Emotional Support Animals (ESA) – Public Safety and Airline Dilemma
Cell Dogs’ new training program addresses the airline industry’s new regulations regarding the travel of ESAs. We are here to help! Read on and feel free to contact us for more information.
Please note: There is practical information at the end of this blog post. Please make sure to read on if you are considering certifying your ESA as a Service Dog.
Have you ever traveled on a bus or airplane and it seemed more like a veterinarian’s office? In recent years, people seem to be taking their pet dogs everywhere. And some are purchasing an unofficial “jacket” online in order to falsely claim their pet is a service dog, entitling them to the rights and privileges afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
These faux service dogs have created huge problems for all types of venues, and especially for individuals who have fully-trained service dogs. These pets are obviously well-loved by their owners but most often not well trained nor socialized to act appropriately in public places.
On March 1st, 2021, the airline industry implemented a strict set of guidelines stating that only service dogs, trained by recognized organizations and trainers, were permitted on airplanes free of charge. ESAs are no longer permitted to fly for free in the open cabin and will have to be crated.
This new mandate created an opportunity for us to develop a customized evaluation and training program for individuals who truly need their ESA/pet dogs to accompany them in public. These individuals had letters from their licensed mental health professionals verifying their need.
The initial evaluations were eye-opening for our clients. Since they hadn’t realized the stringent requirements for fully-trained service dogs, they recognized the need for a customized training program to achieve that level of competency.
All our clients were committed to getting their dog appropriately trained. This entailed 3-4 months of training sessions and the successful passing of a recognized Public Access Test to complete the course. Confident that their dogs were well trained and socialized for all types of public environments, we were happy to sign the required DoT documents for them. (To maintain that level of training, all clients will be re-evaluated each year to obtain a new set of authorized DoT documents.)
The price for the evaluation and final Public Access Test (PAT) certification is $750. There are additional fees for any training sessions necessary to pass the PAT. Please contact our office for additional pricing info.
Pictured above is Cooper, our first ESA turned service dog. Congratulations on your hard work!
Please share our contact information with people interested in securing the necessary training and documents to satisfy airline and TSA requirements. Thank you!
Learn more about air travel with ESAs from this Wall Street Journal article. Always check with your airline for specific requirements.
Due to an overwhelming response to this new program, we gathered more information to cover questions and concerns for those considering this option for their ESA.
Please read it in its entirety as it covers all frequently asked questions and provides guidance for your next steps.
Out of State and non-local inquiries:
Unfortunately, since this is a specialized program which requires in-person meetings and lessons, we are unable to offer our services outside of Southern California. Our apologies for this inconvenience. For the initial assessment and consequent training plan, we need to assess the dog’s temperament, sociability, and training prowess to determine if they are a suitable candidate and what additional training is required to meet service dog standards. The timetable for that training program varies for each dog and client and will depend on the results of the assessment. NOTE: Additional training is not included in the quoted $750 evaluation price.
We understand that the need is great, and we recommend the following steps:
- Find a local AKC (American Kennel Club) approved Canine Good Citizen (CGC) evaluator and have your dog evaluated by them. Many trainers at your local Petco store offer this service. Search here: https://webapps.akc.org/cgc-evaluator/#/.
This evaluation will provide the information you need to determine whether your dog is a good candidate for service and how much training will be required to meet and exceed the CGC criteria.
- If your dog does well and you want to move forward, please search www.apdt.com, to find a credentialed CPDT trainer in your area, who could help you achieve your goals. Use the advanced search option to find a trainer for your specific needs.
We apologize for the disappointing news and hope the above information is helpful!
This program is offered for canines that are currently ESA certified by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.
Most young puppies would not be appropriate for this program as it takes 1.5-2 years for a dog to fully mature. During that time, you can certainly focus your attention on socializing your pup around lots of people, places, things, other animals, etc. while perfecting their obedience skills.
- Please be advised that for an ESA to qualify for Service Dog status they must:
Have an exceptional and well-balanced temperament as it is the KEY CRITERIA to determine if they would have the potential to become a working service dog.
- Be well socialized and very well-mannered around all people, dogs, children, etc. when out in all types of public environments, regardless of if they are very attached to you and well-behaved when in your home.
U.S. Department of Transportation requirements/forms:
The quoted price of $750 is the cost for only the initial evaluation and the final assessment.
If you believe, based on the above information, that your ESA would be a good candidate, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information so we can move forward with scheduling a date for evaluation. Payment is due at the time of the evaluation. Following the evaluation, a training plan and a timeline can be discussed.
1. Your contact information (name, email, phone number, and address)
2. Your dog’s information (name, age, breed, description of previous training)
If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The Cell Dogs Team