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Emotional Support Animal Guide
2019 Update

ESA Question Bank

Learn how an emotional support animal could be the solution to your mental problems

What is an ESA?

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Are Emotional Support Animals And Assistance Animals the Same Thing?

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What Are The Benefits Of Having An ESA?

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What is an ESA letter?

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How To Qualify For An Emotional Support Animal Letter?

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How To Apply For An ESA Letter?

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How To Ask A Doctor For ESA Recommendation?

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What Are The Emotional Support Animal Federal Laws?

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How To Fly With Your Emotional Support Animal?

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How to Find An Apartment To Live With An ESA?

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How to Spot A Fake ESA Website?

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Will My ESA Require Any Vest?

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Can I Take my ESA To Any Public Place?

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How To Fly With Your Pet With Delta
United & American Airlines

A complete guide to flying with your pet

You are allowed to fly with your ESA if you have an ESA letter. However, every airline has different requirements that you have to comply with. Most of the airlines do not allow the following pets on board such as hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, rodents, snakes, spiders, reptiles, goats, non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game bird, & birds of prey), and pets with tusks, horns or hooves.

These airlines can refuse your ESA if it starts growling, jumping on passengers, relieving themselves in the gate area or cabin or eating off seatback tray tables.

Southwest airlines

Southwest Airlines accepts both emotional support animals as well as service animals at no extra cost. Other animals are not allowed to board the plane as an ESA under any circumstances.

A Customer seeking to travel with an emotional support animal must satisfy all of the following

  • The emotional support animal must be either a dog or cat.
  • The Customer has only one emotional support animal.
  • The emotional support animal must be in a carrier that can be stowed under the seat in
    front of the Customer or on a leash at all times while in the airport and onboard the
  • The Customer must provide to a Southwest Airlines Employee documentation (not more
    than one year old) on letterhead from a licensed health professional who is treating the Customer’s mental health-related disability. The letter must
    state all four items below:

1. The Passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
2. The Passenger needs the emotional support 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
or medical doctor, and the Passenger is under his or her professional care
4. The date and type of the mental health professional’s or medical doctor’s license
and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued
Note: An animal that is not trained to behave in a public setting or engages in disruptive
behavior may be denied boarding


(Letters from satisfy all of the above requirements.)

Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines also allows emotional support animals to board the plane with their the pet owners provided they are not larger than the footprint of a passenger’s seat. Service and support animals and their associated items travel for free (Items include a kennel, blanket, toy, food or similar item)

Other Delta Airlines requirements include:

  • A legitimate and authentic ESA letter signed by a qualified therapist.
  • Informing the airline at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled flight that you will be traveling with your ESA
  • Your ESA should not be under the age of 10 months
  • Only one emotional support animal is allowed per passenger.

We know that service and support animals are highly-trained working animals. We will only refuse transportation of the animal if it engages in disruptive behavior such as:

  • Growling
  • Jumping on passengers
  • Relieving themselves in the gate area or cabin
  • Barking excessively, not in response to a handler’s need or distress
  • Eating off seatback tray tables

We do not permit the following as service or support animals, as these animals pose safety and/or public health concerns.  If you have additional questions, please contact the accessibility assistance line at 404-209-3434.

  • Hedgehogs
  • Ferrets
  • Insects
  • Rodents
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Sugar gliders
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians
  • Goats
  • Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game bird, & birds of prey)
  • Animals improperly cleaned and/or with a foul odor
  • Animals with tusks, horns or hooves


American Airlines

Fully-trained service animals and emotional support / psychiatric service animals may fly in the cabin at no charge if they meet the requirements.


  • 1 emotional support / psychiatric service animal per person
  • Animal must be a cat or dog (trained miniature horse may be permitted as a service animal); 4 months or older
  • Animal must be clean and well-behaved
  • Animals must be able to fit at your feet, under your seat or in your lap (lap animals must be smaller than a 2-year old child)
  • If the animal is in a kennel, it must fit under the seat in front of you with the animal in it

Emotional support / psychiatric service animals cannot:

  • Be seated in an exit row
  • Protrude into or block aisles
  • Occupy a seat
  • Eat from tray tables

If your animal doesn’t fit within the allowed spaces, you may need to:

  • Rebook on a flight with more open seats
  • Buy a ticket for the animal
  • Transport the animal as a checked pet

Animal behavior

Emotional support / psychiatric service animals must be trained to behave properly in public and they won’t be permitted in the cabin if they display any form of disruptive behavior that can’t be successfully corrected or controlled, including but not limited to:

  • Growling
  • Biting or attempting to bite
  • Jumping on or lunging at people

Emotional support / psychiatric service animals must be in your control at all times by leash and / or harness.

If this behavior is observed at any point during your journey and isn’t corrected or controlled, the animal will be considered a pet and all requirements and applicable fees will apply.

Animal restrictions

Emotional support / psychiatric service animals

Emotional support / psychiatric service animals assist individuals with emotional, psychiatric or cognitive disabilities. Specific training isn’t required for animals to meet this classification.

Only cats and dogs are accepted as emotional support animals. Advanced notice and approval is required to bring an emotional support / psychiatric service animal with you in the cabin.

Trained service animals

Trained service animals have been specifically trained to perform life functions for individuals with disabilities, including but not limited to:

  • Visual impairments
  • Deafness
  • Seizures
  • Mobility impairments

Dogs and cats are accepted as service animals; miniature horses will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

We encourage advanced notice for service animals, but it isn’t required

As the requirements for transporting each type of animal differ, our employees are trained to ask certain questions to determine the classification applicable to your animal.

Advance notice required

To travel with an emotional support / psychiatric service animal in the cabin, you must submit all required forms to the Special Assistance Desk at least 48 hours before your flight. We’ll notify you upon document approval.

If you don’t complete or meet all the requirements, your animal may be able to fly as a pet. All applicable fees apply.

Forms required for travel

Emotional support / psychiatric service animals

You must complete, submit and receive approval of all 3 forms before your animal will be allowed to fly:

  • Medical / Mental Health Professional Form
  • Veterinary Health Form, or vaccination record with current rabies vaccination information
  • Confirmation of Animal Behavior Form

Download the emotional and psychiatric service animal document packet 


  1. Read and complete all 3 forms
  2. Submit all 3 forms together at least 48 hours before your flight
  3. Keep documents with you during your trip

Email Special Assistance 

Fax forms to: 817-967-4715

All service and support animals

If you have a flight over 8 hours in your itinerary, the Animal Sanitation Form is also required stating your animal won’t need to relieve itself or can do so in a way that doesn’t create a health or sanitation issue.


United Airlines

United Airlines allows emotional support animals only on flights with 8 hours or less in duration. All the required documentation should be submitted to the United Airlines accessibility desk at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled flight via email.

United Airlines requirements include:

United requires a passenger who is a qualified individual with a disability within the meaning of Department of Transportation Rules (Part 382) who wishes to fly with a psychiatric service or emotional support animal to obtain and submit documentation:

1) from a licensed medical/mental health professional

2) a Passenger Confirmation of Liability and Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animal Behavior an

3) a veterinary health form completed by a licensed veterinarian.

  • These forms are valid for one year from the date of the earliest of the signed authorizations and must be submitted at least 48 hours before each trip; ideally well in advance of travel.
  • Other documentation may be required for travel entering or exiting an international location or Hawaii.
  • Animals must be properly controlled. If an animal kennel or other carrier will be used, it must meet the USDA guidelines and fit under the aircraft seat.
  • With prior documentation and clearance, a customer may travel with no more than one emotional support animal, which cannot weigh more than 65 pounds. Multiple emotional support animals for a single customer are not permitted.



 Please submit your completed forms as soon as possible via United Airline’s secure portal. The required travel documents for your emotional support or psychiatric service animal must be submitted for approval at least 48 hours prior to your day of travel. Please bring your original forms with you while traveling and be prepared to present them to airline representatives if requested.


With respect to an animal used to assist a qualified individual with a disability, the animal must be trained to behave appropriately in a public setting. Animals found not to have been trained to behave will only be accepted in accordance with United’s current pet policies or may be denied boarding.


Alaska Airlines

Alaskan airlines support the traveling of emotional support animals for free. However, the size of the animal is restricted to the footprint or space of the passenger’s seat or foot area.

Alaska Airlines requirements include:

1) Provide a complete set of documents at least 48 hours prior to the date of departure. The documents include-

  • Emotional support animal letter signed by a certified mental health professional
  • Animal health advisory form certified by a licensed veterinarian
  • Mental health form
  • Animal behavior form

2) Emotional support animals must always be under the control of the passenger at all times. They must be leashed or carried in the approved carrier that will fit under the seat of the passenger in accordance with the FAA guidelines.

3) FAA guidelines state that an emotional support animal must always be seated under the seat in front of you at all times (either for taxi, takeoff or landing).

4) The airlines recommend avoiding overwatering or feeding your animal on the day of travel.

Emotional support animals must not-

  • Occupy a seat or tray table during the flight.
  • Obstruct areas that need to be cleared for emergency situations.
  • Occupy the seat in the exit row.


  • Passengers with an ESA must check-in at least an hour before the scheduled flight time.
  • Obstruct areas that need to be cleared for emergency situations.
  • Occupy the seat in the exit row.

Know's More

General Question's

A pet which helps you in every way to avoid those sudden emotional outbreaks or symptoms concerning mental health disorders can be considered as an emotional support animal.

They are a category of assistance animals. However, this category also includes services and therapy animals.

No. Emotional support animals and therapy animals have limited advantages. While service animals enjoy much more than the other two categories. Also, services animals are required to undergo training for helping their owners, but for other assistance animals, there is no such requirement.

There is no hard and fast rule for an ESA. any domesticated pet can be considered as an emotional support animal as long as they are providing you with the necessary emotional support. However, mostly cats and dogs make to the preferred list.

Emotional support animal recommendation is nothing but a confirmation by any licensed mental health professional that you require the support of a pet for both mental and physical health.

According to the updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 4 or 5, the following medical conditions will help you qualify for an ESA letter — depression, anxiety, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders, body-dysphoric disorder, personality disorders.

It notifies the concerned authorities that you are taking treatment by a mental health professional for your mental health disorder. While further verifies that you have limitations such as depression or anxiety which is affecting your mental health.

Obtaining an ESA letter has become simplified. The process goes like this- Create an account, fill out your details with some standard questionnaire, consult with a mental health professional. Just follow the steps and you will be able to receive ESA letter within a few minutes.

With an emotional support animal letter, you will be able to rent a housing apartment or condo even with “no pet policy”. Plus, you will be able to fly with your pet in the flight cabin. And, all this with no additional charges or pet deposits.

You can get an ESA letter for $89.99 or get a 2-in-1 recommendation that covers both housing & travel for $119.99.

In order to see whether or not you are getting a valid emotional support letter, look for the following elements- official letter with the name and license of the therapist, name of the patient, date of issuance of ESA letter. Along with this, beware whenever you see a site saying instant approvals with no follow on services.

There are two federal laws which support patients with emotional support animals — Fair Housing Act (FHAct), Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA).

As per the guidelines, any person with a valid recommendation letter will be allowed to go with their pet inside the cabin at no additional charges.

According to this, a patient with an ESA letter will be able to live without any restrictions even in the apartments with “no pet policy” restrictions with no additional pet deposits. Also, the law states that the landowner should provide reasonable accommodation for you and your pet to live peacefully.

While planning for a vacation with your pet, send the required documentation (Health record, Behavior certificate, vaccination record along with your ESA letter) to the service provider at least 48 hours before the scheduled flight to take advantage of the benefits that come with having an ESA letter.

However, make sure to read the guidelines mentioned by your airline provider for any other additional documents that will be required in addition to the mentioned documents above.

While looking for accommodation, you can share your ESA letter with the landowner. This will enable you to tell the person that you are legally qualified to live with your pet without paying even a cent extra besides monthly living charges. You can also get a behavior certificate to make your landlord understand better about your pet.

You are not required to buy a vest for your emotional support animal. However, having a vest will make it possible or easy to distinguish an ESA with a pet animal. As all pet animals need not be ESA.

According to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 along with the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA), any housing provider which includes college campus as well, cannot deny you the right of accommodation just because of a pet. This rule came into effect when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guided FHA to include dormitory rooms into the Act as well.

Unlike service animals, ESAs are not allowed everywhere. However, you can always ask before making a reservation or look for pet-friendly places or parks.

Ask a Question

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