Comfort animals (emotional support animals or ESAs) assist their owners with mental disabilities as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. These pet animals are now recognized as providing a valuable service and have attained the protection of the Airline Carrier Access Act (ACAA) which also protects service animals when flying.
Therefore, comfort animals are allowed to fly at no charge in the cabin of airlines that permit them similar to service animals.
Recent research suggests that people with psychiatric disabilities can benefit significantly from comfort animals. ESAs have been proven extremely effective at ameliorating the symptoms of these disabilities, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, by providing therapeutic nurture and support.
As all US-based airlines are subject to ACAA regulations, both comfort and service animals are accepted. Requirements for notification and documentation differs greatly between service animals and comfort animals. While owners of service animals may need to provide proof of certification, owners of comfort animals will need a letter from a licensed medical professional stating the need for the comfort animal, that the owner is an active patient and providing licensing information. Find more information on airline pet policies for comfort animals.
The key to acceptance is a strongly worded letter from a medical professional stating that the well being of the pet’s owner is at risk if they are separated from their pet. The most common reason is mental anxiety or depression and a letter from a psychiatrist will generally suffice. However, individuals with a heart condition may get a letter from their physician stating that the pet calms the pet owner and therefore reduces the risk of a stroke or heart attack. Those who suffer affects from diabetes can also procure a letter from a medical professional.
If you need additional information on comfort and service animals, we offer a 26 page document that fully explains the rules regarding both Service and Comfort Animals. It also explains the rules for taking a service or comfort animal into a rabies free country such as the UK or Hawaii. Click here for additional information on Traveling with Service Animals and Comfort Animals.