Emotional support dogs and the Air Carriers Access Act

Individuals who travel with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals may need to provide specific documentation to establish that they have a disability and the reason the animal must travel with them. Individuals who wish to travel with their emotional support or psychiatric animals should contact the airline ahead of time to find out what kind of documentation is required.

Examples of documentation that may be requested by the airline: Current documentation (not more than one year old) on letterhead from a licensed mental health professional stating (1) the passenger has a mental health-related disability listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV); (2) having the animal accompany the passenger is necessary to the passenger’s mental health or treatment; (3) the individual providing the assessment of the passenger 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. This documentation may be required as a condition of permitting the animal to accompany the passenger in the cabin.

According to the ACAA, airlines are not required otherwise to carry animals of any kind either in the cabin or in the cargo hold. Airlines are free to adopt any policy they choose regarding the carriage of pets and other animals (for example, search and rescue dogs) if they comply with other applicable requirements (for example, the Animal Welfare Act).

A carrier must decide on a case-by-case basis according to factors such as the animal’s size and weight; state and foreign country restrictions; whether the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others; or cause a fundamental alteration in the cabin service. You should contact the airlines ahead of your travel to find out what is permitted.

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