The adventure of travel can add a fun and thrilling dimension to your life and fulfill countless dreams and goals along the way. And bringing your furry companion along can only increase that excitement, but it can also lead to a fair amount of anxiety as you’re adding another element of responsibility to your travel, especially if it’s a longer trip.
Long distance travel can lead to wondrous new sights, but it can also become uncomfortable for everyone (human and pet alike) after a while. Extended drives and flights that last for hours can be stressful for both you and your pet, and those around you. This can be especially true for those traveling with an emotional support animal, or ESA, since many modes of transportation will often deny owners and their animal’s passage. Still, traveling with an ESA is more than just possible, and it doesn’t have to be the nightmare you might think it is—it can actually be as smooth as the peanut butter you pack your dog as a treat!
So, how can you make the trip safe and comfortable for all, and how do you prepare for traveling with an ESA without any issues? Here are some ways to the make “getting there” just as much fun as the destination.
Create A Plan
No matter the type of travel or the distance, the best thing to do first is create a plan. Spend some time researching secure travel methods, pet-friendly lodgings, and safe stopping points for rest and potty breaks, so you don’t have to spend time looking while out on the road.
When it comes to traveling with an ESA, it’s important to have all arrangements between you and the transportation service squared away in advance. Check in with the bus line traveling with, as well, to make sure you get them all the necessary paperwork. Often times, transportation service companies will require ESA owners to fill out paperwork at least 48 hours before your flight, and it may need to be updated occasionally. With the paperwork properly filled out and provided, many transportation services will allow you to take your ESA with you without paying their pet fee, but without it, they can charge you for your pet’s transportation.
Secure Your Pet and Make Them Comfortable
In most circumstances, your pet can travel securely either in a carrier or with a harness. Carriers are an excellent choice because they allow your pet freedom of movement but limit their amount of space, so they can’t get into anything dangerous while you are driving. Harnesses, on the other hand, act like a seatbelt for pets. They allow your pet to stay in the backseat of your car safely by limiting their ability to move around. Either of these options will ensure that you and your pet enjoy life on the road without concerns for safety.
Here are a few other ways to prepare your animal for travel, which are most successful when done regularly throughout the few weeks leading up to the trip:
- Get your pet used to loud noises with recordings: There are many online recordings of the bustling bus stations and exciting airports. By getting your animal accustomed to the noises, they’re less likely to become flustered or startled on the trip.
- Get your pet used to the carrier: If you’re planning on using a pet carrier, get them used to it by rewarding them with treats when they enter the container and after keeping them in it for a few minutes at a time.
- Bring familiar objects and treats with you: Unusual places can be scary for your pet, and so bringing treats and familiar objects can comfort them.
Just like you, your pet is going to need to take some breaks while on the open road. Planning ahead for things like food, water, and bathroom breaks can make for much smoother travel. Getting high-quality travel bowls can also be tremendously helpful, so you don’t have leaks along the way. As far as bathroom breaks go, make sure you plan your route, so you don’t go too long between rest stops. No one wants an accident in the car and that includes your pet. Not to mention, sometimes one just needs to stop and stretch a bit. When looking for a place to stop, make sure the area is not only safe for your pet but also for you. Look for designated rest stops or areas where you can completely exit the highway and be safe away from traffic.
Prior to leaving for the trip, limit your dog’s food and water intake, if you can. This will prevent the need for extra bathroom breaks, especially if it would be difficult with your mode of travel. In the case that your animal does need to “go,” though, many airlines provide areas where pet owners can take their animals to relieve themselves. If you’re traveling by air, ask an employee where to go, and they can guide you there. If you’re traveling by bus, often busses will take breaks for patrons to stretch their legs and get a bite to eat, which is usually long enough to take your animal for a “potty break” as well.
What Else Do I Need to Know Before I Travel with my Pet?
It may sound like a lot of work to make sure that traveling with your pet is a safe experience, but it is well worth the effort when you reach your destination. In many families today, pets are as much a part of the core group as a child, so the idea of a trip without them just doesn’t make sense. These tips will get you on the road and to your destination with every member of your family. And the more you travel as a whole, the easier the planning will get. And registering your dog as an ESA or service dog can help tremendously with the process. So, what do you have to do to register?
Make Your Pet A Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal
If you have a disability that may qualify your pet to become a service animal, then you may want to explore the process of making your pet a service animal. Registering your pet as a service animal or emotional support animal can allow you to take your pet to places where you can’t without the registration. For example, service animals are welcome in almost all grocery stores and hotels, so traveling with a registered service animal could make your life a lot easier.
Registering your animal as an ESA means you’ll be protected legally in public spaces and even housing. While an ESA still does not hold as much protection as a service animal, there are still many benefits to registering your animal. At U.S. Service Animal and Support Animal Registry, we’re dedicated to educating owners about their rights as an ESA owner and how to live with your ESA.
Here are a few things we want you to know:
Air Carrier Access Act: The Air Carrier Access Act used to protect ESAs in addition to service dogs, meaning that ESAs could fly with you free of charge. The law has since been updated, and ESAs are treated like regular pets at the airport now. This means that even with proper documentation, you’ll still have to pay a pet fee and there’s a chance your ESA will have to ride in cargo (either because of size or because of many other pet reservations). Psychiatric service dogs have more right and are still protected by the Air Carrier Access Act. If flying is truly debilitating and you can train your ESA to perform helpful tasks, it may be a good idea to look into registering them accordingly.
Fair Housing Act: If you’re planning on moving into a new living space with your ESA, this act applies to you. Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords cannot force renters with disabilities to get rid of any pet that helps them function; they must allow their renters to keep their animal, since it benefits them. This applies to everyone, no matter what disability a person may have; mental or physical. In order to qualify, you must register your ESA and procure a letter that confirms that it is part of your treatment from a licensed medical professional—we can help you with that!
American Disabilities Act: This act protects ESA owners by requiring businesses and organizations that provide public goods or services to “reasonably accommodate” people with disabilities in order to fulfill their responsibilities, procedures, rules, and policies. This act covers everything from government agencies to private businesses to non-profit organizations.
Your Privacy: We want to help protect your privacy because we care about it and understand how important it is. Being legally protected as an ESA owner means no person or business has the right to demand “proof” of your disability through a demonstration or make you disclose personal information about your disability. In certain situations, such as moving into a new residence, you may be required to provide basic information included in your ESA’s ID card and the letter from a licensed medical professional.
Disruptive Presence: You have the right to live and travel with your ESA, but in the case that your ESA proves to be disruptive or dangerous in a public setting, staff members and owners reserve the right to request you to remove your animal. In order to prevent this, always make sure to have your animal controlled in some way, such as by using a harness, leash, or carrying container while in public. This may change if containment hinders the animal’s role in the person’s treatment.
We hope this information helps you, and if you’re ready to take the next step in registering your animal as an ESA, we want to help!
When you’re ready, please go ahead and contact our incredible team of trained professionals at U.S. Service Animal and Support Animal Registry.