Pet Travel: Air Canada clarifies policy on emotional support and psychiatric service animals

Air Canada has issued a clarification on their definition of emotional support and psychiatric service animals. This is the first airline to address this classification of animal. Here is their policy:

Dogs as emotional support or psychiatric service animals
If you wish to travel with a dog* as an emotional support or psychiatric service animal, you will need to ensure that your animal is harnessed. You must also provide supporting documentation in the form of an original letter on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional (e.g. a psychologist, psychiatrist or licensed clinical social worker), dated within one year of your departure date.

The letter must confirm that:

  • You have a mental or emotional disability recognized by the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)
  • You need your dog for emotional or psychiatric support during travel and/or at destination
  • The person who prepared the document is a licensed mental health professional
  • You are currently under the care of the licensed mental health professional who prepared the document

The letter must also provide information on the mental health professional’s license (i.e. type of licence, date issued, and issuing authority).
*NOTE: Air Canada does not accept animals other than dogs as emotional support or psychiatric service animals.

More information on pet travel on Air Canada


Comments

Pet Travel: Air Canada clarifies policy on emotional support and psychiatric service animals — 42 Comments

  1. Caroline – Air Canada currently only recognizes emotional support animals on domestic flights within Canada.
    Jason

  2. Hello, I am traveling with my ESA dog from Barbados to Canada, is she allowed in the cabin with me on Air Canada?

  3. I am traveling from LAX to Toronto and need an ESA. My dog is a Golden Retriever. He will not fit under the seat in a crate. I know I saw another passenger with a golden but I am not sure how they had him in the cabin. What do I do?

  4. Sigh. I am a full time traveler and usually pretty good at reading fine print, but Air Canada threw me for a loop. I’m flying with an ESA from Buenos Aires to Santiago in a few weeks, and was just told definitely that they do not recognize emotional service animals internationally. It was only then that I looked at their *tiny, light grey font on their website and saw the impossibly small text: “ESA for Canada and US only.” Why do they even bother with listing international ESA guidelines if they’re not going to adhere to them?

    Long story short, I was stuck with $100 fee and am now sweating my palms off. Thank god it’s a short flight, but I am not happy with their service.

    Best of luck to everyone flying internationally!

  5. Eva – Air Canada will only recognize ESAs on flights within Canada. On flights originating or departing Canada, your pet must fly in an airline-compliant pet carrier and is subject to carry-on fees as any other pet flying in the cabin. Reserve a window seat for yourself so you are away from the traffic in the aisle. Although your pet is supposed to stay under the seat in front of you, once airborne, you should be able to bring it out and put it between your legs. However, you are not permitted to remove it from the carrier.
    Susan

  6. Hi, I am flying from Detroit to Toronto then Toronto to Spain. I am flying with my emotional support dog who is only 5 pounds. Some people from the airline told me she needs to be in a carrier for the flight to Toronto to Spain and need to pay $100 but she will be ok for the other flight from Detroit to Toronto. Then other person from the airline told she needs to be inside he carrier for both flights. I need her on my lap so she can calm me down, I have a letter from my doctor. Anyone knows if I will be able to have her on my lap for both flights? Is it true I need to pay $100?

  7. Danni – you are correct about notifying Air Canada about your therapy dog. To enter the US, your dog will need a rabies certificate reflecting current rabies vaccination more than 30 days before entry. As for summer temperatures, above 85 degrees F and no live animal will fly in the cargo hold. Canada is not a problem, but NYC may be.
    Jason

  8. I will have my therapeutic dog travelling with me from Quebec to NYC. I will have a dog passport issued, so that entry is not a problem. I will be needing to keep my therapeutic dog with me at the cabin, and I understand i need a letter from my treating mental health doctor certifying that need, and the functions that dog performs for me. Is my understanding correct? in any case, i will call the medical department at Air Canada before i schedule my flight. I am flying in the summer time, so even at cargo, the temperature issues that we have in winter, should not be a problem. Am I correct?

  9. I’m found your article and gladly hear about the “policy on emotional support and psychiatric service animals”. Perhaps I would like to add “Service animal letters” which used for emotional support animals and is a term given to those animals that go from pet to ‘service animal’ through the assistance they give anyone that uses them for emotional comfort. This service letter acts as the only legal source of protection for your pet as an emotional support animal and allows for service animal travel on planes.

    .

  10. Debra – Air Canada will only accept ESAs on domestic flights within Canada. Other than the ESA must be a dog, no other breed restrictions are mentioned.
    PHil

  11. I have a Granfathered Staffordshire Bull Terrier who is my ESA dog. Can she travel with me on Air Canada?

  12. Wendy – as we seen posted, there are airlines that fly into Dubai that do not even recognize medically certified service animals and allow them to fly in the cabin. Many foreign-flagged airlines do not allow exceptions for Emotional Support Animals. If you have tried US-based airlines that fly your route (if there are any) and they will not permit your ESA in the cabin, then it is extremely doubtful that it can happen.
    Phil

  13. Hi,
    I am traveling to Dubai with my Emotional Support Dog. I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks since a very serious incident after a big earthquake in Central America and I have a 6 pounds Yorkie that is with me 24/7 for the past 12 years. I am traveling to Dubai and no airline wants to take me with her in cabin. Does anybody know what can I do? otherwise they offered to take me to Oman and then cross the border by car to Dubai which is very tiring and more expensive and lot of requirements from both countries.

  14. Kristin – you need to contact your airline and inquire what type of aircraft they use for your route. Your ESA must be able to sit at your feet and not interfere with cabin operations or other passengers.
    Susan

  15. Kristin – for ESAs, most airlines require that the dog be able to sit or lie down at your feet without interfering with cabin operations or other passengers. We have not heard of an airline that charges for ESAs.
    Susan

  16. I met to ask if I would have any trouble flying him from edmonton, ab to new Brunswick ab…large dog, I have a letter from my doctor saying he is an esa

  17. Hi I have a large dog, I have a letter from my doctor stating he is an Esa. Will I have any trouble flying him from edmonton to nb return trip?? And can I keep him in the cabin with me? And would there be any charge?

  18. Gillian – Air Canada has had problems with passengers suffering from allergies and has had to defend their policies on allowing pets in the cabin period. Technically, if your airline has an ESA policy, the weight should not matter, but it would be better for her to have her in a carrier.
    Susan

  19. George, have you had any response from Air Canada?
    I am flying to Florida in October with my Emotional Support Cat, I have booked her in regularly and she is on the flight, but I am nervous as she is very near the weight limit which they have changed, it is now 22 lbs INCLUDING bag. I would be unable to fly without her, she stops me having panic attacks, and she too would have a panic attack in the hold of a plane! We are never apart.
    Any ideas anyone? I can’t put her on a diet as her companion cat is very old and I have to work to keep his weight up. Neither of them can jump so I can’t put the food up high.
    I can’t believe Air Canada don’t recognize cats as Emotional Support, I have all her paper work.

  20. George – we are not Air Canada but would offer that they have had issues with passengers with allergies traveling on planes where there are animals in the cabin. A few years ago, there was court action that caused them to change some of their pet policies to protect those traveling passengers who are allergic to pets. Now they have HEPA filters and special cleaning equipment to help keep allergens out of the air. They also honor the first to reserve, whether it be a pet or a person with pet allergies. Typically, more people are allergic to cats then dogs, but you should direct this question to Air Canada directly as to reasoning for their decision.
    Susan

  21. Hi, I am planning a trip from Regina, SK to Montreal, QC. I am of course researching how I may bring my emotional support animal with me, which seems hard seeing as she is a cat. Why does Air Canada make a distinction between cats and dogs as both serve their intended purpose, i.e., helping the disabled cope with difficult circumstances. Please tell me why that is? Also, why do you never reply back to questions pertaining to cats? I need my cat with me.

    If there is no response I will simply travel by Westjet but not before sending this page to CBCGoPublic. Maybe some media attention would bring us some answers. I am sorry, but this is simply ridiculous. If you have the medical documentations why would there any problem, especially if you are travelling within Canada?

  22. Margaret – as long as your dog conforms to the requirements to import a dog to the UK, quarantine should not be imposed. (regulations here: http://www.pettravel.com/immigration/UnitedKingdom.cfm). If Air Canada’s policies will allow for an ESA to fly into the UK in the cabin, then the UK will have no problem with that. We have read that Air Canada has had issues with passengers complaining about allergies and they work very hard to accommodate both sides of the issue. However, we understand that an animal can be bumped if a passenger declares that they are allergic and makes a reservation before another passenger traveling with a pet. There are other airlines that fly your route into the UK. Maybe Lufthansa has more accommodating policies.
    Susan

  23. I am trying to arrange travel from Canada to London, UK with a large ESA dog, golden retriever, he weighs approx 85lbs. Obviously, he travels with me to provide care and he will need to go in the Cabin with me; I do not care about cost. Why is it so difficult for the UK to not accept an ESA animal in the Cabin when it is not even one of their Airlines; I am flying with Air Canada; it seems even though my ESA Dog has the Pet Passport the dog could end up in Quarantine in London. I realize that people can be allergic to dog hair in Cabin but there are seats specially allocated for passengers travelling with Animals. I just want to know if I can do this any other way?

  24. When I booked my ticket I had to register my pet which is a cat. The lady I was speaking to was very nice when I explained that I needed my cat in the cabin with me for severe anxiety and panic attacks. I have been diagnosed as catastrophic impairment. The AC lady said I should speak to someone in medical and connected me.
    I explained to the lady in medical my circumstance and all she said was how would you like to pay? She was very cold and distant. I asked her that I could get letters from my Psychologist, Phychiatrist and family doctor. She told me that pets for emotional support is only for flying to the United States. So as a person on disability that my children paid for a return ticket to go to Alberta for Christmas, I had to pay $56.50 one way and $52.50 return. I find this ridiculous, especially when it is counted as a carry-on. I didn’t know Air Canada were the ones to decide that it is only dogs that bring emotional support with those with a disability. That I can only receive emotional support from Air Canada at no cost is if I fly to the states. It is hard enough that people that suffer have to live everyday like this but to have an airline in your own country belittle mental illness is why people don’t want to talk about it. Maybe you should join Bell on ‘ let’s talk’ and educate some of your staff and change your procedures. Sounds a bit discriminating.

  25. Milene – as long as your airline has a program for ESAs, then it will be permitted. Try Air Canada if they serve your route as many non-US or Canada-based airlines do not have programs which accept ESAs. The rules generally are, if your pet can sit at your feet without interrupting the passenger next to you or the operations in the cabin, then it is fine to travel in the cabin. Otherwise, your pet can travel on the same plane but in the cargo hold.
    Jason

  26. Hi!
    Can I fly from Brazil to Toronto with an emotional support dog? Is there any restriction on breed or size?
    Thanks!

  27. Pingback: “Me And My Fake Service Dog…..” | heatherclemenceau

  28. I was just on the phone with Air Canada and was told emotional support animals are only excepted between Canada and USA which makes no sense to me?
    you cannot go internationally or domestically total nonsense
    i have flown with West Jet many times internationally with my emotional support animal
    I guess that is the way to go, West Jet!!

  29. Hello Tiffiny – the only animals that Amtrak allows on board are medically certified service animals. They do not allow comfort animals on board. They define service animals in this way: Service animals are animals that are trained to perform a specific task for the benefit of a person with a disability. Amtrak personnel may ask what task(s) the service animal performs. They define comfort animals in this way: Comfort Animals: Animals not trained to perform a specific task, but which are said to provide emotional support or to relieve anxiety simply by their presence (for example, by the passenger holding or stroking the animal).

  30. I am a disabled person who has a cat for my psychiatric and emotional problem and I have to ride the Amtrak train to get home. Can I take him on the train and how

  31. Air Canada has been subjected to challenges from people with allergies to pets flying in the cabin and have changed their rules to make concessions for allergy-prone passengers. Their requirements for service animals traveling in-cabin do not deviate significantly from US-based airlines.
    Jason

  32. I wonder how things now stand with Air Canada, better or worse? Here’s the language from the aircanada.com site:

    Certified, professionally-trained service animals assisting customers with disabilities are carried, free of charge, in the passenger cabin at the customer’s feet, provided the animal is harnessed and is certified as having been trained to assist a person with a disability by a professional service animal institution (as a requirement under the Canadian Air Transportation Regulations).

    You must pre-register your service animal through the Medical Assistance Desk at Air Canada Reservations. View exceptions and specific details for itineraries between Canada and the United States.

  33. Have read these apologies, they seem hollow as my daughter had a problem boarding with a service dog a few days ago. Nothing seems to change at Air Canada..other airlines are well into the modern,kinder age

  34. I just got off the phone with Air Canada, after being given the run around and being on hold for about a total of two hours. It looks like either this policy has changed or their employees are completely incompetent. They are telling me that only seeing eye dogs are allowed in the cabin as service dogs for internal flights, and that emotional support dogs are only accepted on their flights between Canada and the U.S. Their ‘lead agent’ is supposed to call me back. (aside, my ESA is a dog, and I do have all the required documentation from my psychologist).

    It looks like westjet has a much better and more comprehensive policy for traveling with an emotional support animal. It looks like I will be canceling my flight with air canada when I speak with the lead agent and booking instead through westjet.

    https://www.westjet.com/guest/en/travel/special-arrangements/special-needs/emotional-support-animals.shtml

  35. I’m trying to book my flight home to Seattle, WA from Lusaka, Zambia, traveling with my Emotional Support Dog. We flew here on Ethiopian, but the routing is rather brutal (5 transfers!). As such, I’m looking to book on KLM who is a new carrier out of Lusaka as they have a much more direct routing. Anyone else have recent experience traveling with KLM and an ESA? Input would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Heather

    RESPONSE: KLM is a well respected airline for transporting pets. If you are looking for personal experiences from our visitors, I would encourage you to post to our forum: http://www.pettravel.com/forum/forum.php?styleid=2
    Susan

  36. I just tried to book with Air Canada. They said they only accept emotional support dogs on flights within Canada. Even though I have a letter from a Psychiatrist.
    RESPONSE
    Emotional support dogs do not have the same priveleges under the disabilities act as do service animals. Air Canada is free to make whatever rules they wish for them.
    Jerry

  37. Last year we travelled with our dog on a flight from Toronto to Cairo Egypt. We have a letter from our doctor stating that the dog must travell with my husband. This paperwork was presented to the woman at the counter of KLM ( she announced herself as a supervisor). She took one look at the letter and told my husband to get some controll over himself rather than get a dog. I complained to KLM in a written letter after having to pay $200.00 at the airport. KLM sent me back an apology for her rude behaviour and a voucher on Delta airlines. They also stated in their letter that the supervisor did not break any rules. On my return trip from Cairo to Toronto I again presented the letter to the supervisor in Cairo Airport who said they no longer carried support dogs and that I must pay another $200.00. I handed over the vouchers given me on my trip to Cairo and was told by the supervisor that these vouchers were for Delta and not KLM. I have travelled KLM for years with this dog and no problem this year was a trip from hell. I have never travelled on Delta airlines and have no problem with them, The ground crew at Toront International Airport was rude, discourteous and lacking compassion. I do not feel that we have had just resolution to our case with KLM and am therefore appealing to you for help in the resolution of this matter.
    We have a letter from our family physician who has been treating my husband
    We have a harness and tags on the dog.
    He is small and fits under the seat in his kennel
    The airline does not give him food or water
    The airline was notified and he was on the data base eventhough the supervisor said we failed to notify them that the dog would be travelling with us.
    We would now like the reimbursement of the $400.00 dollars paid out ($200.00 x $200.00)
    Sincerely;
    Eileen & Fouad El-Sayed

  38. The U.S. Does not and can not charge for the transport of Emotional Support Animals. What is Air Canada’s policy?
    RESPONSE
    Dogs as emotional support or psychiatric service animals
    If you wish to travel with a dog* an emotional support or psychiatric service animal, you will need to ensure that your animal is harnessed. You must also provide supporting documentation in the form of an original letter on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional (e.g. a psychologist, psychiatrist or licensed clinical social worker), dated within one year of your departure date.
    The letter must confirm that:
    • you have a mental or emotional disability recognized by the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders);
    • you need your dog for emotional or psychiatric support during travel and/or at destination;
    • the person who prepared the document is a licensed mental health professional; and
    • you are currently under the care of the licensed mental health professional who prepared the document.
    The letter must also provide information on the mental health professional’s license (i.e. type of licence, date issued, and issuing authority).
    *Air Canada does not accept animals other than dogs as emotional support or psychiatric service animals.
    jERRY

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