Traveling with animals

How to travel With an Emotional Support Animal

Carla Moreira
By Carla Moreira, Veterinarian. February 1, 2023
How to travel With an Emotional Support Animal

An Emotional Support Animal (ESA) is an animal that provides a therapeutic benefit such as emotional support, comfort, or companionship to a person with an intellectual or psychiatric disability. Pets that are recognized as emotional support animals have certain privileges and benefits, such as being allowed to travel near their owners in places that they are not normally allowed, such as on airplanes. For this reason, it has become more common in recent years for people to take emotional support animals with them on planes, trains, ships, and other forms of transportation.

The following article explains what an emotional support animal is and what you need to know about traveling with an emotional support animal.

You may also be interested in: Are Dogs Allowed on Trains?
  1. What are emotional support animals?
  2. How to get a certificate for an emotional support animal?
  3. How do you travel with an emotional support animal?

What are emotional support animals?

It is well known that pets or companion animals are beneficial to people's psyche and behavior. They help fight depression, reduce stress, anxiety or worry, boost self-esteem and avoid feelings of loneliness. They also increase and improve the sense of responsibility, help create routines and organize the schedule, and motivate people to exercise.

The concept of emotional support animals refers to animals that provide emotional support and comfort to people with mental or emotional problems. They are considered necessary for the mental and psychological health of their owners, as these animals help them deal with challenges that might otherwise affect their quality of life. This concept originated in the United States and is increasingly spreading to other countries.

Although all pets can form an emotional bond with their owners, a pet that is considered an emotional support animal (ESA) must be prescribed by a licensed mental health professional. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist must determine that the animal's presence is necessary for the patient's mental health.

Any domesticated animal can be considered an ESA. This includes cats, dogs, mice, rabbits, parrots, fish, rats, etc. and they can be of any age. However, an ESA must be able to get along in public and not be a nuisance. In addition, an ESA must not be poisonous or dangerous. Emotional support animals can not only travel with their caretakers on planes and trains, but also accompany them in spaces such as offices, schools, or universities.

You may like this other article where we discuss the ten benefits of having a dog.

How to get a certificate for an emotional support animal?

Unlike service animals, such as a guide dog or psychiatric service dog, emotional support animals do not require formal training or certification. In addition, users of emotional support animals do not receive the same benefits as users of service dogs. A service dog, for example, is generally allowed wherever the public is permitted; ESAs are not.

To certify an emotional support animal, you must present a prescription from a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. They will assess the person's situation and the benefit the animal will bring to the psychological or emotional condition, using techniques approved by the medical and scientific community.

In addition to this certification, the animal must be trained in basic obedience so that it is not a danger to others, knows how to behave in public, and responds easily and quickly to commands given to it.

Who may have an emotional support animal?

In general, the emotional support dog is appropriate for people with emotional and/or psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and autism. However, anyone in need of an emotional support animal may ask their doctor or therapist to provide a certificate.

Dogs are the most common support animals. There are breeds that are ideal for this task because they are intelligent, empathetic, balanced and intuitive, such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Corgi, and Poodles. They can be of any size and should be close to their handler. However, any animal, regardless of its species, can be considered an emotional support.

You may be interested in this other article, where we talk about the best therapy dog breeds.

How to travel With an Emotional Support Animal - How to get a certificate for an emotional support animal?

How do you travel with an emotional support animal?

As already mentioned, to qualify as an emotional support animal, the appropriate health care professional must issue a certificate stating that the patient requires the presence of his or her pet. This certificate must also include information that the animal is essential to the emotional well-being of the passenger. The document must have been issued no more than 1 year prior to the flight. Possession of this document allows the person to travel with the animal anywhere. This also includes places where the presence of animals is prohibited, such as restaurants, museums, hotels, inns, and airplanes.

For the certificate to be official, it must contain the following information:

  • Be written on the letterhead of the professional.

  • They must bear the health professional's original signature and registration number. False information or a false identity is considered a criminal offense in most countries.

  • They must include the physician's contact information, such as phone number, address, etc.

  • A statement that the emotional support animal is part of the treatment.

  • It is recommended to always include information about the animal, such as: the name, species, breed, and age of the animal.

Additional documentation recommended when traveling with emotional support animals:

In addition to the certificate or ID, the guardian must carry the vaccination card up to date and a veterinary certificate guaranteeing the health condition of the animal for the trip. In some countries, it is also recommended to carry the basic training certificate.

If you plan to travel with your animal, contact airlines, transportation companies or other agencies in advance, as some require notification of this condition at least 48 hours before travel. Also, fill out forms and report carrying items such as leashes, muzzles and grooming supplies.

You may also be interested in his other article, where we talk about how to travel with our pet on the plane.

How to travel With an Emotional Support Animal - How do you travel with an emotional support animal?

If you want to read similar articles to How to travel With an Emotional Support Animal, we recommend you visit our Traveling with animals category.

  1. Christian, E. Senate approves presence of emotional support animals in public places and means of transportation, 2022. Available at approves-the-presence-of-emotional-support-animals-in-places-of-collective-use-and-means-of-transportation. Consulted on 12/13/2022.
  • Nigro, JAB et al . Emotional communication between man and non-human animal. Biosphere Encyclopedia, Saber Centro Científico, v.7, n.34, 2020. Available at Consulted on 12/13/2022.
  • Klenfez, MG The importance of emotional support animals for people with ASD - Autism Spectrum Disorder. Available at :~:text=aux%C3%ADlio%2C%20amparo%2C%20ajuda.,ESAN%20por%20um%20m%C3%A9dico%20psychiatrist. Consulted on 12/13/2022.
  • Can I travel with my emotional support pet? Available at Consulted on 12/13/2022.
  • With Gol, your pet travels calm and safe. Available at Consulted on 12/13/2022.
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How to travel With an Emotional Support Animal