The Skinny on Emotional Support Animals

by gigigriffis
Luna the traveling pooch

Page updated: September 2014. While the information here is accurate to the best of my knowledge, regulations may vary or change and you should always check with the airlines before booking travel. 

Navigate this page: the original video / video transcript / important notes / Q&A

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about traveling with an Emotional Support Animal (ESA) lately, so I thought I’d dive into the world of video and answer them for you in a more face-to-face kind of way.

(Don’t worry if you aren’t a video fan, though. Just check out the transcript below.)

Also, I’ve included some additional notes and answers to common questions from the comment area at the bottom of the transcript (so scroll down for more after the video).

Transcript & links: Hi, this is Gigi Griffis from and this is my dog, Luna. Today, I wanted to do a video because I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about Emotional Support Animals (or ESAs).

Now, Luna is an ESA in the United States. What that means is that she is an animal that accompanies a person with an invisible disability. So, if your doctor has diagnosed you with severe depression, panic attacks, PTSD…that same doctor can also say that it would benefit you greatly to have an Emotional Support Animal—an animal that’s going to be a companion animal—to help you.

So, that’s what an ESA is and in the United States there are two different protections for ESAs:

One is that the airlines are required to allow you to fly with your ESA and they aren’t going to charge you an extra fee…and that includes when American airlines are flying to overseas destinations. So even an overseas destination like the UK that normally doesn’t allow you to travel with an in-cabin dog will allow you to fly with an ESA.

The other accommodation that’s made in the United States is for housing. So, even if a place is not normally pet friendly or normally charges a pet fee, they are required to allow you to have your ESA and to not charge you a fee.

So that’s what an ESA is and those are the protections that are afforded for an ESA.

The other big question I get is what are the requirements? What kind of paperwork do you need? Do you need a vest for an ESA?

Luna does not have a vest. You can buy service dog vests online, so they don’t have a ton of credibility to me and they aren’t required. What is required, if you are going to fly with or request housing with your ESA, is a letter. That letter must be on the letterhead of the mental health professional who has diagnosed you and it needs to state a few things:

  • The title, address, and phone number of the mental health professional
  • The passenger has a mental health related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – 4th Edition
  • 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
  • The person listed in the letter is under the care of the assessing physician or mental health professional

(These letter requirements were pulled from/read from Delta Airlines‘ website. You should definitely double-check the requirements, but these are the things stated in my own letter and they have been sufficient for every need I’ve had so far.)

Now, once you have a letter that has all of these things in it, you can use that letter for up to one year (usually) to travel or get housing with your ESA.

I also found that overseas, even though the requirements are different and they don’t have ESAs in most places, people are really understanding. If you have your paperwork, never be afraid to ask if they’ll make an exception and let you stay in a hotel that’s not normally pet friendly with your ESA.

The last thing I want to say is that if you do have and need an ESA to travel with you, make sure that that ESA is trained. There are no training requirements. It’s not the same as a service animal; the animal doesn’t have to do something for you (a task) in order to be considered an ESA. However, it’s really important that you make sure that your animal is being respectful, isn’t barking at people going by, isn’t misbehaving…because we want these protections to continue for people who need these dogs.

It helps every person who has an ESA and asks for an exception after you is helped out by the fact that your dog is really well-behaved.

That’s it for today. I hope this has been helpful! Hola from Mexico. And goodbye from Luna for now!

A few additional things to keep in mind:

To have an ESA, you have to be diagnosed with a mental/emotional health related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th Edition and you have to be under the care of a mental health professional. This is not something you can take advantage of if you simply have a fear of flying or if you just want to get around airline fees.

It’s also important to remember that any animal (ESA, service animal, or pet) must still comply with the state or country’s animal import regulations, including quarantine laws. So always make sure to do your research and get your paperwork sorted before traveling.

To view the legal scope of these accommodations, you can find the DOT information here (via Delta’s website). I believe the ESA information starts around page 24 of this PDF.

Finally, please note that this information is based on my own experience and research and should not be taken as legal advice. It’s always a good idea to do your own research and liaise with your medical professional.



What about travel outside the US?
What about people who abuse the system?
Does my ESA have to travel in a carrier?
Wait, is Luna a therapy dog or an ESA?
I’m worried that I’m going to get to the airport and have a problem. What should I do?
Can ESAs go into restaurants, shops, and other not-dog-friendly places?
Where can I find country-specific pet travel requirements?
Are there any countries where I can’t take my ESA?
Who can write my ESA letter?
Does my doctor need to approve my animal in person?
Where can I find someone to diagnose me and/or write my letter?
Does my ESA need some sort of registration, a vest, and/or tags?
Who do I need to tell about my ESA at the airport?
How much information do I have to give about my disability?
Will my ESA need to go through a special customs check?
What if I get to the airport and have a problem?

What about travel outside the US?

The above should apply to anyone traveling to or from the US from another country. When traveling within another country (for example: flying from Paris to the south of France) or between non-US countries (for example: flying from Paris to Rome), the regulations and recognition varies greatly. Mexico, for instance, generally recognizes ESAs and Luna and I flew on a Mexican airline from Puerta Vallarta to Cancun with a stopover in Mexico City with no problem at all. Other countries (like the U.K.) have very narrow definitions of service animals (even seizure dogs don’t count at the time of this writing), so you’ll need to get creative if traveling within the U.K. In every case, check with the airline you wish to travel with before you book your ticket.

Finally, a note: if your flight has multiple legs, check with the airline to make sure all legs are with that airline. Partner airlines may have different policies about carrying your ESA. For example, if you’re flying from Dallas to Amsterdam via Paris, make sure that the Paris – Amsterdam leg of the flight is operated by the original airline and not a partner. (You can do this by calling the airline directly before booking.)

What about people who abuse the system?

First, it’s important to note that there aren’t as many abusers as you probably think. The media likes to report sensational stuff, so it tends to focus on the handful of abuses and/or disasters. Additionally, the airlines are legally allowed to contact the person’s mental health professional and confirm that the letter is real, as well as to ban an animal from the flight if it is not behaving as a service animal should (biting, barking, jumping all over people, etc.). So don’t worry so much about system abusers. They exist in every system (how many people hang a handicapped parking tag in their window when they don’t need it?), but they’re fewer than we’ve been led to believe.

Does my ESA have to travel in a carrier?

No. It is my understanding that ESAs can exceed the weight limit for in-cabin pets and can be outside a carrier, sleeping at the feet of their owner, just as a guide dog might.

That said, out of a desire to keep the peace (and for Luna’s safety and security), I usually keep Luna inside her carrier for the whole flight.

From the Delta website: “A kennel is not required for emotional support animals if they are fully trained and meet same requirements as a service animal.”


Wait, is Luna a therapy dog or an ESA?

Luna is both. A Therapy Dog is an animal who has been trained to work in a therapy program (such a hospital program where the dogs visit sick kids or a reading program where the dogs work with kids with learning disabilities). An ESA, as discussed above, is a companion animal that helps an emotionally or mentally disabled person. These are different things, but not mutually exclusive. Since people often don’t understand the term ESA, I usually just tell them she’s a Therapy Dog, which is a term more people seem to grasp.

I’m worried that I’m going to get to the airport and have a problem with my letter. What should I do?

Like many people who need an ESA, I’ve got some massive anxiety. So, first, let me say: I hear you, sister/brother! Doing this for the first time can feel totally overwhelming.

If you’re feeling worried, here’s my advice: contact your airline and ask if you can email them a copy of your letter to confirm that it meets their requirements. When they email you back to confirm that it’s okay, print out that email and bring it to the airport with you. You’re unlikely to have a problem, but if you do, you can always pull out the email. For me, having that kind of documentation on me makes things feel much more manageable.

Can ESAs go into restaurants, shops, and other not-dog-friendly places?

As far as I know, this is up to the store proprietor. They are not legally obligated to allow you and your dog into shops, restaurants, etc., but I believe they can choose to allow you (with proper documentation – e.g. your letter) entry if they want. My best advice is to always ask nicely and have your letter on hand. I have personally been granted exceptions and allowed to bring Luna to not-pet-friendly hotels (when I got stuck overnight in New York and was making a panicked last-minute reservation) and the occasional coffee shop. I’ve also had no trouble with restaurants inside the airport terminals.

You say I need to follow each country’s specific animal-entry regulations…where can I find these?

The best thing to do is go straight to the source: the embassy website. Look for (or search for) Pet Import or Animal Import information. Here, you’ll find the regulations for bringing a dog into the country in question. Keep in mind that the regulations will vary based on what country you are coming from. For example, the regulations for coming from America to Switzerland will be very different than the regulations for coming from South Africa to Switzerland with your dog. The important rules for dogs are almost always the same for ESAs, service animals, and pets. So make sure you follow these rules to a T.

The other place you can get great information about traveling internationally with your dog is from a USDA-approved vet. You can contact the APHIS veterinary contact in your state to find out what vets are approved near you (and to ask them other questions about animal import/export).

Finally, a note: this is not nearly as daunting as it sounds. Many first-world countries make it fairly simple to bring your dog with you. Luna and I have flown many times from the U.S. to Europe (into Italy, Germany, etc.) and the process is very doable.

Are there any countries where I can’t take my ESA?

Since ESAs are required to follow all animal import and quarantine regulations, there are a few places in the world where they are either not allowed at all (Maldives) or will have to go into quarantine (Australia, New Zealand, etc.). Before you plan your travel, check with a USDA-approved vet (as noted above) or the embassy of the country you want to visit.


Who can write my ESA letter?

The requirement is that the person writing the letter be qualified to diagnose mental and emotional illnesses according to the manual listed above. Your doctor (be she a psychiatrist or a therapist) will need to be qualified and will need to list her qualifications on the letter. If you are not sure if your doctor/mental health professional qualifies, you should call and ask her/him.

Does my doctor need to approve my animal in person?

No. The doctor only needs to confirm (using the letter described above) that you have a disability and require your animal for travel and/or an activity at your destination. However, that doesn’t mean your animal can be untrained. Current law allows the airlines to deny transport if an ESA is behaving badly. ESAs should be trained to behave properly (like service animals) in public. Personally, I recommend therapy training (which has served Luna very well) and I’ve heard others praise Canine Good Citizen training.

Where can I find someone to diagnose me and/or write my letter?

If you are looking for a mental health professional, there are a variety of ways to find one in your area. I found my Denver-based therapist in the listings on Psychology Today’s website – so perhaps start there (I believe they have listings all over the US). Other good places to start would include local universities with psych programs and/or your family doctor.

Keep in mind that you must be in the ongoing care of a mental health professional to get an ESA letter (it’s not a one-time visit kind of thing), so if you find someone who is willing to just diagnose you and write a letter on the spot, run – that person is not legit.

Does my ESA need some sort of registration, a vest, and/or tags?

No. The only requirement for ESAs at the time of this writing is the letter from your mental health professional. If you would like to get a vest for other reasons (e.g. if you prefer people not pet your dog while he/she is working, etc.), you can. But you do not need to register or get any tags or vest in order for your dog to be considered an ESA.

Who do I need to tell about my ESA at the airport?

The only person who is likely to ask for your letter is the desk agent checking you in. You should let that person know that you are traveling with an ESA (some airlines will give you a special tag for the carrier if your dog is in a carrier and most will need to copy/document your letter). After that, you probably won’t need to talk about it with anyone else. In some rare exceptions, you may need to speak to the airline staff helping you board and/or with a flight attendant (if, for example, they accidentally seat you in an exit row, where you cannot have an animal for safety reasons and will, thus, need to be moved from).

How much information do I have to give about my disability?

The answer is almost none. You will need the letter stating that you have a disability, but you do not need to disclose what your disability is. When I get questions or confusion about my ESA, I usually explain ESAs in general rather than referring to my own struggles. I tell people “An ESA is an animal that supports someone with an invisible disability like PTSD or panic attacks.” Feel free to steal my exact words if it helps.


Will my ESA need to go through a special customs check?

This depends where you are traveling to, but I have found customs to be very manageable in all our travels.

In the U.K. (flying into Manchester), we were greeted at the gate by the animal import agency who checked Luna’s microchip, confirmed her paperwork, and then gave me a sheet of paper confirming she was okay to enter the country (which I presented when I went through the normal customs line).

In Mexico, there was a vet booth (with a clear sign) on the way to the main customs line. We had to stop there and let the vet check Luna’s paperwork and inspect her directly. He then okay-ed the paperwork and we went through the normal customs line.

In Italy and Germany, I went through customs normally, declared the dog, showed my paperwork (in Italy, they waved me away; in Germany, they took a quick peek), and entered the countries.

What if I get to the airport and have a problem?

If you have any trouble at the airpot, ask to speak to the Complaint Resolution Office (CRO). You can also call the Department of Transportation’s disability hotline at 800-778-4838 (or 800-455-9880 if you are deaf and require TTY). The Aviation Consumer Protection Division phone number is 202-366-2220 (or 202-366-0511 for TTY).

Have more questions about ESAs? Please feel free to drop them in the comments.

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erika June 28, 2013 - 5:07 am

Do you think you can travel with TWO esa dogs? (very little dogs).
And what about non USA citizens who mostly travel in Europe?

gigigriffis June 28, 2013 - 9:10 am

Excellent question. I haven’t been able to find any information about traveling with more than one ESA. I’d consider reaching out to a mental health professional or perhaps an ADA or legal expert on that one.

As for Europe: I can answer that!

Any US-based airline must comply and allow you to travel with your ESA in cabin at no extra charge. This means if you fly with Delta to Italy, American Airlines to Paris, etc. – the law still applies.

That said, two things to keep in mind: European airlines are not required to comply and if you are booking with an American airline, it’s always wise to make sure they are operating the flight. Sometimes partners operate the flight – and you should be okay even if that happens, but partner airlines sometimes aren’t as familiar with the policies. So it’s always a good idea to call before you book and ask about taking an ESA on the route.

Finally, Europe tends to be super dog friendly (WAY more than the US). So even if without the ESA designation, you’ll find that trains and housing, etc. tend to be super pet friendly. And you can always ask for an exception if you have your ESA paperwork. Even though Europe doesn’t recognize it in law, many people are willing to help you out (we’ve stayed in hotels that aren’t normally pet-friendly, reserved a sleeper cabin on a ferry that usually required dogs to ride on deck, and stayed in many rentals that aren’t normally dog-friendly – all because I politely asked for an exception.

Luanne November 28, 2016 - 12:09 am

Hi Gigi,
I haven’t been able to find definitive info regarding an owner to have two ESA pets in one home. Do you have any insight to this? I have been in touch with my therapist and they say this is not an issue and the email refers to updating my esa letter. However, I just wanted to reach out and hear your thoughts. Thanks!

gigigriffis November 28, 2016 - 9:40 am

Hi Luanne,

I’m sorry, but I haven’t ever run into info on having two ESAs. Perhaps call the DOT hotline? Even though they mostly handle airline questions, they may be able to speak to the two-ESA thing in general.

Agna January 6, 2017 - 10:32 am

I am scheduled to travel with two little dogs to Poland in February. The dog weight 5 lbs each. The Polish airlines approved both of them to be with me in the cabin. The only condition is that they must fit in one bag under the seat. I also know that the bags are not required for ESA, but for our own convenience we will have a bag.

Dano January 11, 2017 - 3:07 am

In your DOT information link, pg 24877 under Miscellaneous Questions:

About the Passenger Who Has Two or More Service Animals?

• A single passenger legitimately may have two or more service animals. In these circumstances, you should make every reasonable effort to accommodate them in the cabin in accordance with part 382 and company policies on seating.

gigigriffis January 11, 2017 - 3:30 am

Thank you!

Anne January 23, 2017 - 6:07 pm

Air France have informed me that the accept esas

Dave Cenker June 28, 2013 - 6:49 am

Although I didn’t need the specific information presented in this article, it is extremely beneficial in another way. When we get caught up in constantly reading words from blogs we follow, it is really nice to put a voice and personality to the words on paper ;-) Thank you for continuing to inspire with your exploratory and adventurous lifestyle! And the content of this post was very well articulated also :-) Have a great day!

gigigriffis June 28, 2013 - 9:11 am

Thanks! :)

samantha July 3, 2013 - 10:44 am

It is a very controversial supject writing about ESA’s when there is so much abuse of it by people who are not actually diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.
It is sad that people have to get back to such measures to be able to travel with their pooches but it definatly should not be abused to save money or be able to stay at prefered hotel.
Tough decisisions…..

gigigriffis July 3, 2013 - 10:59 am

I know! It’s so sad to me that it is a controversial subject. It’s too bad when people game the system, especially since these dogs really do serve an important role for those who do need them.

gigigriffis July 3, 2013 - 11:03 am

The good news is that the letter from a mental health professional is required to have contact information on it – so the airlines can check up as needed. I don’t know that as many people are gaming the system as people seem to think.

Sara December 20, 2013 - 7:48 pm

Actually, I think that is a HIPAA Privacy Act violation.

gigigriffis December 21, 2013 - 1:35 am

Hi Sara – When they check up on the letter, they’re only checking to make sure it’s legitimate, not asking medical questions of the doctor.

I could definitely be wrong, but it’s my understanding that HIPAA protects our privacy and means the doctor can’t share medical details. But he/she can confirm whether they actually wrote the letter.

mjb January 30, 2014 - 1:29 pm

airlines do not have the time or the manpower to be tracking down health professionals to verify that the paperwork presented is accurate, current, etc. The people who abuse this (in my opinion the majority) know this and travel with dirty, poorly behaved animals because they can and because as long as their needs are met to hell with the rest of the people.

gigigriffis January 30, 2014 - 1:33 pm

The airlines do spot checks (I know people who have had theirs checked) and any animal that is being aggressive or disruptive they are allowed to deny entry to. While, yes, there have been some sad abuses of the system and yes there are a couple colorful dogs-escaping-from-carriers anecdotes, the majority of traveling dogs (be they ESAs or simply traveling pets) travel inconspicuously and without causing trouble. These days, there are animals on almost every flight. And most airlines accept small dogs or cats who aren’t ESAs as well.

Amy July 27, 2014 - 11:02 pm

I have traveled with my (legitimate) ESA over 25 times in the last 2 years (I travel for work). I have had the customer service agent call and verify the letter. It happens quicker than one might think. I used to be a flight attendant before I experienced a traumatic incident and I was terrified to fly after leaving my flight attending job. Having my ESA has changed my life. Why is this important? After working in the airline industry and having lots of friends and family in the airline industry, I have realized it really is not abused as much as people may think. They are are pretty rare (At the most I saw one a month on manifest). There have been a few bad apples that have really made everyone skeptical.

Sarah November 24, 2019 - 3:24 pm

Hello there,
I would need to make my dog ESA but I am European. Is emotional support dog only an american thing or it can be processed in other parts of the world? Thank you so much in advance !

gigigriffis November 25, 2019 - 1:34 am

Hi Sarah!

ESAs are mostly a North American thing (US airlines recognize them and Mexican airlines also tend to), but I’ve noticed that a few airlines in Europe are starting to recognize them as well, including SAS, which I’ve now flown twice with Luna. ESAs are not protected for housing in Europe, but I have found it to be a lot easier to find dog-friendly housing in general here.

Kate July 8, 2013 - 1:15 pm

Thanks for including the info and suggestion that people train their ESA dogs (and other dogs). I have a well-trained little poodle who travels with me and my partner frequently. He is not a ESA. I completely understand the necessity of ESA’s but I get frustrated when I see horribly behaved ESA dogs (beyond normal doggyness), I start to wonder REALLY truly are ESA or just gaming the system. I get resentful because I choose to follow the rules and pay the money for my dog to travel with me.

gigigriffis July 8, 2013 - 1:24 pm

Hi Kate,

Yeah. I totally understand. I think it’s incredibly important for ESAs to be trained and it pains me when I see people traveling with animals that aren’t well behaved (in any context). I guess people don’t realize that it impacts all of us when they don’t train their animals (or small children – but that’s a topic for another day, yes? :)).

Brianna February 28, 2014 - 3:54 pm

I have a brother in law that is going thru a pretty intense divorce, he has a ESA for his depression, and anxiety from his divorce. I live in a apartment complex with a “no-pet policy” does the same laws still apply. He has been staying with me for a few months now. can the complex owners discriminate against us, and say he cant be there because of the dog??

gigigriffis March 1, 2014 - 1:20 am

Hi Brianna,

That’s a tough one. I’m not sure how the law impacts guests/long-term visitors on an existing lease with a non-disabled tenant. I would consider reaching out to a lawyer/expert (many will give a free quick consult and answer questions like this). I also found this online, which might be useful:

Cat August 12, 2013 - 8:25 pm

Can you tell me if the same dog and carrier size requirements are applied for ESA dogs in cabin flights? American says they are on their website but others don’t specify. I want to travel with an ESA who is slightly over the 20 pound max. Thanks

gigigriffis August 12, 2013 - 9:30 pm

Hey Cat,

I believe that ESAs are actually allowed to be outside their carrier technically, but I’m not 100% sure (I leave Luna inside her small Sleepypod Air carrier in flight). A licensed mental health professional (the person who could write the documentation for the animal) may have more information on this and the airline disability liaisons should also know (if you call, ask for the disability rep – they know all about the ESA regulations and allowances).

Sorry I couldn’t be more help on this one!

Traveling with an Emotional Support Animal (An Animal that Accompanies a Person with an Invisible Disability) - Pet Travel Experts October 2, 2013 - 9:15 am

[…] Here is Gigi’s post on traveling with an emotional support animal, followed by the companion “Emotional Support Animals: What Are they & What Kind of Paperwork Do you Need?” video: […]

Figgy November 16, 2013 - 4:50 pm

Wait, is Luna a “trained therapy dog” (My Story) or a documented emotional support animal who has been “trained” to be a well-behaved dog? If she hasn’t been trained to provide a service, the first is a misnomer.

gigigriffis November 17, 2013 - 2:11 am

Hi Figgy,

She was trained for therapy work when I lived in Denver, as I was planning on having her work with the Children’s Hospital program there. We don’t work in any programs at the moment, as we’re traveling, but she is still trained as a therapy animal. She is also a papered ESA (e.g. has the legal paperwork). They’re separate things, as you know, but not mutually exclusive. :)

On Emotional Support Animals & My Interview With the New York Times | the ramble November 18, 2013 - 4:22 am

[…] 2) ESAs are not, at this time, allowed in restaurants, grocery stores, etc. in the states. The only two special concessions made for them are for flights and housing. You can find more info here. […]

Michael M November 20, 2013 - 12:49 pm

Just an FYI: If you are traveling to Europe from the US, be certain that you get either a non-stop flight or one that has the same US carrier (e.g., AA or UA) for all legs. Foreign carriers (e.g., Lufthansa or even Air Canada) are legally obliged to take ESA’s when flying “in” and “out” of the U.S. However, if you are taking Lufthansa to Paris and need to change planes in Germany, say Frankfurt, Lufthansa will NOT recognize your ESA on that 2nd-leg inter-Europe flight and will most likely have to go “in the hold.” Just be mindful when making reservations/searching for frequent flyer tickets. Thanks…Michael

gigigriffis November 20, 2013 - 2:46 pm

Very excellent point. Thank you, Michael!

Mike G February 22, 2014 - 5:57 pm

I’m confused now….is ANY airline required to accept an in cabin ESA if it is on a non-stop out of the US?

gigigriffis February 23, 2014 - 1:36 am

Good question. My understanding (though you should double-check me) is that it’s US-based airlines who are bound by the law, though others (affiliates of the US airlines) may also abide by it. For any non-US airline, you’ll want to check.

Keely November 25, 2013 - 9:06 pm

Thank you so much for the information. I am flying from Phx-Phl tomorrow evening. I have a mini poodle who is about 14 lbs and we will be flying together for the first time. My primary physician wrote me a hand written note on an official prescription paper stating that I have anxiety and need an ESA as an accommodation for travel. She also stated that I am under her care and listed her license number. The prescription paper includes the doctors name, phone number, etc. Earlier this month I called my airlines to double check this documentation (along with my dog’s certification and ID card) would be sufficient. They told me this would be fine.
As I said I fly tomorrow for the first time, (first time flying with an animal and first time having an ESA) and have been doing extra research. Do you think what I have will be ok? I can’t get ahold of any one through the airlines and worried I should have urged my doctor specifically write “The passenger has a mental health related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – 4th Edition on letterhead. ”
Thanks, Keely

gigigriffis November 26, 2013 - 3:35 am

Hi Keely!

If the airline said it would be fine, you should be okay. If you can, maybe call the airline back this morning and ask them to send you an email that confirms that your paperwork will be okay. Then you can print that out and bring it with you (it’s always nice to have confirmation).


Meet the Nomads - Gigi Griffis of December 15, 2013 - 1:31 am

[…] also in her blog where I learned about ESA (Emotional Support Animals) as she’s traveling with one. Click on the link to know more about […]

Heidi January 16, 2014 - 12:29 pm

Hi. i was wondering if you knew if ESA’s can be restricted from going into places such as maybe a friend or family members apartment that does not allow such animal? or other businesses?

thank you for your info above

gigigriffis January 16, 2014 - 1:02 pm

Hi Heidi,

Sadly, the only two protections are for planes and your own housing, so technically they cannot go to restaurants, businesses, etc. unless they are dog-friendly. That said, I have found that very, very often people are willing to make exceptions if you are honest and up front.

One example: I was flying into New York unexpectedly and trying to book a hotel. The hotels I’d found were not dog-friendly, but I called anyway, explained that Luna was an ESA, told them what an ESA was, told them that they were under no obligation to make the exception, and asked if they would make the exception anyway. The hotel said yes, as long as I had my paperwork on me they would make an exception. I find it also really helps if you can tell them that the dog has also been trained for therapy work or as a canine good citizen.

Lin Hadley January 17, 2014 - 9:19 am

Hi! Thanks so much for all the info. I have an ESA and recently went to the UK with her. I had to do much research to find out what would be required and the anticipation of what I may not know was painful and expensive. Fortunately, everything went smoothly. Now she also has a EU Passport. My question is – Every country has different policies regarding transporting an in-cabin animal for arrival in their country. I had to have UK write a letter to the airline giving them permission to transport my animal in the cabin and a person from ARC had to come to the gate to meet us for inspection and customs clearance. Is there a website that has this type of information for all countries? I want to go to Italy and then drive through France and Spain thus departing from a different country.

gigigriffis January 17, 2014 - 9:45 am

Hi Lin,

I don’t know of any website that has a list like that (though check out – she just wrote a book and perhaps it has this info in it – you can ask her).

The good news is the the UK is the trickiest of the European countries and (I believe) the only one that doesn’t allow in-cabin dogs (which is why the ESA process is a complicated one). Other European countries leave it up to specific airlines, so you don’t need special permission (except, of course, the normal paperwork). Luna and I have flown into Italy (Milano) with no problem and also out of Spain (Barcelona) with no problem. In both cases, it was on Delta Airlines, who have been great about the ESA thing without fail. And in both cases all we had to do is have her paperwork (both the ESA letter and the Eu entry paperwork) and let Delta know there would be an ESA with me.

Here’s the skinny on my Italy process, which is pretty much the same across all the western European countries:

Flying back to the US from Spain (and anywhere else in Europe) was super super easy. All I needed was Luna’s ESA letter and her rabies certificate.

Hope that helps!

Penny Billington March 10, 2014 - 7:32 pm

We have been refused entry into the UK with an ESA. Can you tell me where you flew into and with which airline?

gigigriffis March 11, 2014 - 1:59 am

Oh dear! We flew Delta into Manchester the first time and took a ferry from mainland Europe the second time. You can find info about all the paperwork and such (I’m guessing you have that, but just in case) here:

Penny Billington March 10, 2014 - 7:35 pm

Please excuse me, I was referring to Lin saying she had managed to travel to the UK with an ESA!

Chad March 17, 2014 - 1:55 pm

I have never taken advantage of the ESA tag, but I sure have given it a lot of thought. I have a 14 lb shih tzu who is extremely well behaved. Her problem is she hates being locked in a carrier…almost like claustrophobic. The last time we flew we paid the $125 each way on Delta, which I have no problem paying so I’m not interested in doing this to save money. We had her walking around the airport (against the rules I know!) and she’s completely fine. We got her in the carrier and got her on the plane then wouldn’t stop scratching at the bag and was freaking out…not making noise, but since she’s basically our child, we took her out of the carrier and she didn’t move the rest of the flight. Long story short, she is easier to fly with than a human child and makes no noise but just needs to be in our lap. I wish there was the ability to fly with her in our lap and still the pay the money because I would do that in a heartbeat. The nightmare on the way back was that we literally couldn’t even get her in the carrier outside the gate and felt like we were abusing her so we walked with her on the plane and she never went back in the carrier…nobody on Delta ever said anything. It was very stressful. I know people will say you just have a dog that can’t fly, but she had the ESA tag she would be a perfect flyer…I just wish I didn’t have to decide make a choice against my morals for people who actually need ESAs. Does anybody else ever have the issue and have any solutions? We tried light sedatives but they didn’t do anything…? Once again, I don’t want to break the rules nor escape paying the fee, I just want to be able to bring our dog to visit family across country.

gigigriffis March 17, 2014 - 3:51 pm

I definitely encourage you not to take advantage of the ESA designation unless you truly need your dog.

That said, a few thoughts about getting the dog used to a carrier:

For Luna, I put the carrier in the house for about six months before I ever took her anywhere. I got her used to the smell. I encouraged her to go inside with treats, by putting items of my clothing inside, by putting toys inside. And it became her safe space, somewhere she could go to get away from the bustle of the house.

You could also ask your vet about light sedatives. And it helps if the dog can smell you, so put a sock or a t-shirt into the carrier with her while she travels.

Hope that helps!

denise March 19, 2014 - 8:36 pm

Hi. Gigi. I, too have an esa and she is a seven pound yorkiepoo. I do not try to take her in restaurants, etc., but I do suffer from anxiety and she helps tremendously. I was wondering if we still have to have health certificates for the dog if we ever go to Mexico or Puerto Rico. I wish Hawaii wasn’t such a pain. We used to live there and would love to visit, but it is too difficult to bring her there. Thanks!

gigigriffis March 20, 2014 - 12:21 am

Hi Denise – Yes, all the health/quarantine/etc. requirements still apply. For Mexico, our paperwork was super easy, though, and I’m guessing Puerto Rico is also really simple.

Hawaii actually has a five-day-or-less quarantine program. It’s still pretty complicated, but if you want to take the dog, you can and if you follow instructions to a T you can be out in one day (or so I’ve heard).

Denise (Dogsmama) March 20, 2014 - 10:23 am

Thanks, Gigi. Yes, I know about the Hawaii requirement, but if your plane is late for some reason and you don’t arrive on time, you cannot get your dog that day and then, of course, they charge you to keep the dog overnight and I wouldn’t want to chance it. I know Puerto Rico is much easier and so I was thinking about going there instead.
One more question if you don’t mind: I am a tad confused if the emotional support letter can be from a medical doctor. Some places say that it has to be a licensed mental health professional and I was just on Southwest Airline’s site and it said it could be from a mental health professional or a medical doctor, but not all airlines state either/or. Thanks so much!

gigigriffis March 20, 2014 - 10:45 am

My understanding is that it has to be someone who is qualified to diagnose mental/emotional disabilities (the letter should actually say “I am qualified to diagnose…” I believe). I think medical doctors would generally fall into this category (at least a general practitioner should, yes?), but I’m not 100% sure.

According to one website (, “To be diagnosed with a mental illness, a person must be evaluated by a qualified professional who has expertise in mental health. Mental health professionals include psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, and mental health counselors. Family doctors, internists, and pediatricians are usually qualified to diagnose common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, and ADHD.”

Hope that helps.

denise March 21, 2014 - 9:33 pm

Thanks! U r so nice! A refreshing personality!

Pekk March 24, 2014 - 9:55 pm


Thanks for your informative post. I have a few questions:

– how the person, who has an ESA, can move in the plane? Or does he/she need to be next to the ESA all the time. I think this is very important, as people need to move their legs, use toilets etc. to avoid problems. Especially during the long flights.
– is it okay to give medicine for the ESA to relax it during the fligths?

gigigriffis March 25, 2014 - 3:32 am

Good questions.

As for your first question, I don’t know the legal answer, but I would recommend always having your animal under your control. For me, I leave Luna in her carrier during the flight. She feels safer and I don’t need her out in flight. This also means I can go to the bathroom and simply leave her carrier under the seat. If you need to have your animal out of its carrier during flight, it should be under your control or someone you are with’s control.

As for medication, that’s really between you and your vet. My vet recommends not medicating animals in flight unless absolutely necessary, but if your animal needs a sedative, I don’t think being an ESA/not being an ESA really matters in the scheme of things.

Dominique April 4, 2014 - 12:46 pm

What about Jamaica? They don’t accept dogs from anywhere except the UK. Will they accept ESA dogs? Thank you.

gigigriffis April 5, 2014 - 4:43 am

Hi Dominique,

For ESAs, all the normal dog paperwork/quarantines/rules/etc. usually apply for any country you’re visiting. It looks like for Jamaica, the UK rule applies to all animals, including ESAs and service dogs. If you are moving to Jamaica, perhaps look into whether you can import your dog to the UK and then export from there to Jamaica.

Christina April 22, 2014 - 12:49 pm

I have a question regarding emotional support animals. Does the doctor have to approve of the animal before it can be considered a support animal? My friend has lupus and she went out and bought a dog. It has no training can a doctor still consider this animal an “emotional support” animal?

gigigriffis April 22, 2014 - 12:55 pm

Currently, the doctor does not need to approve the specific animal, nor does the animal need any special training (though airlines can deny you entry with an ESA if it is being threatening or overly disruptive, I believe, and though I do strongly encourage everyone to train their ESAs). However, I have heard from a reliable source that the rules will be changing in the near future and animals will be required to have a certain level of training before you can get your ESA letter. I’m not sure when this is happening, but the best idea is to start training (Canine Good Citizen training or Therapy training should probably do it) now.

Christina April 22, 2014 - 1:15 pm

Thank you! That was very helpful!

Elle April 25, 2014 - 10:42 am

Hi! I live in Austin, Tx and I am having a really hard time finding someone to diagnose me. They don’t think it’s a real issue when I call around!! I am willing to drive to Dallas or Houston to see someone about this. Do you know of anyone in Texas that I can see about this?

gigigriffis April 27, 2014 - 2:28 am

Hi Elle,

Are you just having trouble finding a mental health professional? I’m sure there are some great professionals in Austin. I found my Denver-based therapist in the listings on Psychology Today’s website – so perhaps start there (I believe they have listings all over the US).

Keep in mind that you must be in the ongoing care of a mental health professional to get an ESA letter (it’s not a one-time visit kind of thing), so if you find someone who is willing to just diagnose you and write a letter on the spot, run – that person is not legit.

I don’t know if that helps – but feel free to email me about your specific situation if that answer doesn’t really get at what you were asking.

Leslie May 21, 2014 - 2:19 pm

I am new to ESAs and I have a few questions.

My family was in the EF5 tornado on May 20, 2013 in Moore, OK. I have two small children. One that just turned 4 on 5/20/2014 and a 2 year old. My 4 year old meets the critera for an ESA as she struggles now with anxiety and panic attacks. I have just received a written letter from her peditritian stating that she is a good candidate for an ESA. We already have a dog that my mother has been taking care of because we live in a no pets apartment. My complex accepted the letter and said we are now allowed to have our dog.

My question is that I have seen so many websites about registering the ESAs but I really don’t know anything about it. Do I need to register him? Or get him a vest and tags? I would just like to make sure all of my basis are covered.


gigigriffis May 21, 2014 - 11:23 pm

Hi Leslie,

First, I’m so sorry that your four-year-old has been struggling and I’m so glad that you were able to get the letter so that she can have an ESA! T

The good news is that you don’t need to do anything else at all. If you already have the letter and have already cleared it with your apartment complex, you can just get the dog and bring her/him home. No vest, tags, or registration is needed at this time.

If and when you want to fly with the dog, you’ll just need to dig out that letter again (which is good for one year, after which you should get your doctor to write and sign an updated letter).

Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions at all.

E in Austin May 23, 2014 - 3:51 pm

Hi Gigi, Just to address the people who asked the question(s) here about having an ESA in a pet carrier: It is definitely not required, not the least of which is because any dog can be an ESA. I have even heard from a flight attendant of an emotional support duck and a miniature horse (these are surprisingly common, though I have not yet seen one in action).

I am actually on a plane right now this very minute (ah, gogoinflight on American). My dog and I fly constantly and she just walks on the plane with me and curls up at my feet, under the seat in front of me (we always get 9F). Often the gate agent or person who checks you in will assume you would like the bulkhead, but for my dog and me (she is a 38 lb Corgi mix) she likes to stretch out in her “dog cave” under the seat in front of us and go into a meditative state. The occupant of the seat in front of us never even knows she is there.

We have had wonderful luck traveling together on American Airlines (and others as well, but mostly American) all over the USA for the past year and a half since we/I got an ESA prescription. No one has ever, ever given us trouble. If anything, flight attendants, airline staff, and fellow travelers are so much nicer than they were before it is mind-boggling, and begs the question of just who needs–and through this wonderful circumstance is receiving–emotional support these days.

I would encourage people to Google their concerns–especially Elle, above–so many of these heartfelt questions to you in this blog can also be addressed through old-fashioned digital sleuthing. Good luck, and thanks, Gigi, for a great blog.

gigigriffis May 24, 2014 - 1:46 am

Thanks for the info! I thought they could be out, but since I leave Luna in her carrier (she prefers it), I wasn’t 100% sure.

Jen June 24, 2014 - 4:59 pm

hello! I have a question. Recently my therapist told me that she thinks I would benefit from having an ESA and I am new to this completely. I have a dog that is really well trained but my big question is, I know you said your ESA was papered, but how do you get your animal as a papered ESA?

I ask because there is so much information about registering them online but then a lot about these being frauds too. I really want to know is there a safe place to register ,if I want him papered, or is there not? I am really nervous about these places now.

Thank you!

gigigriffis June 24, 2014 - 9:59 pm

Hi Jen,

When I say “papered” I simply mean Luna has the letter mentioned in this post. For years, that’s all you needed (registration was a totally unnecessary extra). That said, airlines are in the process of changing their regulations, so now there may be a registration requirement. You should check with any airlines/housing you’re planning on using and see what their requirements are.

Joan Farrell July 4, 2014 - 11:18 am

Does an ESA have a right with zoning? Pigs are great non-allergenic and smart….however, they are still zoned as livestock in many areas, even though the mini pigs are usually under 65lbs.
They are smarter than dogs, cats, and a lot of people, and are cleaner and potty trained.
We were thinking of getting one since my son has depression and substance abuse issues and it would be a great rehab tool for him….
We own a home that is not in an HOA, and I am sure we would not fly with it…just don’t want to ever have it taken away. Please advise…I can’t get any info anywhere with animal control, zoning or health dept.

gigigriffis July 4, 2014 - 2:18 pm

Hi Joan,

I’m so sorry, but I don’t know anything about whether pigs qualify or how zoning might affect a pig if it does qualify. You should contact a registration company; they may know.

Annie July 17, 2014 - 8:28 pm

Thanks for this info. I’m flying next week with my ESA for the first time. She is just a puppy (4 months old) and going thru training. Along with my own anxiety I have new anxiety for her on the flight. I already have a fear that my legitimate doctors note will be questioned. Worst case scenario is I pAy the fee? (That’s what I am hoping is the worst case scenario) She doesn’t like her carrier at all. She is very reserved in crowds and would rather hide under a chair or be in my lap in such situations. Because this is her first time in the airport I am not positive on how she will respond. She may want to stay in her carrier because it is safe, or she might want to be out and be near me/on my lap. I’ve read that dogs are allowed out of their crate in the plane, but is that true for the terminal? Also, do I need to explain to anyone other than the ticket booth that she is esa? Goodness, I would hate to verbally announce I have physiological issue to strangers, but I also hate being yelled at or verbally confronted to “put your dog in her carrier”. Is there a rule book of sorts on what esa dogs are allowed to do? Anything information to help me plan will better help my condition.

gigigriffis July 18, 2014 - 2:17 am

I totally understand. I had all sorts of anxiety about getting Luna safely onto the plane!

Don’t worry too much. In my experience, everyone at the airlines is very kind and the process is very smooth.

That said, I just heard that the ESA rules are changing with a few of the airlines, so give your airline a call (ask for the disability liaison – that person will know the updated rules) and ask them if the letter is still sufficient or if they need anything else. My friend with an ESA who has been doing more traveling lately (I haven’t flown in about eight months) said some of the airlines are now requiring that you register your ESA and bring the registration papers. So you’ll want to check on that before you go.

Last time I checked, you could have your ESA outside the carrier and on your lap on the plane, provided that she isn’t misbehaving (trying to bite people or something). (Though, if you are going to do this, consider asking the people beside you if they are afraid or have allergies before you sit down; that way if anyone has a problem, you can switch seats before you’re all settled in).

The airport rules probably vary a little from airport to airport, but I’ve never had a problem when I’ve taken her out to sit in my lap. Just sit off to the side, maybe, and if anyone does approach you from the airport/airline, quietly explain that it is a service animal. You shouldn’t have to show your paperwork again or anything and they probably won’t even bother you about it unless your dog is being loud or bothering other people.

In all my flights with Luna, I’ve never had anyone yell at me about her and I’ve had very few people ask at all. Usually, I walk up to the main counter, tell that person that I have her, show my paperwork, get a tag for the carrier (there’s usually a special ESA tag they put on, at least with Delta and a few others I’ve flown, which should alert any airline employees who see you in the airport – that way they won’t bother you about it), and go.

Finally, if she doesn’t like her carrier and you plan on traveling with her from time to time, it’s a good idea to try and get her to like it. What I did with Luna was put the carrier on the ground open at all time in the house and put treats and blankets and toys and good things in it. She could come in and go out as she pleased, but she came to associate the carrier with good things, rather than confinement or trips to the vet or whatever. I know you only have a week till this trip, but maybe that’ll help for future trips. :)

Hope that’s helpful!

If you have the letter (and any other required paperwork) you really should be fine. As an extra precaution, I usually print out the airline’s requirements (which are listed online) for ESAs and bring them with me. And if you do have any trouble at the airport, ask to speak to the disability liaison. (I know that feels weird, but they are the ones who know the ESA rules inside and out.)

Annie July 18, 2014 - 7:52 am

Thank you! I am flying delta and have called. The superviser said the letter is fine and I took a screen shot on my phone from their website that states the same. ((I’ve even gone to the airport once with my puppy in the carrier for her to get used to the smells and people)). Once she’s in her carrier she is fine. It’s just getting her to stay in it long enough to zip it.

Your tips and advice are very helpful.

Amanda July 17, 2014 - 9:37 pm

I was wondering how the ESA worked with apartments. My boyfriend is an Iraqi war veteran and could easily get the letter from the VA from a licensed therapist. The apartment complex does allow animals but under 25 lbs. We live in Florida, are there any breed restrictions? We have a pit pull which will be living at my dads until we can figure all of this out. We have had her since 5 weeks old and will soon be 3. She is sobloving and the sweetest big baby. Also if they have a weight restriction would this apply with an ESA? Thanks for your information!

gigigriffis July 18, 2014 - 12:31 am

The weight restriction shouldn’t matter (even if they didn’t allow dogs at all, the letter should get you in), but you can double check with either an ESA registry service (you don’t have to register to get the letter, but they should have info and be able to answer questions, I believe).

I am not sure about the breed restriction thing, so that’s another one you’ll want to check on. Sorry I’m not more help on that.

Jodi July 21, 2014 - 11:28 am

I am traveling (moving for a work relocation) to Colombia from the US next week. I have all of my documentation from my doctor and have already called the airlines to be sure my ESA is approved. They’ve input the information into my ticket and said that if I arrive with the letter and my dog’s vet records, I should be fine.

I lived in Costa Rica for two years and got my dog there. I traveled back to the US with her but this was before I had been able to get my ESA letter from my doctor. When we traveled from Costa Rica, she flew in cargo as a regular pet and had to go through a complicated customs check where I had to pay a broker to take her through the process.

Here are my questions:
1) If my dog is traveling this time as my ESA with all the proper documentation, will she need to go through a special animal/cargo customs or will she be able to go through regular customs with me?
2) My dog is up to date on all of her vaccinations including rabies. Will the records I have now suffice, or should I get them stamped by the USDA in my state as if she were going through regular pet customs?
3) Have you had any problems with the documents being in English only or do you have the documents translated into the language of the country you’re traveling to?

Any insight would be wonderful!


gigigriffis July 22, 2014 - 3:21 am

Hi Jodi,

Will try my best to answer (though keep in mind that I haven’t been to Columbia, myself, so you should double check what I say against their requirements):

1) This will depend on Columbia’s requirements. Since she’s traveling in cabin with you, I assume you’ll take her through regular customs…but you should check with the Columbian embassy or your vet. In Mexico, there was a special animal area I had to take Luna through (and then we went through regular customs). In Italy, I went through regular customs with her. It seems to vary by country.

2 + 3) For ESAs, the paperwork requirements are the same as normal pets. So you’ll have to complete the paperwork required by Columbia (I haven’t been there myself, but I assume the paperwork is in Spanish and English?), get it stamped by the USDA if required, etc. A USDA-approved vet and/or the Columbian embassy website should probably have the info you need.

Hope that helps!

Laz August 4, 2014 - 9:13 am

I just finished getting all my ESA stuff set for a trip I’m taking in a couple of weeks but then came across your website. I’m flying domestically within the US on Delta and US Air. However, I only have one letter so I’m now really scared by your note saying that Delta now requires two letters?? Is that just for international travel? What is the second letter supposed to be? When I looked on the Delta website, I only saw the one letter.


gigigriffis August 4, 2014 - 9:44 am

Hi Laz!

I was informed recently by a friend that Delta is now requiring a second letter (she also said they haven’t updated their website yet – and I believe she has complained to them about that, but you should as well if you find out they need two). I haven’t flown since hearing about it, so I’m not totally filled in on the details (she said it was a letter confirming that the dog is registered as an ESA – but I honestly don’t know what they are requiring as far as that goes). My recommendation is calling Delta’s disability hotline (you can find the number online) and talking to a rep there. If they say you only need one, ask the rep to email that you and then print the email and bring it with you to the airport (just in case). If they say you need two, they should be able to give you details about what other documentation you need.

Laz August 4, 2014 - 1:12 pm

Great, thanks so much!! I’ll do that and will let you know what I find out!!

Roger August 9, 2014 - 10:06 am

I really went to pieces when my wife of 48 years died five months ago in very traumatic circumstances, putting a sudden end to our dream of living in France. Since then I have been alone in France but for the comfort and company of my Labrador dog.

The children and grandchildren want me back in Canada. And I am trying to get there, but I can not face an eight hour flight without my dog to comfort me.

I have a licensed psychotherapist who treats me twice a week for PTSD and he has written the required letter in French and English stating that the constant presence of the dog is essential to my mental health. Which is very very true.

But I might as well have offered Air Canada a piece of used toilet tissue. Their medical desk could not have been less sympathetic and more unhelpful. It stopped just short of sadistic nastiness.

Other airlines say on their web sites that they will accept ESA animals, until you call to try and make the booking. Then you find that they do so only if he travels in a cage in the hold.

The solution is to fly via the good old USA. But that is an additional stress I am not sure I can take.

You mentioned taking your dog into a cabin on a ferry over here. Do you mind saying which company that was?

gigigriffis August 9, 2014 - 10:24 am

I’m so sorry for your loss.

I’m happy to share the name of the ferry company: It was P&O Ferries. They operate between the UK and mainland Europe mostly, I believe. The reason I didn’t share their name before is that they seemed to be in flux with their policies, so I didn’t want to say definitively that they would allow ESAs. If you do take their ferry any point, make sure to call before you book and speak to someone. Get them to email you confirmation that you can bring the dog so that you have it when you arrive (in my experience, the people operating the ferry don’t always know what the person on the phone has promised).

There is also a cruise that allows dogs between the UK and the US. Here is info from another blogger:

Unfortunately, the Canadian government hasn’t recognized ESAs the way the US has. One person with tons of experience, though, who I am sure would be happy to hear from you with any questions would be Sonja at She is Canadian and travels with her ESA a lot.

I hope that’s helpful and I’m so sorry you’re having trouble. I wish all the airlines would recognize ESAs and do so properly.

If you need anything else, please feel free to contact me.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Traveling With a Dog | The Ramble August 22, 2014 - 1:31 am

[…] the health of their owners and, in the US, they are given a couple special benefits. You can find out about the benefits and requirements here. And you can read two ESA owner stories […]

Jen September 12, 2014 - 1:06 pm

Great post! Does the ESA letter have to come from a psychologist specifically or can a regular doctor and/or physicians assistant write the letter?


gigigriffis September 12, 2014 - 2:38 pm

The letter must be written by someone who is qualified to diagnose mental health disabilities (according to the the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – 4th Edition). I assume this could include a physician, but you should double-check with the specific doctor you want to have write the letter. The other relevant requirement is that the doctor must state you are under their ongoing care – so it needs to be someone you are seeing regularly/under the care of.

Hope that helps!

Jen September 12, 2014 - 6:14 pm

Yes it does! Thanks so much

Catherine September 19, 2014 - 12:52 pm

I have a paper from my doctor stating that I have to have my dog with me. I also got a paper from online stating that she is a support dog with her picture. I’m actually trying to get an apartment but the lady said I have to get paperwork from the vet stating she is a support dog… I have never heard of this. I just knew about the doctor paperwork. She is also a pitbull and they said they have breed restrictions. I am afraid that I won’t be able to take her even though I have paperwork. The lady said that this was her first time having this so she was trying to look up what to do… I’m going to the vet later today but I don’t know what to do to help…

gigigriffis September 19, 2014 - 1:24 pm

Hi Catherine!

You do not need anything from the vet. I’m sure the woman is just having trouble since it’s her first time figuring all this out. What I would do is print out the ESA requirements (the disability rights organization in your state should have this info; it is the same from state to state, and here’s California’s: You can see that they say ESAs are protected under the same housing laws).

The only thing the landlord can require is proof of your disability. The letter from your doctor is this proof.

Hope that link helps. If you have trouble with it, try googling “disability rights [add your state here].” Even if there isn’t info on the website for your state, the disability rights organization should be able to help you out.

Atticus September 25, 2014 - 10:16 am

Hey there. I recently received my ESA letter of prescription but I have a few questions and I wonder if you can help. My dog, Huxley, is an American Pit Bull Terrier, a wonderful dog and an all-around goofball.

Some housing places do not allow dogs or, if they do, they don’t allow pit bulls. As my ESA, is Huxley exempt from the breed ban? I know that I can’t take her into cities where her breed is totally banned (like in Miami or Denver, where they will kill her if I can’t move he out quickly enough), but what about in an apartment complex with its own regulations? I’m not planning on flying into other countries any time soon, but if I were to do this, would other countries admit her for a temporary stay as an ESA, regardless of her breed?

Also, I’m a trans guy and my preferred name has not been made legal yet. My therapist wrote the letter with my not-yet-legal but preferred name. Do I need one with the name which matches my license? Part of Huxley’s job is dealing with the terrible stress that comes from dealing with my life before my transition started–including the use of the name my parents gave me.

gigigriffis September 25, 2014 - 10:22 am

Hi Atticus!

To answer your name question: your paperwork needs to match your ID (though perhaps your mental health professional could write your current legal name in parentheses after your preferred name if you prefer – I don’t think anyone could object to that).

For breed restrictions, I’m not 100% sure. I think the best thing to do would be to contact the DOT hotline and ask them. If they don’t know, they should be able to direct you to someone who does. Their number is 800-778-4838.

Daniel Denver October 20, 2014 - 11:13 pm

Thank you for all of the excellent information! I live in Denver and I am looking for a mental health professional that has insight on ESA animals due to a condition that I am under the care of a specialist for. Is there anyway you can give me the name and information for your therapist? It would be much appreciated if you could reply via email. Thank you so much!

gigigriffis October 21, 2014 - 1:26 am

Emailing you now.

Megan October 30, 2014 - 11:27 am

Hi, I’m looking into ESA’s, as i am currently seeing on ongoing psychologist for medication for my Depression and Panic disorder, and I was wondering a few things. Do I ask her on my next appointment if I am able to have an ESA? Does she go through the whole process and do I have to pay anything? or what other steps do I need to take?

Secondly, can it be only dogs? I have a love for many many different animals, such as dogs, cats, guinea pigs (lol may sound silly) and I was just wondering if they all could be an ESA?

Finally, do you have to have a pet initially before you can go about with an ESA? or can you get it after you get the process started? I live in a non pet friendly apartment, which obviously means that I cannot have a pet.

Thanks for the helpful information!

gigigriffis October 31, 2014 - 2:53 am

Hi Megan,

Yes, you can ask her on your next appointment. My therapist included writing the letter as part of her time from our sessions (so I paid for the time, of course, but no additional payment for the letter), but I’m not sure if every professional handles it the same way (some may charge an administrative fee? Not sure. You can ask her about it). The only step is getting the letter from your psychologist and then, if you are traveling, contacting the airline to let them know you will be bringing an ESA, or if you are in housing that isn’t normally pet friendly, contacting your landlord/management company to provide them with a copy of the letter.

Dogs and cats are both protected under the ESA laws. Other animals can be ESAs, but have less protections (for example, an airline can choose not to carry an ESA that is a type of animal other than dog or cat).

gigigriffis October 31, 2014 - 2:55 am

Oh, and yes – you should be able to get your letter, bring a copy of said letter to your apartment and let them know you’ll be getting an ESA, and then get the animal.

cindy November 7, 2014 - 3:02 am

do you know what other animals can become ESA? i was hopping to adopt a cat or a ferret as my ESA

gigigriffis November 7, 2014 - 3:22 am

Several different kinds of animals can be ESAs, but the only two protected by the law are dogs and cats. So if you’re debating between cat and ferret and you know you’ll need to travel/find housing, I’d recommend going with a cat. The same airline and housing rules discussed in this post apply to cats.

Bessie November 20, 2014 - 7:02 pm

I’m a bit confused…so with an ESA are they allowed to stay at any hotel or only hotels that allow pets?


gigigriffis November 21, 2014 - 1:31 am

The ESA housing benefits don’t extend to hotels as far as I know. But I’ve had good luck asking hotels for exceptions (but it’s up to the hotel – they are not legally obligated to take the ESA).

Jeannette December 5, 2014 - 9:03 am

Hi Lin Hadley,
which airport did you fly into when visiting the UK. Also, can you please share detailed info on the process you followed please? I suffer panic attacks and have a ESM and just the thought of something going wrong gets me even more anxious…. You mentioned that you had to have UK write a letter to the airline giving them permission to transport your animal in the cabin and a person from ARC had to come to the gate to meet you for inspection and customs clearance. Who did you write to? what info did you send? I’d appreciate every single detailed you can share.

gigigriffis December 5, 2014 - 9:24 am

Hi Jeannette,

I’m not sure about Lin’s experience, but I’ve taken Luna into the UK a couple times now. Here’s the breakdown of our first experience step-by-step: You’ll find links into the UK official regulations in that blog post, so you can double check everything.

To answer your questions: we flew into Manchester (there’s a list of approved airports that you can get from DEFRA – the UK authority responsible for pet imports), which means that a company called Pets on Jets wrote our approval letter to board the airplane. The approval company varies by airport, so you’ll want to choose an approved airport and contact the appropriate authority (again, you can find all that on the DEFRA website:

DEFRA’s pet scheme hotline number and email are:


Pet Travel Scheme helpline
0370 241 1710

Hope that helps!

Jeannette December 5, 2014 - 9:08 am

Hi Penny Billington
what was the reason for them to decline your entry?
What airport did you fly into?
what did you do ? :(

thanks Gigi, for this amazing web site by the way!

gigigriffis December 5, 2014 - 9:29 am

Hi again, Jeannette,

Per emails with Penny after her comment, she and her ESA made it to the UK okay. I believe it was just some pre-trip confusion on the part of the airport she was trying to fly into. If you follow the DEFRA scheme, you should be just fine. :) And please feel free to contact me if you are feeling overwhelmed or have questions. Always happy to try and point people in the right direction. I remember how stressful it was the first time Luna and I flew into the UK.



Jeannette February 16, 2015 - 10:55 am

thanks so much Gigi!, your advise is extremely appreciated!!!! :)

gigigriffis February 16, 2015 - 1:54 pm

No problem.

Lee January 5, 2015 - 8:44 pm

Great overview on traveling with ESAs. I have traveled with my ESA several times on Southwest Airlines. I only recently encountered issues that made my travels more difficult and stressful where I may consider other options going forward. At Houston Hobby airport – a police officer threatened to issue a $250 citation for my ESA not being in a kennel/crate in the terminal. He stated the airport is a public place where they can choose not to allow pets and ESAs. Have you heard of any ordinance/law that addresses this – is this a way for airlines and airports to circumvent the Air Carrier Access Act?

gigigriffis January 6, 2015 - 2:28 am

Hmm, that’s interesting and it’s one I’ve never encountered. It seems strange that you would be able to have an ESA out with you on a flight but not in the airport…I don’t think it could be right, but you should call the DOT hotline (in the Q&A on this post) and ask.

Alyssa January 15, 2015 - 4:48 am

I have already been diagnosed by my psychiatrist with multiple mental disorders. I know I qualify but my question is, how do I bring wanting to make my dog and cat ESA pets? Are cats allowed to be ESA? I am not sure how to ask my doctor something like that. I freak out in public without one of my pets with me and I really need them with me. How exactly should I request something like this?

gigigriffis January 15, 2015 - 5:05 am

You can just bring it up with your doctor and see if he/she already knows about it or needs to do some research. And yes, cats can also be ESAs.

Also, keep in mind that ESAs are only protected for air travel and housing. Unfortunately, you still won’t be able to take them into other pet-free public spaces in the US.

Liv February 16, 2015 - 1:44 pm

Hello! I’m planning a trip from California to Scandinavia with my ESA (a 75-lb lab mix) this summer. We haven’t flown together before so I plan to take her on a shorter flight (under two hours) to help her prepare. My question is in booking an international flight, is it better to choose a nonstop (only one airline and crew, less total travel time) or multiple legs (more opportunities for my large dog to stretch and use the bathroom). We could take an overnight nonstop that would last about 10.5 hours, which isn’t too long for her on the ground but I’m really not sure what to expect when traveling. Any recommendations or insight would be much appreciated! Thank you! – Liv

gigigriffis February 16, 2015 - 1:54 pm

Hi Liv!

For Luna, I try to keep each flight under 8 hours (also keeping in mind she’ll have to hold it when we’re in the airport on both ends of the flight, which is at least another couple hours), so when I’m flying from the western US, for example, I try to schedule a long layover on the east coast (at least a couple hours so that we can get out and get back in through security in time). That said, one thing to keep in mind is this: ESAs are only recognized on flights within or to and from the US, so if you schedule a flight with a layover in Europe, you might have trouble with your connecting flight accepting the dog. So if you do have a layover, schedule it on the US side (so from Cali to Scandinavia, I’d say look for a New York layover if you can, as that should cut your trip into almost halves).

Sierah March 18, 2015 - 11:39 am

Hi, I was wondering if I could get my dog registered as an Esa with myself having paperwork? Would apartment complexes/landlords take the dog if he was an esa and I didn’t have paperwork? Thank you.

gigigriffis March 18, 2015 - 11:42 am

I’m not sure I understand the first question, but in answer to your second question: most places will require the proper paperwork in order to make the ESA exceptions.

Jamaica April 22, 2015 - 7:40 pm

Hi! I have been Researching and can’t find what I’m looking for, I talked with my primary physician today about writing me a letter and she is not 100 percent sure if she is able because she is Only a physician, but she is the one that addresses my anxiety and bipolar depression And sleeping problems, my question is, can she?

gigigriffis April 23, 2015 - 1:06 am

Hi Jamaica,

She probably can. The specific question to ask her is if she is qualified to diagnose a mental health related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual – 4th Edition. If she says yes she is, then she is also qualified to write the letter. Being qualified to diagnose the illness also makes her qualified to prescribe the animal.

Sally May 6, 2015 - 9:11 pm

Love your comments and insight! I am an owner of a 13 pound rescue dog that is also my ESA dog ( for depression). We have been traveling with him for a little over a year now. We have traveled on US Air/Delta/American and United. We take our carrier with us but I have never used it. “Dodger” sits on my lap and I have only had one issue. That happened on a recent flight when a “private pilot” made a huge scene stating that her daughter was allergic and I must move. I asked her to call the flight attendant and of course she did ranting and raving. Long story short I found out “she was moved not me” (originally was sitting behind me). I also over heard the flight attendant sighting regulations that I would NOT be removed from the flight that I had paperwork and had been cleared but if they chose they could re-book them! Odd the daughter was about 17 and embarrassed by her mom’s actions. The attendants and fellow passengers apologized to me which was so calming and kind. Sad that some people out there have their own issues. I travel with his vest on, helps me avoid some of the ???’s. I so appreciate your way of explaining an ESA animal since it is uncomfortable at times to explain. I am also amazed when people attempt to pet him without asking. He is sedated mildly when we travel as to not disrupt. He does not like anyone to touch me or get too close so relaxing him helps, he acts loopy! (He has been trained through bark busters to curb his barking and aggressiveness if feeling threatened). At the airports, the TSA has been wonderful and the airlines allow me to board early if I ask at the gate. We are looking at taking a cruise and am pleased to say Royal Caribbean welcomes ESA dogs and even have an area of the ship for their relief, however Norwegian Cruise lines does not allow ESA animals period. Your knowledge of the ESA world is refreshing and I thank you for all your comments and suggestions. If we ever travel abroad, I will refer back! We reside in the mountains South West of Denver…nice to hear from another Coloradan! Thanks again!

gigigriffis May 11, 2015 - 6:30 am

Thanks, Sally! And thank you for letting me know about the cruise ships. I had no idea Royal Caribbean welcomed ESAs – that’s excellent to know!

Lester May 13, 2015 - 5:04 am

Hi there i have a cross bread pitbull very well behaved and social, however this bread is banned in almost every European country, I have severe anxiety issues and wanted to enquire about him becoming a ESA

gigigriffis May 13, 2015 - 5:11 am

Hi Lester,

I’m sorry, but ESAs are not recognized in Europe, so any breed restrictions would likely still be enforced. I personally think breed restrictions are ridiculous, but I don’t know of any way around them.

Basia June 9, 2015 - 7:17 pm

Bottom-line question: So can an ESA meeting the PETS scheme requirements (and all other requirements), travel to England in-cabin, and not be required to be in a carrying case?

gigigriffis June 9, 2015 - 11:03 pm

Yes. But you will need advance approval from the company responsible for receiving animals at the airport you’re flying into (for Manchester, this is Pets on Jets). Luna and I flew from the US to Manchester on Delta with Luna in cabin after PETS was instituted in 2012.

Luna didn’t come out of her case, but I assume that she could have.

Jeannette June 28, 2015 - 7:50 pm

Hi Gigi! thanks so much for your blog! I am leaving to the UK soon with my ESA (he’s never been on a plane before). Traveling from Costa Rica is a long way. There are 2 options: 1- flying Costa Rica-Spain via Iberia (12 hour flight) and then driving and ferry to UK. 2- Take 3 planes to get to the UK via Manchester (which seems to be more friendly than Heathrow when it comes to ESAs). I am debating in which would be the more convenient route to take for him… :(
Any recommendation you can give me would be highly appreciated

gigigriffis June 28, 2015 - 10:55 pm

Hi Jeannette! Hmm, those are two tough options! I assume the second option has you flying from the US to Manchester? Any flights from outside the US going into the UK generally don’t allow ESAs. So if it’s Costa Rica – Florida – New York – Manchester, you’re safe, but if it’s Costa Rica – Amsterdam – Manchester, they probably won’t allow him, unfortunately (the EU hasn’t really caught up with the ESA thing yet, so they’re only complying with US rules for flights to and from the US. (I’m guessing you already know this and are already going through the US, but since you didn’t say, thought I’d mention it).

For the first option (CR directly to Spain), the one thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to do paperwork in Spain in order to enter the UK, so make sure to leave yourself a couple days between arriving in Spain and arriving in the UK.

For the second option, I’m not sure if you have to duplicate paperwork if you aren’t planning to leave the airport (let me know if you figure out the answer to that – I’m actually researching a similar situation right now), so I’d check on that before you book.

Those are the only logistical questions that come up for me, so if you find out you don’t have to do double paperwork to go through the US (and you are doing through the US), I think it’s just personal preference. Would it be nice for your dog to have a couple layovers to stretch his legs? Many US airports have relief areas for service animals inside the terminal, as well, so if that’s your route, that could be a positive. Do you enjoy driving? Do you get sick on ferries? If the logistics are solid for both plans, it comes down to those questions.

Hope that’s a bit helpful!


Jeannette June 29, 2015 - 9:14 pm

Hi Gigi, thanks for your reply, I am seriously thinking Costa Rica – Spain and then Ferry to the UK might be the best option.
You left me worrying a bit since you mention there is some paperwork to get done before getting to the UK from Spain, do you have that info?
I know my dog has to get the tapeworm treatment, that he’ll get in Costa Rica a day before flying… and also notify the port of arrival (also to be done before arriving in Spain), is there something else I may not be aware of?
thanks so much for your help as usual :)

gigigriffis June 30, 2015 - 12:02 am

Hi Jeanette –

Sounds like you’re on top of it.

I was referring to the tapeworm treatment and the PETS Scheme paperwork. The paperwork is similar to, but not the same as, the paperwork to get into Spain (or it was last time I went in). So I would double check with the UK PETS folks ( and see if the entry paperwork you do for Spain will be valid for the UK or if you should set up a vet visit in Spain/France to do the final paperwork for the UK (in which case you’d do the tapeworm treatment during that vet visit, as the vet that does the UK paperwork has to witness the tapeworm treatment, I believe). I haven’t done such a quick transfer between three countries, so perhaps they’ll let you do the UK paperwork before you leave Costa Rica, but I would definitely check in with them to make sure (when I asked about it when Luna and I were first leaving the US, the vet there said they could only do paperwork for the country of entry and I’d have to get the UK once I arrived…at which point I decided to fly straight to the UK).

Carrie July 5, 2015 - 9:56 am

Hi! Your site has been wonderful for information! I have an emotional support cat and am flying with my best friends in September (who also have emotional support cats) to Helsinki on Finnair. Have you flown with them? Do you have any information on flying with them?

gigigriffis July 5, 2015 - 9:59 am

I haven’t flown with them, but definitely check and They also travel extensively with small dogs and Montecristo is also an ESA.

I’m guessing you’ve got the paperwork bit covered, but let me know if you have questions. I have a friend who has traveled to Finland several times (though not on Finnair and not from the US directly).

Nella August 12, 2015 - 7:35 am

Hi everyone

i’ll be travelling with my ESA in a fee of weeks for the first time, and im so worry about any problems. He is a big dog (husky) but he is my lifesaver. i’l be lost without him. Im travelling from Manchester, UK to Costa Rica. with KLM through Amsterdam. I was wondering if anyone has traveled to Amsterdam and if they have any problem, and to panama/costa rica (we have a connection in panama) with an ESA and if you have encountered any problems in any of these countries.

many thanks

gigigriffis August 12, 2015 - 8:53 am

Hi Nella,

Have you asked the airline about traveling with your ESA on that route? If they okayed it, you should be fine. Keep in mind that if you plan to leave the airport in any of these places, you may need additional paperwork, so you should check with your vet.

Nella August 14, 2015 - 1:32 am

Yes, i have. It should be ok then. Dont plan to leave the airports, but i understand that with the European passport you are ok in any European country.

gigigriffis September 11, 2015 - 6:28 am

Well, sort of. The EU pet passport will get you across most European borders, but there are a few exceptions that require additional treatments (for example, the UK and Finland both require a tapeworm treatment if you are going there) and there are a few Eastern European countries that have different requirements as well, so make sure you check specific country requirements before you cross borders.

Hannah Jenkins September 9, 2015 - 9:12 pm

Thank you so much for this information! It’s nice to hear this from someone who has experience. I’m considering whether I want to purchase my dog a vest and ID card for his ESA status, mostly because I feel like it would help people accept the concept more. Do you have any further information or thoughts on this?

gigigriffis September 11, 2015 - 6:29 am

Hi Hannah,

I don’t think the vest and card offer any additional value (unless you want people to refrain from petting your dog, in which case the vest can be a helpful deterrent, I think), so I wouldn’t waste the money. :)

Nicole September 12, 2015 - 2:46 am

Can I travel with my Kitten? to the USA from Australia as an emotional support animal if so how do i register how as one.

gigigriffis September 12, 2015 - 2:52 am

Hi Nicole,

I am really not sure whether you’d be able to get the therapist letter in Australia or not. Your best bet is to check with the doctor whose care you are under. The other thing to keep in mind is that ESAs still have to comply with all international pet travel regulations, which means that if you return to Australia with the cat, it would be quarantined for 10 days and I’m not sure if it can ride in cabin with you. I think your best option is to contact the airlines and your doctor to see what your options are.

Yvette September 14, 2015 - 7:18 am


In 2011, while travelling I lost my only child. The emotion of this loss is nothing which can be explained. My pet is now my only child, and the fear I have of travelling without my child by my side is one that can not go through again. Learning about ESA and the program available was a life saver for me. I travel for work, and most often I was paying more for my little dog to travel with me than I was for my own fare. But I could not, leave home without her. Once I had all of the documentation in order, travel was much easier. However certain airlines continue to apply fees which generally get applied when I check-in. All bookings are always pre-planned and I am always careful to ensure that my ESA pet is registered with the airline well in advance. Yet, still occasionally I am treated as if I am a criminal at check-in. Pay or Stay! So I continue to pay :( Air Canada is one to recognize ESA when travelling Canada to the US but not within Canada itself. How ridiculous is that! Often I do not get to chose the airline I travel on. Any suggestions? Can I argue the fare charge?

gigigriffis September 14, 2015 - 7:48 am

Hi Yvette,

I’m so sorry to hear about your loss!

To your question: yes, you can contest the fare charge! What I would probably do if they’re forcing you to pay is pay, get there, and then call the disability hotline of the airline and tell them what happened. As long as you have your ESA letter and are flying in protected areas (to, from, or within the US), you should be able to get a refund that way, I would think.

Yvette September 14, 2015 - 12:42 pm

My flights this time are US to Toronto, then Toronto to Vancouver. The Air line will likely not charge US to Canada, but on the leg within Canada they always charge me 150$ Sometimes 175$. Not all Airlines charge me on the Canadian leg but several do. As far as I know, ESA rules and Laws apply in both Canada and the US. But I might be wrong.

gigigriffis September 14, 2015 - 12:57 pm

Unfortunately, I don’t think Canada has adopted ESA laws yet. I have a good friend with an ESA up there and she talks often about how she wishes they would. That’s why you’re getting charged for the Canada leg of the journey. :(

Susan September 28, 2015 - 1:49 pm

Thank you for your comments. I live in Mexico and fly in and out of Guadalajara many times a year with my ESA. The process is exactly as you describe — he is checked over by a vet and his medical records are reviewed. They have NO interest in his ESA status, but they are complete sticklers for his medical documentation. He needs rabies shots every year, and not within a month of travel. He needs to be vet inspected within 10 days of travel (not 11), and everything must be signed and sealed. This has nothing to do with ESA, but just his DOG status. Oddly, in my experience, they pass dogs into the country by car with no inspection of anything.

Susan September 28, 2015 - 1:51 pm

Re above: i should have clarified that this is upon arrival in Guadalajara, coming into the country. The airlines check ESA documentation when checking into a flight.

Eric October 11, 2015 - 10:06 pm

Hello. I don’t know if you are still active with this being an old post? I wanted to say thank you for all the info! It has been very helpful! I have a question that I hope you can answer? I am disabled with bi-polar mental illness. I have severe anxiety attacks in public. Since I have got my new dog 3 months ago he has had such a calming effect that I have been able to almost stop my anxiety medication. I have been taking him as many places as I can and it has allowed me to get out a lot more often. I will be honest I have on several occasions lied and said he is an ESA. He is so well behaved that no one has questioned it. He has been in obedience training since I got him and is naturally a very calm dog. I do apologize if I am doing something wrong or abusing the system by lying about him being a real ESA?
So here is my situation and question. 8 months ago I inherited $7,000 from the passing of my uncle. 2 months after I put the check in my bank account I revived a letter that my disability benefits and insurance would be discontinued and I was not eligible any more because I had too much money! So I am currently without income or more importantly medical insurance. I am trying to get my benefits back but it may take a while. In the mean time I have had to stop seeing my psychiatrist because I can’t afford to see him but he did give me a year prescription of my meds which I am struggling to pay for. My mother, who is a psychologist, has taken over my care until I can get insurance. Can she write the ESA letter for me or does it have to be a psychiatrist? Also, will I have problems since it is my mother writing the letter and we have the same last name? Hope you get this and can help? Thank you!

gigigriffis October 12, 2015 - 12:20 am

Hi Eric,

I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. I hope you get your benefits back soon. That’s terrible that they would take you off health benefits because of a small inheritance.

To your question: the person writing the letter does not have to be a psychiatrist. They just have to be qualified to diagnose mental illness according to the DSM ( – the manual all mental health professionals use), so a psychologist should be qualified (though it’s always a good idea to ask the psychologist, so I’d ask your mother if she’s qualified to diagnose according to the DSM, but I’m guessing the answer is yes).

As to whether you’ll have problems because she’s your mother, I’m not really sure. Industry ethics documents say people should not treat family members (but I totally understand that in your situation she has to!), so I’m not sure whether paperwork done by your mother would be recognized. I think the best idea would be to get an appointment with another psychologist/psychiatrist/therapist in your area (many of them do free or heavily discounted sessions for people in situations like yours, so you can call the office and ask) and bring any documentation you have (including your medication/prescriptions) and explain your situation.

Hope that helps!

Eric October 12, 2015 - 8:46 am

Thank you for the speedy reply. I figured it would not be a good idea to have my mother write the letter. I will see if I can find someone else. One more question. Where do you take your dog to the bathroom when you are in the airport? Especially during long delays and preparing for long flights?

gigigriffis October 12, 2015 - 8:55 am

No problem. I try not to make Luna hold it for more than 8 or 9 hours at a time, so I usually schedule flights with this in mind. For example, flying from Denver to Europe, I’d get a long layover (2+ hours) on the East Coast of the US and would take her outside the airport (or to a doggy relief area if the airport had one, which some do) to do her business before we got on the next flight. If you have a shorter layover, some airports have a service dog relief area somewhere inside the airport terminals. You can ask an employee about it and they can usually direct you somewhere.

Another friend of mine, whose dog is smaller than Luna, takes her dog into the airport bathroom, lays down a pee pad and lets him do his business there. Then she cleans up the pee pad and such and goes back to her seat.

Eric October 12, 2015 - 8:50 am

Also, is there a good website that lists the federal regulations for ESA’s? It would be good to have loaded on my phone to show if anyone gives me trouble. Thanks again!

gigigriffis October 12, 2015 - 8:57 am

The regulations are in a long and tedious document (and I haven’t seen anything simplified and also official), but any disability specialist at an airport or airline should be very familiar with ESAs. If you have problems, always ask for the disability contact and/or the Complaint Resolution Office.

Eric October 12, 2015 - 9:20 am

Ok thank you! You have been VERY helpful!

Amy October 26, 2015 - 6:55 pm

I’m wondering if you’ve gotten any feedback about people’s letters coming from primary care or emergency medicine physicians? I have letters prescribing my need, but as my ailments are only flight dependent (I have an awful fear of flying) I don’t regularly see a therapist. Thanks!

gigigriffis October 26, 2015 - 7:04 pm

Any doctor, therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist (etc.) who is qualified to diagnose mental illness according to the Diagnostic and Statistical manual mentioned above can write the letter. I’m not an expert in which doctors are qualified to diagnose per the DSM, but you can always ask your physician if they are.

Keep in mind that ESAs are only legally protected for people with disabilities. So if your fear of flying has been diagnosed as a disabling anxiety disorder or something else in the DSM, you should qualify, but a fear of flying without a disability diagnosis unfortunately does not qualify. (Possibly you already know this, but I’m reiterating because tons of people read these comments.)

Amy October 26, 2015 - 7:01 pm

I’m wondering if you’ve received any feedback on primary care or emergency medicine physicians writing the letters. My ailment is only flight oriented as I have an extreme fear of flying. My doctor has treated my anxiety and prescribed me medication for it while flying but I’m not a fan of how I feel medicated, and get worried taking it when I travel with my minor daughter. I haven’t needed to see a therapist since this is strictly related to flying. Going to try my ESA but am worried that letters from those physicians won’t work. Any feedback?

Stephanie November 1, 2015 - 12:25 pm

thanks for the info!! It’s very helpful, I have a question, my dogs need to wear a vest at the airport, is it really necessary?
I have my letter from my psychologist is that enough?

also my esa dog is pregnant how can I travel with her?

gigigriffis November 1, 2015 - 4:22 pm

Hi Stephanie,

Nope the vest is not necessary. And I have no idea how pregnancy factors in…I recommend calling the hotline numbers I provided in the FAQ above. Hopefully they can answer really specific questions like that. :)

K November 3, 2015 - 1:15 am

This was so helpful! I have a quick question. Will I be required to hand over the original letter or is a copy/print out sufficient? Thanks so much!

gigigriffis November 3, 2015 - 9:16 am

In general, it’s best to have the original on you (but always carry copies in your other bag, just in case). Usually the airline makes a copy for themselves and gives you back the original.

Stephanie November 4, 2015 - 9:18 am

Hello!, it is possible to travel with my two dogs, if they are e.s.a. and I am by my self?

gigigriffis November 4, 2015 - 9:23 am

Sorry, I am not familiar with the rules around multiple animals. I suggest calling the DOT hotline.

Liz Armeson November 10, 2015 - 4:53 pm

Wow, this was really helpful! I’m going on a trip to Melbourne and I was really worried about getting my dog through customs. I’m glad to know it’s fairly simple and intuitive. That definitely relieves a lot of stress on my end! Thanks so much for writing!

gigigriffis November 10, 2015 - 6:03 pm

Actually, this only applies to flights inside and to/from the US. Australia is a whole other can of worms.

Kristine Gonzalez November 20, 2015 - 4:30 am

I am getting anxiety attacks just thinking about how to migrate my dog with me to Canada! My psychiatrist has agreed to write a letter for me because I really do need him.

But, trying to research some more to make sure I don’t run into any problems. Read that some people registered their dogs online. Will I still need that or will the letter from my Psychiatrist be sufficient enough?

PS. I’m flying from Manila, Philippines and learned that some flights don’t allow ESAs. :( And that some locations won’t allow dogs to pass through (Guam, Honolulu). I also called UA Manila and they assured me that UA flies from Manila then I found out that when I called the 1800 number that it’s actually a carrier flight from Manila (ANA) and that carrier flight won’t allow dogs. Hence, I’m writing to ask you regarding the certificate since people here in Manila can’t tell me. :(

gigigriffis November 20, 2015 - 1:43 pm

Hi Kristine,

All you need is the letter described in the post (again, it needs to be written by a mental health professional qualified to diagnose your disability, should be on their letterhead, and should contain the items listed in the post above). Online registration means nothing legally.

Your best bet for flights is to find a carrier that flies directly to the US. Flights to and from the US without stopovers should carry your ESA no problem.

Hope that helps!

Maddy December 4, 2015 - 4:21 pm

Hi Gigi!

I’ve been struggling with anxiety for many years, but only recently reached out for help. I’m currently in my third year of college, and am living on my own in an apartment for the first time (living on campus is only required for 1st & 2nd years). My anxiety is the worst when I am alone, so I adopted a small dog for a companion (which has helped tremendously!).

I am also lucky enough to have access to free counseling and psychiatric services at my school health center. After completing my diagnostic triage appointments this year, I was matched with one of their psychologists (who I have been/will be seeing regularly). My dilemma is that I got the dog before I began counseling, so he is not officially an ESA. I told my psychologist how much having the dog has helped me, and brought up possibly making him an ESA. I mentioned how anxious I get about being away from my dog for extended periods of time. I also said that while I had a friend dog sit when I went home for Thanksgiving, I would like to be able to take him home with me for my month-long winter break — in addition to future travels, but that it is just not financially possible for me to bring my dog with me on every flight. Instead of directly responding to my request, my psychologist kind of changed the subject and even suggested that I drive home (from Texas to Washington, DC) to deal with the money issue…after I told him that I am terrified of driving alone on the highway for such a long time. Since then we have been working on relaxation techniques. At this point I just feel so frustrated and discouraged, especially with my flight home being 2 weeks away.

I don’t know what else to do, and am running out of time.

I know that most online ESA registration sites are scams, but what are your thoughts on certapet?

Thank you,


gigigriffis December 5, 2015 - 7:08 am

Hi Maddy,

The good news is that it doesn’t matter when you got your dog. I got Luna for similar reasons and long before I’d heard of ESAs. She was made official when she was two or three years old.

Any of these businesses that sell you an ESA letter are sketchy. If you are seeing a therapist, it really should come from him. I’d bring it up again and ask your therapist directly if he’s willing to write you the ESA letter. He may not be familiar with the process; that could be why he changed the subject in the first place. So you may need to explain to him that if your dog is going to be an ESA, you’ll need a letter from him. And offer to bring in information/resources if he needs them.

Hope that helps!

leto December 29, 2015 - 11:50 am

Hello, I got my ESA pet, I put it in the airplane (we are from Argentina) i got my cerification letter, but here in the states I am being asked for certifications in english and from the USA (it is an id card, for service animals), the problem is that as vest are sold online, this id cards do so; so I don’t know what to do, because i don’t know if they are fake or I should buy one…
Thank you for your help!

gigigriffis December 29, 2015 - 6:10 pm

Hi Leto,

In the US, you will need to have your letter in English. I’m not sure if it needs to be from an American therapist, but if they say that’s what you need, perhaps it is. You should be able to find a local therapist (probably even one who speaks Spanish, as it’s a common second language in the States) and explain your situation and hopefully that person can write an English version of your letter for you. You don’t need an ID card or a vest, just the letter.

Hope that helps!

Erika December 29, 2015 - 12:33 pm

Hey! So my dog is an ESA and I’ve traveled to Mexico and back so I get all that, but my next venture is Europe. Once I get there, I want to travel within Europe. How do you feel about plane vs train travel with an ESA dog? Do you have any experience? Do officials recognize ESA? Did you have trouble getting your dog a “passport” with a vet? I can only find info regarding service animals and non service animals. I wish I could bike through Europe like you did but my dog is 60 lbs haha.

gigigriffis December 29, 2015 - 6:23 pm

Hi Erika!

ESAs are not recognized in Europe, so your dog will have to travel as a pet. The good news is trains are generally pet friendly (though they have some different regulations, so check with the specific train companies about their requirements – sometimes the dog needs to be kenneled or muzzled, for instance). Since your dog is bigger, I’d avoid plane travel, as plane travel within Europe would require the dog to travel as cargo.

Also, you can travel with your original US to Europe paperwork around most of Europe for up to three months, so you only need to get a pet passport if you are staying longer or plan to come often to Europe with your dog.

Hope that helps!

Lauren January 6, 2016 - 6:29 pm

Hi there,
I flew with my ESA back to England and everything went smoothly, there was a lot of info on all the paperwork and hoops to jump through but I’m flying back to LAX with her this month and there’s no other info on what I need, other than my letter and proof of rabies. Is there really nothing else I need to bring her back?
Thank you!

gigigriffis January 6, 2016 - 10:44 pm

Hi Lauren,

When we flew back from the UK, all we needed was our letter and rabies certificate. That said, always a good idea to check in with your vet (especially since my experience is a couple years ago now and things may have changed). I just called the vet who did my paperwork in the US and asked what I’d need to come back.

Good luck!

Sarah January 19, 2016 - 2:37 am

Hello! This thread is super helpful. Forgive me if these questions was asked already (I didn’t go through all of the Q&As).

I’m about to adopt the most wonderful rescue dog who is out of state. Really out of state. It’s about a 14 hour drive each direction. It would be so much more convenient to fly him back with me (2 hrs). My longterm therapist has already written a note for my housing situation (I rent in a no-pets-allowed apartment where, thankfully, I have a great landlord). Would you recommend taking a 2 year old rescue on a plane home right after adopting him given he doesn’t have much training and has yet to bond with me? I get very cranky when I hear of people abusing the “perks” of an ESA and was wondering if this situation would qualify as maybe not an abuse, but possibly a stretch of the system given I have no idea how the little guy will behave?

Second question! There are so many seemingly “official” registration websites for Support Animals. Is there one company you would recommend to use? Which is the most highly regarded and will prevent any holdups at airports or other places?

Thank you so much! s

gigigriffis January 19, 2016 - 9:46 am

Hi Sarah,

I’m really not sure about the first question. Perhaps ask the shelter if they have any idea whether the dog has flown before and how he reacts? Personally, I think I’d probably just make a road trip of it. You and the dog will get lots of bonding time and you’ll be able to deal with any behavior issues as they arise without airplane staff and other passengers. The other thing to keep in mind is that if the dog is seriously misbehaving at an airport, the airline can deny you entry to the flight even if it’s an ESA, so I think it’s safer to know the dog a bit before attempting to fly. That said, it could go really well. I don’t know the dog, so it’s hard to speculate.

As for your second question, there’s no need to register. Registration has no legal value (honestly, I think those companies are a despicable scam, taking money from disabled people for no reason). It’s only your letter that matters.

Sarah January 19, 2016 - 12:16 pm

Thanks for your feedback and responding so quickly! A road trip would be fun bonding. And I’m saddened to hear that those sites are scams. I would have gone for it in the effort to be as responsible and thorough as possible.

Skyr February 1, 2016 - 10:56 pm

landords have all the power. they will just come up with another reason to evict you if they want you out, or start raising the rent as soon and as much as they legally can.Here in Santa Fe, they just tell you they found another renter if you tell them yu have a 7lb. perfectly mannered service dog. However, ppl that have so called service dogs that defecate in the house (lazy owners,) bark act aggressive, etc. certainly dont help our cause. laws need to be made that dont discriminate against pets even, but make ppl responsible for damage they or their dog or cat do. Im about to be homeless because only about 1 in 20 allow pets and they charge WAY more $. Laws do nothing in a capitalistic society where propety is of higher value than anything else.

Sam March 6, 2016 - 3:13 am

Hi Gigi,

When flying into the UK (or out) do ESA need to show any proof of training. I saw on here
That they require proof of training for service dogs and emotional support dogs don’t qualify. Do you know if this is the case and whether at the airport it is sufficient to show your doctor’s note (all the requirements for my dog to travel are met). I’m from the UK.
Many thanks,

gigigriffis March 6, 2016 - 10:11 am

When we traveled to and from the UK, our letter was sufficient. is the official website with the official regulations for pet/animal import and the airlines and the USDA should also have up-to-date information.

Valerie March 31, 2016 - 11:31 am

I know this is a very old post but are dogs the only animal that can be registered as ESAs?

Also my Psych said she doesn’t give letters for ESAs anymore and I can’t really afford a doctor? What should I do?

gigigriffis March 31, 2016 - 11:59 am

Cats also qualify. If you’ve been diagnosed with a disability, but your psych doesn’t want to do the letter, perhaps ask him/her to refer you to someone else. There are also often low-cost clinics in most cities if you need to talk to someone else.

Melissa April 21, 2016 - 7:22 pm

Hi Gigi! Thank you so much for this article. I do have a question regarding housing. When applying for an apartment, must you disclose information about your ESA animal? I understand that under the FHA regulations, the landlord can’t discriminate against you, but knowing you have an ESA, they could simply deny you and say it was for another reason, no?

I will have to start looking for an apartment in the Los Angeles area next month and I’m frightened that I’ll be denied my ESA.

Thank you … Much light and love to you and Luna :)


gigigriffis April 21, 2016 - 9:48 pm

Hi Melissa,

Most apartments will require a copy of your letter, but that’s it. I’m sure there are shady people out there trying to deny housing to disabled people, but I think most people will comply with the law (though you may have to explain it to small companies and/or individuals renting their apartments). If you have trouble, many law offices give free consults and you can always call the 800 number in the post and ask the department of transportation person to refer you to whoever handles housing reports/disputes.

Gabbie May 5, 2016 - 1:38 pm

I have recently become interested in getting my dog registered as an ESA as I’ve noticed I have been much calmer and happier with her in my life. I have A.D.H.D. and possibly anxiety as well. Before I had my dog, my medicine was working on and off, I’d have good days and bad days. I recently read an article explaining that dogs do help A.D.H.D. Individuals, so I went to my doctor and asked him to write me a letter. He did some research and decided he couldn’t because ” there is medicine to treat my condition.”
I’m so confused by this as the medicine hasn’t been working and I’ve tried multiple ones. Would you recommend consulting a psychiatrist or other Doctor? I’m not even sure if A.D.H.D. Qualifies which is rather upsetting because anxiety and depression do.

gigigriffis May 5, 2016 - 1:51 pm

I’d consult a psychiatrist/psychologist. It’s always good to have a second opinion, especially if your doctor is a general physician and your condition is a mental health one.

Paula May 18, 2016 - 12:20 pm

Why are you giving incorrect legal information here?

The guidance from the department of justice (I jokingly refer to them as the ADA gods) specifically states that emotional support animals are NOT allowed the same access as a trained service dog under the ADA. Under the fair housing act they are allowed in housing and with proper medical documentation on air flights and that is all. Please see-

The problem with giving incorrect information is that you will end up getting people in trouble who trusted you.

You are mixing the laws for ESA’s with the laws for service dogs in a manner that the law doesn’t allow. Properly trained dogs that do tasks for mental health issues are called psychiatric service dogs and they are legally service dogs. Dogs that are not trained to do tasks to assist a disabled person but make them feel better by being around are ESA’s and they are not permitted anywhere that pets are barred except for the aforementioned housing and air flights.

gigigriffis May 18, 2016 - 12:27 pm

Hi Paula,

Did you read the post and watch the video? I do not say anywhere that ESAs are equivalent to service animals and, in fact, explicitly state that the only protections are for housing and air travel. I agree with what you’ve said, but it only echoes what I’ve said above…so not sure where you got the idea that I was saying anything different.

amaris May 21, 2016 - 6:07 am

Hi Gigi! Have you flown to the UK recently? We are planning a move and I would like to bring my ESA Mijo with us when we relocate to the UK. Did you have to pay a processing fee when you arrived in the UK? from what I can see he should be able to fly for free but I just wasn’t sure it there would be any other fees we should budget for in our plans.

Thanks so much for writing your blog, it is very encouraging :)

gigigriffis May 22, 2016 - 6:23 am

Hi Amaris! Our UK travels were a few years ago now, but I had a good experience flying Delta (I know people have had some confusion and issues with other airlines, but Delta was smooth) with Luna. The airlines don’t charge a fee, but you are right that the UK does! Ours was about $500, but you can check on current fees by calling Pets on Jets and/or the animal receiving authority for the airport you’ll be flying into (ours was Pets on Jets for a Manchester incoming flight).

Carey June 24, 2016 - 4:09 pm

HEllo, So it sounds like you still needed to provide the normal vet paperwork required by customs for your ESA dog? I am asking about flying Mexico to US specifically.
Thanks for this post! so helpful!

gigigriffis June 24, 2016 - 5:03 pm

Yes, you still need the normal customs paperwork.

Adam September 15, 2016 - 12:29 am

do you have copy from ESA letter ?

gigigriffis September 15, 2016 - 8:29 am

Hi Adam,

Your doctor can write it using the information that’s required. I believe each one ends up slightly different since doctors will word things slightly differently. The required info is in the video and transcript. :)

Lizzie September 18, 2016 - 10:52 pm

Hi Gigi, your post was incredibly helpful!

My question: I’ve been flying with my Esa Beagle, Gracie, for about 6 years and we recently moved to France. We flew from Chicago to Barcelona on America with no problems. However, I need to go home for a wedding next month and we are flying out of Milan. When I called American, I was told no ESAs on international flights from Europe (which is weird because Lufthansa and Air France do it). Just wondering if 1) Lula flew as an ESA when you flew home from fron Italy, or 2) you required any special export documentation to exit Italy at the airport.

Thanks so much!


gigigriffis September 19, 2016 - 6:13 am

Hi Lizzie,

I’d call them back and ask to speak to their disability specialists. ESAs are covered coming home from Europe just like they’re covered going to Europe. The only reason I can think of that there might be a problem would be if you have to fly within Europe before flying to the States. For example – a flight from Milan to Barcelona might not be covered, even though the flight to the states is. We’ve mostly flown into Italy, not out of it, but that shouldn’t make a difference under the law, especially for an American-owned company.

DJ October 11, 2016 - 12:21 am

Thanks for the informative post and comments. I’m flying for the first time with my 11-lb ESA dog on Lufthansa from LAX to Dubai, connecting in Frankfurt. He has anxiety in car, so I’m expecting the same on the plane. He’s comforted if I have him on my lap (he’s well-behaved and a non-barker). Would Lufthansa be cool with that? I booked business class just to have the extra space and minimize the chance for trouble.

In addition:

1. Any notable positive/negative experiences/tips in general with Lufthansa?

2. The LAX-Frankfurt leg is 12 hours. At home he can handle it, but with airport time we might be pushing it (not to mention with possible travel anxiety). I have a month to hopefully pee-pad train him. In that case, can he go in the plane’s bathroom?

3. My Frankfurt connection is only 2 hours. Is there a relief area without having to exit and clear customs/immigration?

Thank you.

gigigriffis October 11, 2016 - 9:26 am

Hi there!

I haven’t flown with Lufthansa myself, but I believe the law means you can have the dog outside a carrier (I travel with Luna in hers, but you obviously wouldn’t be able to do that with a bigger dog, so I believe the law makes provisions for that). If you haven’t called Lufthansa, I would make sure they know you have an ESA and that you understand if they have any particular requirements or requests (for you to arrive early, for example). I’ve also seen airlines that allow the ESA for the first leg of the journey (from or to the US), but charge or cause an issue for a non-US leg, since other countries don’t protect ESAs, so make sure that you have confirmed that your dog will be transported in cabin as an ESA for both legs of the journey.

My friend Sonja ( takes her dog into the lavatory with a pee pad to pee mid-flight, so you should be fine.

I haven’t flown through Frankfurt, but you can probably contact the airport ahead of time to ask if there is a service animal relief area and which terminal it’s in. For service animal relief areas, generally you can ask a gate agent when you disembark about having someone escort you.

Have a good trip!

DJ October 11, 2016 - 11:11 am

Thank you :)

Nicole December 23, 2017 - 11:47 am

Actually, Lufthansa requires you to have a letter (you can write and sign it yourself) verifying that your ESA dog will not need to relieve itself during the flight (yes during your 11 hr flight from LAX to FRA also). In addition you may not take your ESA dog into the lavatory when you go. Per flight attendant, your dog must remain under the seat tied to the seat belt with the yellow Lufthansa savety leash provided. I am currently trying to find out if this follows the law, as understandably most animals may be saver to remain with you in the lavatory than frightened alone under a seat, possibly trying to free themselves to follow you. But I believe they started enforcing this because people would let their dog defacate in the restroom, which is against their policy, so therefore you can’t bring them with you into the lavatory at all. Small disclaimer: Lufthansa policy actually states that you have to verify that your dog will not need to relieve itself during the flight or can do so in a manner that doesn’t pose a health tread. In my opinion, letting them go on a pee pad and disposing of it would fulfill this requirement, however, you can ask any Lufthansa personell (I have called many times in hopes another representative would admit that it states the second part about doing it in a save manner,) but no such luck. They say it can not relieve itself at all during the flight.)

gigigriffis December 23, 2017 - 5:21 pm

Super interesting! Thanks for chiming in. I’ve never flown with Lufthansa, so had no idea!

Rishi October 18, 2016 - 7:31 am

Hi Gigi, thank you for this informative post and up to date comments. I am trying to find information about getting my dog from China to Ireland and ESAs and stumbled upon your article. Very insightful and gives me hope. I am not trying to to take advantage of ESA and I have an appointment with the GP soon. Does anyone knows from experience if the Chinese airline companies recognize ESAs?

Thank you and best of luck to you all.

gigigriffis October 18, 2016 - 9:14 am

Hi Rishi – Are you flying through the US? Currently the US is the only country with laws protecting ESAs, I believe. Though you can call the Chinese airline and ask.

Rishi October 18, 2016 - 9:58 am

Hi Gigi, no I am from Europe…I was trying to find information about ESAs in Europe but most results were related to Therapy/Service Animals. Thanks for your comment, that explains. I am going to be in touch with the Chinese Airline companies, now we’ve got a quote through an agency, it’s doable and I like to explore more options (Among that is to make a massive road trip, not just to get my dog but also for the adventure).

gigigriffis October 18, 2016 - 11:47 am

Yep. So far, no European countries recognize ESAs officially. You’ll have to ask each individual company if they have policies about it.

Terence October 21, 2016 - 4:05 pm

So helpful! Thanks.

What kind of dog is yours? I’m looking right now for an ESA and yours seems like the perfect size.

In terms of training; how long did it take you to get your ESA to the point where you were comfortable going in public places together?

gigigriffis October 22, 2016 - 2:42 pm

She’s a Schnauzer-Yorkie mix. Both breeds are known for being super smart and energetic. They’re also hypo-allergenic, which is very nice.

I trained Luna as a therapy dog (you can find lots of books and online resources on the process), which means I started taking her out in public immediately. You want your dog to get used to being in lots of different scenarios so that he or she isn’t scared or upset easily. I took her to the big play place at the local mall and we sat quietly and had treats while all the little kids ran around. I took her on elevators and escalators, walked around the mall, took her to every restaurant patio that would allow us and every friend who would let me bring her over to their house or back yard. The premise of therapy training (which is so good for ESAs too) is that you want your dog to be calm and obedient in every scenario, which means the more places, smells, people, dogs, cats, places, sounds, etc. you can introduce into their world while also keeping them calm and happy, the better. Hope that helps!

lizzie December 4, 2016 - 9:12 pm

Hi! I am wanting to get an ESA as i am eligible. But i am already abroad with my dog. I am not American and am currently in Uruguay. If i get a letter from a Uruguayan doctor will that still be fine? or does it have to be an American doctors note only?

lizzie December 4, 2016 - 9:14 pm

Also… I have an ESA cert but its not with me. But i can get a photocopy. Will this suffice?

gigigriffis December 7, 2016 - 2:30 am

Hi Lizzie,

I don’t know if letters from foreign doctors are valid. I’d call the airline disability hotline and make sure. :) There’s no such thing legally as an ESA certificate. It’s just the letter you need. :)

Agna January 6, 2017 - 10:36 am

Hi Gigi,
I am traveling to Poland in February and I have received mixed information on the requirements. The ESA tells me that I do not need a passport for the animal, however the airline itself tells me I do. Do you know what will be the best way to proceed?
I would rather avoid getting the passport if I can as this is an extra $150.

gigigriffis January 7, 2017 - 1:59 am

Hi Agna – ESAs have to follow the same rules as pets when it comes to travel paperwork. From USA to Europe (I’m assuming that’s the route you’re taking?), this means getting some paperwork (a pet passport is something you can only get in Europe itself). It should not cost you $150 (wherever that amount came from, it sounds like a scam to me).

Usually, paperwork from the US to Europe has to be done within 10 days of travel and will need to be completed by a USDA-certified vet and then stamped by the USDA. Your best bet is to contact your vet and find out if he or she is certified by the USDA to complete travel paperwork (or, if he/she is not certified, if they can recommend someone who is), and then contact that person. They can walk you through the process, let you know what appointments you need to make, etc.

I haven’t flown into Poland, myself, but usually the paperwork for Europe requires that the dogs:

:: Have an international microchip that was implanted before the most recent rabies vaccine.

:: Be up to date on their rabies vaccine

If both those requirement are met, your vet should be able to do the paperwork for the dogs to travel. Then you’ll take that paperwork into the USDA office that handles your state/region and get them to stamp their approval. So the only costs should be the cost of the vet visit for the paperwork (and any additional vet visits if you need microchipping and/or rabies vaccine boosters) and the USDA fee for stamping your papers (fees vary by region, but I think the last time I did it it was maybe $20?).

Make sure to contact your vet ASAP to see if he/she is USDA certified just in case there are any additional requirements.

Paul January 11, 2017 - 8:12 pm

This article & especially the video version of it was SO helpful to me. I was in a huge mess due to travel restrictions on pets & having to consider having my best friend put to sleep if I am ever to see my family again. I was horrified & this was totally compounding my stress situation.

Having read this article & watched your video however I now realise that I have a totally legitimate claim that he is my ESA. I was looking into how to go about proving that where I found myself in the quagmire of conflicting information, people on the phone that have no idea what they are talking about so just guess & act like it is solid & basically trying to figure out the law of two different countries myself… Sigh…

After watching your vid I now have a crystal clear plan as to how I need to deal with this. I even have two options for the letter & I think I am going to use both!

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

ps: Do ESA dogs HAVE to wear a harness?

gigigriffis January 12, 2017 - 1:19 am

Hi Paul –

So glad to have helped! If you mean is there an official harness or vest, the answer is no. There’s nothing specific they have to wear. But, of course, you will want to have your dog on some sort of lead when navigating airports and the like.

Ask a With-Dog Traveler: What Does My Dog Need to Travel the World? | The Ramble March 13, 2017 - 12:29 am

[…] use? What do you like about it and is there anything you don’t love so much? I am my human’s ESA, so I sit on her lap but I do have an array of designer tote bags with specially cushioned bottoms […]

Angela April 16, 2017 - 8:32 am

Hi. Next week I will be traveling from my country to the usa. I have my letter and I already send it to the airline. And have my aprooval to travel with my ESA.
Now, I have all the vet paperwork. This trip is only one week. Do I have to take my ESA to a vet in the states in order to have the letters to come back?
Do you have to do that every time you go to a new country?
I know I have to have all the letters and vaccination and all.
But My question is, even if you are going to spend 3 o 4 days in a country do you have to go to a vet and do all the procces again?

gigigriffis April 16, 2017 - 10:55 am

Hi Angela,

This depends on which countries you are traveling to or through. The best thing to do is check the embassy website for the country you will be traveling to (so for your trip back to your home country, check your home country’s embassy website) for the requirements and/or contact a knowledgeable vet (in the US, any vet that is certified to do travel paperwork should have access to all the different countries’ requirements). For EU countries, you might only need your pet passport to travel back from the US. For other countries, you may need other paperwork.

Victoria April 18, 2017 - 1:24 am

This has been very informative, thank you. Not gonna lie, gives me anxiety just reading all the questions. (Smile)
I have not flown with my dog yet.
Do you potty your dog on long flights,? Or hope for the best, eek!
I would like to say have never been turned away from a restaurant with my dog or a market or store. She has sat on my lap at long dental appointments and always goes to the hair dresser and nail salon. Often I carry her in a pouch, similar to a baby sling.
I did get her a support Animal patch for a small harness. I just find it alleviates questions. Thank you for your help

gigigriffis April 18, 2017 - 2:31 am

Luna holds it (she hates to pee inside, even with pee pads – she just won’t do it), but I know other people who carry pee pads and take their dogs to the airplane bathroom a couple times during the flight.

Roger Smith April 20, 2017 - 12:00 am

Thanks for sharing valuable information.

bietthu3tang April 27, 2017 - 2:56 am

Can you tell me if the same dog and carrier size requirements are applied for ESA dogs in cabin flights?

gigigriffis April 27, 2017 - 2:58 am

ESAs are not required to travel in a carrier, but if you do use a carrier (I do – Luna is more comfortable in it and it’s just easier), you should use the carrier size requirements as a guideline since it will need to fit under the seat in front of you. has an extensive list of under-seat measurements.

Gavin May 1, 2017 - 3:48 pm

I think there are many that take advantage of ESA guidelines and ruin it for those that really need an ESA. Or maybe that’s just my perception. Either way this is some good stuff.

gigigriffis May 1, 2017 - 10:41 pm

I think a lot of that is just media sensationalism. I get emails all the time from people in hard situations who genuinely need their animals, but I have yet to see any rogue ESAs get free on planes or any of the other nonsense the media focuses on.

Kathy October 5, 2017 - 10:11 am

Hi Gigi,

Thank you for this post! I’m flying with my ESA for the first time next week (a 4-hour flight within the US), and I’m very anxious about it. I’m confused about how the airport experience will go – do you just walk Luna on a leash through security and to the gate? My dog is just slightly too big to fit in an under-seat carrier, so she’ll have to be on my lap – have you ever flown with Luna on your lap? If so, do other passengers seem annoyed by this? Since my dog will need to be with me at all times, I’m also not sure what to do if I need to go to the bathroom during the flight.

Any insight/personal experiences would be very helpful, as I’ve had trouble finding information online. I know it would be so helpful to have my dog with me for the trip, but I’m hesitant to bring her just because of the anxiety I feel about the airport/plane experience. I will see if I can email the airline a copy of my letter, to make sure it meets their needs – that’s a great tip!

Thank you!

gigigriffis October 5, 2017 - 10:19 am

Hi Kathy!

In security, I take Luna’s leash and harness off (so as not to set off the metal detectors), put them through the x-ray machine, and then carry her in my arms through the metal detector. Once you go through, they will swab your hands and run the swab through a machine (it’s super fast) to make sure there’s no explosive residue (though god only knows why) and then they’ll wave you through to get your stuff as it comes through the x-ray machine.

I haven’t flown with Luna in my lap, but I think most people would be cool. If you’re concerned about it, you could always ask the person beside you if it bothers them and if it does you could ask a flight attendant about moving. I always try to go into flights being willing to move if someone has an extreme fear of dogs or something, even though Luna’s in her carrier.

I’m not sure about the bathroom, but I think if I were in that position, I’d either try taking her with me and if that ends up being not enough room/too much hassle, perhaps ask my seat-mate if they wouldn’t mind watching her for a moment. I’m very curious about this, so I’ll also pose the question on my Facebook feed and see if anyone has bathroom suggestions for this kind of situation.

gigigriffis October 5, 2017 - 1:00 pm

My Facebook friends had some other ideas. Here they are in case they’re helpful:

“I take her with me but she stays outside the stall door and I have the leash inside with me with her still attached. It looks odd I am sure to see a dog outside a stall and no human but it totally works. I even did it on the train in France” – K

“Take a doggie seatbelt and strap them into your seat while you’re in the lav?” – M

Others suggested asking flight attendants, but I always assume they’re too busy (unless perhaps they were already fawning over the dog, in which case it might be a fun treat for them to get a few snuggles).

Hope that helps!

infopdscenter November 2, 2017 - 12:15 am

Thanks for sharing..

Judith Watson February 27, 2019 - 1:59 pm

I was diagnosed with PTSD, acute anxiety, clinical depression, panic attacks, and insomnia many years ago. I went through several years of therapy and have been hospitalized twice. I have been on medications for these for over 35 years. The older I get the more increased the anxiety has become. I have developed some agoraphobia. I have found that my Yorkie does help to get me out of the house part of the time. So I am looking into getting my Psychiatrist to write a letter stating that she can be my ESA. What do you suggest when some so called friends say rude things about how “silly” that is to have an ESA? It only makes my anxiety, panic attacks, and agoraphobia worse to hear such things and I do not know how to respond. I would appreciate your input.
Thank you.

gigigriffis February 28, 2019 - 12:44 am

Hi Judith,

I’m so sorry your friends aren’t being cool about this. I remember when I first tried telling some family members about it and they “congratulated” me and acted like I was pulling one over on people. I was trying to find an opening to tell them how rough things were, but that shut me down really hard. They didn’t understand my diagnoses and since I “seemed fine” to them, they just trusted their own perceptions instead of what I was trying to say.

All that to say, I get it. I don’t know if your situation is similar, but it’s really tough to communicate to people just how debilitating mental health stuff can be.

I think it’s easier said than done (I know because I still have trouble confronting people on this kind of thing), but have you or can you tell them how much it hurts you when they dismiss your need? Would they be equally dismissive of someone who broke a bone and needed pain killers and casts and crutches? Would they be dismissive if you had cancer and needed chemo? I think those are apt comparisons and may help them shift their perspective.

So sorry again that you’re dealing with that. Tons of good luck and love from this side of the internet!

Mia March 24, 2019 - 6:00 pm

I do not have an ESA at the moment as I haven’t yet discussed it with a therapist, but I was wondering. Since I am still in highschool would I be able to bring my ESA (Most specifically probably a supper dog) to school with me? I’ve read in some articles that the answer is no, but do you think if you personally talked to/contacted your principal or superintendent they’d allow your ESA to accompany you in school?

gigigriffis March 24, 2019 - 11:34 pm

Hi Mia!

I’m not sure on this one. Is there a therapist or counselor at your school you could chat with? Or a sympathetic principal or vice principal? I’d ask them about it and see what they can do.


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