Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tips for Traveling with a Service Dog

Traveling with a service dog is now a smoother process than in years past. More and more businesses and establishments now understand and accept that Service Dogs and ESAs provide a valuable service to their handlers, and therefore are now more accepting of these animals. Additionally, the ADA has established special service dog laws that make it a simple process to bring your dog with you on flights and other travel-related adventures. Here are some tips to make traveling with a service dog as easy as possible.

1. Call Ahead

While airlines can accommodate your request to bring your service dog on the airplane, they may need advanced notice. Airlines often only allow a certain number of service dogs per flight and need at least 48 hours notice for flights longer than eight hours or for dogs that serve as emotional support dogs instead of service dogs. Check the website of the airline you are traveling on. Nowadays, each airline has an informational page on traveling with a service dog. Here are a few from some of the popular airlines:
Of note, Airlines are not allowed to charge an additional fee for traveling with a service dog under the ADA.

2. Bring Along Some Form of Service Dog Documentation

Although according to the Americans with Disabilities Act you are not required to show proof of your service dog's duties and training, it can be helpful to have a form of service dog documentation on hand regardless. Examples of service dog documentation can be:
  • An identification card
  • Written medical documentation
  • A service dog vest with tags
These can help others easily identify your dog as a service dog, and can make traveling with a service much easier. According to the Non Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel 14 CFR 382 Act, any of the above mentioned ways can be used to distinguish between your service dog and a pet.

Companion dogs and emotional support dogs do not fall under the ADA but may be allowed with proof of a letter from a licensed mental health professional.

3. Pack a Travel Bag for Your Service Dog

Traveling can be stressful for a dog, even a trained service dog. Pack your dogs’ favorite toys, treats and other comfort items to make them feel more relaxed on the flight or other forms of travel. Bring along a travel water bowl and a water bottle. Don't forget to bring a copy of their vaccination records as well in case of an emergency.

4. Stay Ahead of Nature’s Call

Before traveling, limit your dog’s food and water during the 24 hours prior to departure. Make sure that you give them a chance to go to the bathroom right before your leave as well and plan bathroom breaks accordingly during travel.

5. Research Your Destination’s Service Animal Laws

If you're traveling out of the United States, research your destination's service dog laws before you travel. Not all countries make exceptions for service dogs. With these helpful tips, we wish you safe travels! Follow these guidelines and traveling with your service dog will be an easy, enjoyable experience.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Emotional Support Animal Vests: An Increasing Sight and Comfort to Many

Emotional Support Animal Vests: An Increasing Sight and Comfort to Many
Emotional support animals provide important therapeutic benefits to their owner’s through companionship, emotional support and psychological comfort. Typically an individual will opt for the services of an emotional support animal, or ESA if they need such animals to help with psychiatric disabilities or other mental impairments. In fact, many people who rely on emotional support animals would miss out on many aspects of daily life that others may take for granted. For example, an ESA can help an individual with severe anxiety move through public places by providing emotional reassurance.  
A dog wearing a service dog vest and accompanying its owner in a grocery store is a common sight. However, we’re starting to see other animals serving as emotional support animals—to varying degrees of success.

If It Has an Emotional Support Animal Vest, It’s an ESA—Right?

Non-traditional alternatives to emotional support dogs have raised issues (and eyebrows) wherever they are encountered. Some truly unique, and sometimes surprising, animals have served in emotional support roles, including pigs, rabbits, snakes, and alligators Source: Boston Globe)
The issue is that emotional support animals, while beneficial to those who are comforted by them, are not supported by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Dogs are often seen in this capacity; however, the presence of these other animals might cause more anxiety and unrest than they intended.

How Do Emotional Support Animals Help People?

Many often confuse emotional support animal laws with service animal laws. There is a distinct difference between the two. Service dogs, including seeing-eye dogs and dogs that aid with disabilities, are supported by the ADA.
However, emotional support dogs are typically used to ease anxiety and do not assist with disabilities. They let their handlers feel a sense of comfort in public spaces such as stores, restaurants, and even airplanes. But not everyone is a “dog-person,” and so they’ve turned to the aforementioned pigs, rabbits, and reptiles to serve as their emotional support animals.
Unfortunately, when it comes to having animals in public places, not everyone is on the same page. The differences between ESA and service animals and vague ESA laws only complicates things.

Worried? Get an Emotional Support Animal Vest

Emotional support animal vests help avoid confusion and conflict. They allow the general public to accept ESAs of all kinds. So long as your animal is well-behaved and providing support for you, few would object to its presence.

No matter what animal you have, it can provide you with emotional assistance. But without a clear visual indicator such as a vest, you could be in for some anxiety-inducing confrontations. An emotional support animal vest helps you avoid this.