In the past few years, there have been crazy headlines about emotional support peacocks, turkeys, and monkeys flying on airlines as emotional support animals. While legally any animal can be an emotional support animal, we recommend only dogs and cats. Emotional support animals have legal rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but airlines and landlords ( see how to get an emotional support animal letter to landlord) are only required to provide “reasonable accommodation.” If you want to travel with your ESA peacock, an airline can say no. 

Emotional Support Animals

Some licensed mental health professionals will write ESA letters for less common animals like birds, but there have been fewer studies about the mental health benefits of these animals compared to dogs and cats. Dogs and cats are shown to help reduce stress and anxiety in their owners. Find out what animals aren’t allowed planes by checking with the airline you are flying on. 

ESA Basic Obedience
Emotional support animals are not required to have specific training, unlike a service dog. They only need to have basic obedience training to behave in a public setting without causing any harm or significant disturbance to others. Dogs are a go-to as an ESA because they are easily trainable. Dogs are naturally social and can be trained to go to the bathroom on command and to be quiet. Cats are also trainable; some can even walk on leashes and use the toilet.

If an emotional support animal is a danger to others or causes damage/disruption, they can be denied housing and boarding on an aircraft. An emotional support animal needs to be friendly when interacting with other people and pets and go to the bathroom in acceptable areas. Read more about training your ESA.

Safety for Others
Many airlines are becoming more restrictive in their policies regarding emotional support animals, only allowing cats and dogs. These restrictions are for passenger safety and to minimize disturbances. It’s harder for a pet owner to control their snake or rat, making sure they stay on their lap throughout a flight, and only use the bathrooms in designated areas. Dogs and cats are more often vaccinated and carry fewer diseases than other pets. Airlines want to make sure they are not discriminating against through with disabilities, who need their ESAs to provide comfort and support, while not allowing abuse of the law for those wanting to transport animals or avoid pet transport fees.

While any animal can become an emotional support animal, many licensed mental health professionals will only write letters for more common animals like dogs and cats. Airlines are changing their policies about which animals they will allow on the aircraft cabin for the safety of the fellow passengers and to minimize any disruptions to the flight. Landlords only have to allow animals that do not cause disturbances to other residents or any property damage. Dogs and cats are recommended as emotional support animals because they are more sanitary and easily trainable. An emotional support animal does not need training as a service dog would, but they do need to be able to behave in public. Learn more about ESAs!