overcoming the struggles of a particular disability. Due to the nature of their training and use, these animals are classified as necessary medical equipment and are permitted in places that most normal pets are not. Only dogs are recognized as service animals and the rights of people flying with service dogs is set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the Airline Carrier Access Act.
Emotional Support Animals are in their own special category. They can be any household pet (typically a dog or cat) that has been prescribed to an individual, much like a medication, by licensed mental health professional. Unlike Service Animals they require no special training.
The other difference to bear in mind, is that once you present your prescriptive letter for your Emotional Service Animal at the counter, the airline may not ask you any questions at all and must allow you to board with your pet.
People traveling with a Service Dog must be prepared to answer questions about the nature of their dog’s training and it must appear credible to the agent issuing the boarding pass.
WHAT DOCUMENTATION IS NECESSARY TO ESTABLISH MY PET IS AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL?
The Airline Carrier Access Act is quite specific about what documentation must be presented to the airline when you check in with an Emotional Support Animal.
The letter must state the following:
(1) The passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—Fourth Edition (DSM V );
(2) The passenger needs the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger's destination;
(3) The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional, and the passenger is under his or her professional care; and
(4) The date and type of the mental health professional's license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.
WHO CAN WRITE A VALID ESA LETTER?
Any Qualified Mental Health Professional (QMHP) who is licensed in any state or jurisdiction. The QMHP must provide their licensing information (license number and State where they are licensed) and confirm that their license is up to date.
IF I PAY MY FEE WILL I DEFINITELY GET A PRESCRIPTIVE LETTER?
Payment of your fee to Emotional Support Animal Center only guarantees that your evaluation form will be submitted and reviewed by a Qualified Mental Health Professional. If it is determined that you do not meet the criteria for a diagnosis of a qualifying psychological disorder, no letter will be issued and your fee will be refunded in full.
DOES THE EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL CENTER GUARANTEE THE AIRLINE WILL ACCEPT MY LETTER?
While Emotional Support Animal Center ultimately has no control over what a particular airline or ticket agent may do, the law requires the airline to accept any valid Emotional Support Animal letter and allow your pet to travel with you at no additional cost.
Should for any reason the airline refuse your request for an ESA accommodation you should immediately ask to speak to a CRO (Customer Resolution Official). By law the airline must have a CRO available to handle all disability related disputes. This person has been trained to resolve these disputes in the passengers’ favor in all but the most egregious situations. If your letter is less then one (1) year old there can be no basis for refusing an accommodation unless your pet is so unruly as to present a danger to other passengers. In the event the ESA you are traveling with is too large to fit under the seat in front of you the airline must make every reasonable effort to find you a seat where your pet can be accommodated. If no such seating is available on your scheduled flight the airline may ask you to take a later flight where such seating is available. Alternatively, the airline can offer to fly your pet in cargo but may not charge any additional fees for either service.
As a practical matter Emotional Support Animal Center recommends that you do not attempt to fly with a pet that does not easily fit under the seat in front of you without first advising the airline at least 48 hours in advance of your flight and making certain that a seating accommodation will be available for a larger ESA.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE AIRPORT?
When you arrive at the airport you will need to present your Emotional Support Animal letter to the ticket agent along with your ID and other flight documents.
Provided your letter is not more then 1 year old the ticket agent MUST allow you to bring your pet on board (unless it poses a danger or significant disturbance to other passengers) and the airline cannot charge any additional fees.
DO I NEED TO HAVE A VACCINATION CERTIFICATE FOR MY PET?
No additional documentation is required for you to travel with your ESA. However, if your pet is excessively noisy, appears to be vicious or presents any other indication of being a threat or nuisance to others, the airline has the right to deny you service.
DOES MY ESA NEED TO WEAR ANY IDENTIFYING BADGES OR A VEST?
No identifying badges or uniforms are required for an ESA. You should bear in mind that registering your pet as an ESA with one of the Service Animal registries does not eliminate the need for a ESA letter from a Qualified Mental Health Professional.
IS THERE ANY POSSIBILITY THAT I CAN BE EMBARRASSED AT THE AIRPORT?
Federal law and associated airline regulations mandate that the airline accommodate your request to fly with your ESA. Ticket agents have been trained to request the appropriate documentation (your ESA letter), and they have been instructed to treat the request with the utmost courtesy and efficiency.
Provided your letter is less then 1 year old and your pet is not unreasonably large or unruly they have no motivation to deny you the accommodation. If they refuse they are required to put the reason for their refusal in writing. Wrongful denial of an accommodation to a disabled individual as required by the Airline Carrier Access Act is a violation of law and subjects the Airline to fines and the possibility of legal action.
IS THE ESA LETTER THROUGH ESA CENTER LEGAL IN EVERY STATE?
All of the states in which our Mental Health Professionals are licensed, permit therapists to counsel patients over the telephone. Any diagnosis and subsequent prescription generated by telephone consultations are perfectly valid in all states.
CAN I REQUEST PRE-BOARDING?
The airline must offer pre-boarding to passengers who self-identify at the gate as needing additional time or assistance to board, stow equipment or be seated.
CAN MY ESA SIT IN MY LAP?
If your ESA can safely sit in your lap the cabin attendant will generally allow you to place them there. In the event that they determine that it would not be safe to have the ESA sit in your lap, they will ask you to have the ESA sit on the floor below your seat. If your ESA is too large to comfortably fit under or near your seat, the airline must make a reasonable effort to accommodate you by finding an open seat on the same flight or offering you that type of accommodation on another flight. THEY CANNOT CHARGE AN ADDITIONAL FEE FOR THIS SERVICE.
DO I HAVE TO GIVE THE AIRLINE ADDITIONAL NOTICE OF MY INTENTION TO FLY WITH MY ESA?
Some airline require that you provide 48 hours of notice of you intention to bring your ESA with you on your flight. Unlike flying with a normal pet there is no restriction on the number of emotional support animals that are allowed to board. Prior notification affords the airline time to find you appropriate seating (bulkhead or an empty adjacent seat). However, the law is very clear that if you do not provide advance notice the airline is required to provide the accommodation.
Since your prescriptive letter from ESA Center is completely valid and issued by licensed Qualified Mental Health Professionals you should have no concern about providing the airline with a copy in advance should they request it when you make your reservation.
CAN I USE MY ESA LETTER FOR FLYING WITH MY LANDLORD OR HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION?
If you request an ESA letter for flying it will provide a diagnosis solely with respect to your need for an ESA for airline travel. Generally speaking, a more comprehensive diagnosis is required to satisfy the requirements for a housing accommodation. (Fair Housing Act and Sec 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973).
If you are interested in such a diagnosis click HERE and you will be taken to information about obtaining an ESA letter for housing.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER ONE YEAR?
Your ESA prescriptive letter for flying is valid for one (1) year from the date it was issued. At the expiration of that period a new assessment is required before another prescriptive letter can be issued. A follow up telephone consultation may, or may not, be required, as determined by the mental health professional reviewing your case. Should you wish to have your prescriptive letter renewed you must go to the Emotional Support Animal Center website and click on the “RENEWAL” link. Once there you will be directed to the Renewal Assessment form. That form will be forwarded to a mental health professional and, if you qualify, a new prescriptive letter will be sent to you. The cost for a renewal assessment and issuance of an ESA prescriptive letter for flying valid for one (1) year is $95.
The ESA letter you receive for Housing has no expiration date and is valid for the full term of your lease or ownership.