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Delta Airlines and United Airlines: New rules for animals

Many people find travelling stressful. Those of us who have Service Dogs or Emotional Support Animals might be nervous about going to an unfamiliar environment, and worried about the journey itself.

Thankfully, we have the right to take our Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals along when we fly. Both United and Delta welcome certified animals on flights but in most cases, you will need to prepare documentation in advance and follow the rules governing animals on aircraft. Documentation may be required even if your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal is registered with the National Service Animal Registry (NSAR).

The aim of this article is to provide you with all the information you need so you can prepare for your trip. We will provide links to the required documents, make sure you know all the rules about what to do with your pet in the airport and on the plane, and provide details about who to contact if you have any problems or concerns during the journey. We will also provide contact details and advice about traveling internationally with your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal.

What documents do I need?

Service Dogs

Service dogs are defined by the airlines as dogs that help people who are blind or visually impaired, are deaf or hard of hearing, have epilepsy, seizures or mobility restrictions.

Delta

Documentation required: Passengers traveling with Service Dogs on a Delta flight may be asked to show a completed Veterinary Health Form and an immunization record or proof that all immunizations are up-to-date within the last year. These forms are available to download here.

How to submit documentation

It is advised but not required for people traveling with Service Dogs to submit these records to the airline prior to travel. Submission can be done online, up to 48 hours before the flight. Click on My Trips and submit using the Accessibility Service Request Form.

Do you have questions?

If you have any questions about the documentation required for your trip, how to submit it or any other concerns about your journey call Delta on 404-209-3434.

United

Documentation required: Passengers traveling with a Service Dog on a United domestic flight are not required to complete documentation. Remember, documents may be required for passengers traveling to international destinations, so check with the appropriate consulate before you travel.

Do you have questions?

If you have any questions regarding documentation or other aspects of your trip, call United on 1-800-228-2744.

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animals are defined by the airlines as animals that assist people with emotional, psychiatric, cognitive and psychological disabilities.

Delta

Documentation required: Passengers traveling with an Emotional Support Animal on a Delta flight are required to download and fill out three forms.

  1. Veterinary Health Form or completed vaccination records that show the dates of vaccinations and name of the veterinary office where they were administered. All vaccinations must be up-to-date within a year of the travel date.
  2. Medical/Mental Health Professional Form confirming the passenger needs to travel with their Emotional Support Animal.
  3. Confirmation of Animal Training Form.

How to submit documentation

Passengers traveling with Emotional Support Animals must submit the completed forms to the airline prior to travel. Submission can be done online, up to 48 hours prior to the flight. Click on My Trips and submit using the Accessibility Service Request Form.

When you arrive at the airport, visit the check-in desk where a Delta representative will verify your request to travel with your Emotional Support Animal. Passengers must carry paper copies of the forms on the trip.

Do you have questions?

If you have any questions about the documentation required for your trip, how to submit it or any other concerns about your journey call Delta on 404-209-3434.

United

Documentation required: Passengers traveling with an Emotional Support Animal are required to download and fill out three forms.

  1. Medical/Mental Health Professional Form to confirm that you need to travel with your Emotional Support Animal.
  2. Passenger Confirmation of Liability and Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animal Behaviour Form.
  3. Veterinary Health Form which includes vaccination information.

How to submit documentation

All documents must be emailed to uaaeromed@united.com up to 48 hours before the time of the flight. If the documentation is not submitted in time or can’t be verified by the airline, the passenger might have to transport the animal as a pet and pay the requisite fees.

Do you have questions?

If you have any questions regarding documentation or other aspects of your trip, call United on 1-800-228-2744.

Can Animals In-Training travel in the cabin?

Service Dogs or Emotional Support Animals In-Training usually do not meet the requirements set by the airlines so the passenger will need to make arrangements for them to be transported as a pet and pay the appropriate fee.

Exceptions: Delta – A Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal In Training will be allowed to travel on a flight if they are being taken to their new owner by a certified trainer or if they are receiving additional training.

Exceptions: United – United allow certified trainers to bring an animal onboard for training purposes but if they are traveling with animals in the normal course of their business they must check them in as a pet.

Are there any reasons why my Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal might not be allowed to travel?

Animals other than dogs and cats are assessed on a case by case basis. Some animals are not permitted at all such as many reptiles, insects, and rodents because of health and safety concerns.

Dogs will be not be allowed to travel in the cabin unless they are under control. They must either be leashed or in a carrier. They may not be allowed to travel if they growl, jump up or bark at other passengers unless this is a trained response. Animals must remain with their owner at all times. Unaccompanied animals are not allowed in the cabin.

Animals may be refused if they are dirty or smell. Animals must not relieve themselves in the gate area or on the aircraft. All US airports are required to have an Animal Relief Area.

Where will my Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal sit on the aircraft?

Animals are expected to sit on the floor and they must not encroach into the floor space of other passengers or the aisle as this would contravene FAA regulations. Animals are not allowed on any seats designed for people, or on the back-seat food trays.

Delta: Animals can sit on the lap of the passenger for all stages of the flight, including take-off and landing as long as they are not bigger than a two-year-old child. If the Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal is too big to occupy the space under the seat, or the passenger’s lap they can be checked in as baggage at no extra cost to the passenger. Alternatively, the passenger can purchase another seat at the price he originally paid. On Delta, animals can use flat-bed seats.

United: United stipulate that an in-cabin kennel can be used as long as it fits in the floor area of the passenger’s seat.

Am I allowed to bring more than one Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal?

Airlines now only permit a single Service Dog and/or Emotional Support Animal on flights. The passenger must ensure there is enough space for them on the floor without them exceeding the footprint of the seat. If there isn’t enough space, the passenger will have to purchase an additional seat, but remember the animal will not be allowed on the seat, only on the floor or the passenger’s lap.

How much must I pay to transport my Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal?

Passengers will not be charged for their Service Dog or Emotional Support Animals as long as they have the correct documentation. On Delta, if they are checked as baggage they will not be charged, and they do not count towards the baggage allowance. Delta also does not charge for transporting items associated with the animal such as their kennel, blanket, toys, and food.

What should I do if I have a problem?

Delta: If you have any problems during your flight or in the airport ask to see a Complaint Resolution Official (CRO).

United: If you have any problems during your flight or in the airport ask to be connected to the United Accessibility Desk 1-800-228-2744.

Additional regulations

Airports with restrictions

Some airports such as Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), Greenville Spartanburg Airport (GSP), and John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) have additional regulations.

PBI and GSP require animals to be crated from the lobby to the gate. JFK requires animals to go through Transport Security Administration (TSA).

International travel

Some countries have additional regulations such as a requirement to carry a pet passport, additional documentation or quarantine requirements.

Cuba: Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals will be treated as pets on arrival in Cuba and will need a Pet Certificate. Contact your local Cuban embassy in advance of travel.

Brazil: Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals are permitted on Delta flights between the US and Brazil, but only trained Guide Dogs are allowed on internal flights within Brazil on Delta’s partner airline, GOL.

Hawaii: Contact the Hawaii Animal Quarantine Branch or check out the Hawaii Department of Agriculture website for information about bringing an animal into Hawaii.

Republic of Ireland: Information about bringing an animal into Ireland is available from the Irish Department of Agriculture Website.

United Kingdom: Information about bringing an animal into the UK is available from the U.K. Government website.

For other international destinations, consult the relevant embassy or consulate in advance of your travel date. If animals aren’t allowed in any of the countries on your route you will not be allowed to fly with them.

Animals coming into the US

According to Center for Disease Control (CDC) regulations, all animals entering the US must be immunized against rabies and proof of vaccination must be given before travel.

Tips for traveling with your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal

In summary, this is what to do to ensure you have a smooth flight with your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal.

  • Vaccinations: Ensure your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal’s vaccinations are up-to-date within a year of travel.
  • Documentation: Print off and fill in all required documentation well in advance of your flight date.
  • Submission of documents: Submit either though MyTrips (Delta) or email uaaeromed@united.com (United) at least 48 hours before your flight.
  • Destination regulations: Check out all the destinations on your journey. Ensure that all countries allow transportation of Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals in the cabin. Check if your destination has additional regulations for traveling with Service Dogs or Emotional Support Animals such as pet passports or quarantine requirements.
  • Seating arrangements: Ensure your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal will not exceed the footprint of your seat. If it is larger, make arrangements to purchase an additional seat or transport your pet in the hold.
  • At the airport: Make sure you allow time for your pet to relieve themselves before you take them to the gate. Remember all US airports have an Animal Relief Area.
  • Boarding time: If you require additional time to board, arrive at the gate with enough time to make arrangements with airline staff.

Last words

We have the right in law to take our Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal on domestic flights in the US and often overseas. Make sure you are clear about the rules that govern traveling with animals before you fly, and make the necessary preparations. If you have any questions or concerns about your trip, contact Delta on 404-209-3434 or United on 1-800-228-2744 as they will be able to advise you about your specific case.

With some forward planning and preparation, you will be able to enjoy a smooth journey and a successful trip with your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal. If you want to make your dog a service dog or emotional support animal, click here.

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Best Emotional Support Dogs for Anxiety

As we learn more about mental and emotional disorders, more and more people are being diagnosed with problems like depression and anxiety daily. We live in a highly demanding, highly stressful world, and it’s little wonder that it seems just about everyone deals with some level of anxiety as a result. If you suffer from anxiety that significantly impacts your day-to-day life, you might consider getting an emotional support animal to help. These are the breeds we recommend for helping you cope with anxiety. If you have a support dog, remember to get an emotional dog support vest to clearly mark them as more than just a pet.

Spoiler: There’s No Wrong Answer

First, let’s get straight to the most important thing about choosing a dog for your anxiety. There’s no single dog breed that is better than others for this task. Unlike disability service dogs, which are typically one of only a handful of different breeds, any breed of dog can be an emotional support animal. In fact, the best breed for you will depend on your unique circumstances, needs, and even the cause of your anxiety. Now that we’ve given away the ending let’s get into more details about choosing the right dog for your anxiety.

Temperament Matters Most

If you don’t already have a dog, the first thing you need to consider is the general temperament of the breed you’re considering for your ESA. This is a dog that you need to be able to rely on for love and support when you’re feeling at your worst. This means you want a breed that is generally calm, friendly, affectionate, and loyal. While any dog can have these traits, regardless of their breed, some breeds do tend to have calmer and more affectionate temperaments than others, so do a little research before selecting a dog as your ESA.

Additionally, consider the energy levels of this breed. Is this a dog breed that tends to bark a lot or constantly want to run and play? Then it may not be the best breed for you. After all, you don’t want your dog to be wriggling away from you the moment you need a soothing cuddle.

The Right Size

This is one of those factors that will vary from one person to another. Small dogs work well as ESAs because they’re much easier to bring with you. They can fit into a bag or purse or easily be carried with you when traveling. This is much more difficult to do with a large dog.

However, if your anxiety is best soothed by full-body contact and calming pressure (you may currently rely on a weighted blanket to help you relax), then a large dog might work better for your needs. They can lay down with you and give you that reassuring presence your anxiety needs.

The Root of Your Anxiety

You should also work with a mental health professional to determine the root of your anxiety, as well as any associated triggers, as these may factor into the breed you select as your ESA. For example, is your anxiety connected to concerns for your personal safety? Then you might be more soothed by a large breed that you feel can protect you from potential threats. Is your anxiety often triggered by loud or repetitive sounds? Then you’ll want a dog breed that tends to be quieter; these include both large and small breeds, from pugs to Saint Bernards, so you can feed a dog that is quiet and fits your preferences for size as well.

Choosing a dog as an ESA can be much more complicated than simply picking a pet. But once you find the best support animal, you’ll discover just how much of a difference they can make in your life. And don’t forget to purchase an emotional support dog kit so that your canine partner has everything they need to perform their job as your ESA.

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Airlines Now Allow Only Dogs and Cats Onboard as Your Emotional Support Animal: Here’s Why

The last few years, you may have noticed a rise in social media stories featuring strange animals on planes—Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are full of images of passengers flying with their special emotional support animal (ESA). It is certainly novel to see monkeys, ducks, horses and pigs 35,000 feet above the ground—and awfully cute too, which accounts for the viral speed at which these stories travel. You’ve probably seen a few ESA’s and service dogs at the airport, yourself; many with a special service dog vest.

People flying with all manner of emotional support animal has simply surged in recent years—though it’s still far more common to see an emotional support cat or emotional support dog. On American Airlines alone, the number of emotional support animals on their flights rose by 48% in one year alone from 2016 to 2017. That’s a massive increase. In total they accommodated 155,790 emotional support animals.

It makes sense, since the more these stories go viral and the more people see images of animals flying, the more likely they are to want to fly with their animal too.

Unfortunately (or not, depending on your point of view), those days are over. Airlines are actively seeking to ban passengers from bringing just any emotional support animal aboard planes. They feel that people are taking advantage of the current laws which let an emotional support animal fly for free—a great deal considering the alternative: checking a pet can be rather costly—up to 100 dollars or more each way.

Plus, an emotional support dog or other animal is allowed more freedom on the plane—they can sit on your lap and don’t have to be kept in a cage at your feet, as is required for a checked pet. Of course, that also limits the size of your animal—many an emotional support dog would simply be too big to fit at your feet and would need to be checked below the plane. That is, understandably, not something many people feel comfortable with.

People like flying with their emotional support animal because having their presence can significantly reduce anxiety during a stressful travel and flying experience. But now, if you want to fly with an emotional support animal, you’re better off with an emotional support cat or an emotional support dog.

In August 2019 the Department of Transportation ruled that service animals could include cats, dogs and miniature horses, while emotional support animals would be allowed at the discretion of the airline. And these laws may soon be tightening up even more to include only a trained emotional support dog. (Service animals, as those mentioned above, will still be allowed with proper documentation).

This isn’t entirely new—many individual airlines had already cracked down on what type of animal could be allowed onboard as an emotional support animal. Rodents, for example, are never allowed on board the plane, emotional support animal or not, as was evidenced by the frustrating story of the woman who showed up with an emotional support squirrel and had to be removed from the plane by police officers, or, more tragically, the girl who flushed her emotional support hamster down the toilet after being denied entry with him.

While generally an emotional support dog or emotional support cat is acceptable, in some cases, even the breed of dog permitted as an emotional support dog can determine eligibility. Delta, for example, no longer allows pit bulls, after multiple attendants and passengers were attacked.

Indeed, the Association of Flight Attendants, a flight attendant union with over 50,000 members, has been a strong force in the fight to change the law, as numerous flight attendants have been injured by untrained emotional support dogs. They say that the excessive number of animals allowed on planes threatens “the safety and health of passengers and crews in recent years while this practice skyrocketed.”

Besides animal attacks, an emotional support animal can also put passengers with allergies and asthma at risk. Also, if an animal relieves itself on the plane, an event which is not unheard of, the airplane’s high level of sanitation requirements are at risk—not to mention the extra effort flight attendants must do to clean and sanitize, sometimes delaying the subsequent flight. Furthermore, in an emergency an untrained emotional support animal can pose an impediment to the safety and evacuation of passengers.

Critics of the decision say that airlines oppose animals because they’ve reduced space in cabins so drastically that there is no room for an emotional support animal (and hardly room for passengers!). They voice concern over the people who will no longer be able to fly with their emotional support animal.

So What’s The Current State of Affairs?

While we’re still waiting to hear the final verdict on whether any emotional support animal will be allowed in the main cabin, those with a service animal—different from an emotional support animal in that these animals have been trained to help disabled owners perform certain tasks—will still be able to fly with their helper. An emotional support cat or emotional support dog would still be allowed to travel in cargo areas.

Currently, an emotional support dog or emotional support cat are generally more acceptable than other animals, however it depends on a case by case basis and you’ll need to prove the animal is trained—and won’t attack anyone! Until an official law is passed, every airline is handling the emotional support animal situation a little differently.

For example, the American Airlines website states:

Cats and dogs (trained miniature horse may be permitted as a service animal) are generally acceptable as service and support animals; any other animals must comply with the US Department of Transportation requirements for health and safety including documentation of the animal’s up to date vaccination records and may not cause significant cabin disruption

In the event that your emotional support animal is too big or heavy to safely be accommodated, American Airlines suggests these alternatives:

  • Buy a ticket for the animal
  • Rebook on a flight with more open seats
  • Transport the animal as a checked pet

As the last option indicates, even if the days of flying your emotional support animal for free and in the cabin are over, you will still have the option of checking your emotional support dog, emotional support cat or other animal in through other available, albeit more conventional, means.

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What Disabilities Qualify You for a Service Dog?

For those who live with disabilities, a service animal can be more than just a companion. A service animal is a specially trained assistant that can help a person accomplish a specific task that would otherwise be difficult or impossible because of their disability. While the tasks for which service animals are trained vary widely from person to person based on condition, the rights of those who rely on service animals are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Acts. A service dog registry can provide additional credentials for those who use service animals to accomplish daily tasks, but the rights of service dog users are protected nonetheless by the law of the land.

Whether you have your animal listed on the service dog registry or not, there are some clear-cut qualifications that a person with disabilities must meet for their animals to be considered true service animals, thus qualifying them for access and protection of their rights. Read on to learn more about which types of disabilities may qualify you for a service animal.

Physical Disability Definition

A disability is defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as any physiological condition or disfigurement of a cosmetic or physiological nature that includes neurological, musculoskeletal, sensory, respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic, lymphatic, skin, or endocrine systems and organs.

Physical Disabilities and Service Dogs

There are many specific conditions that lead to disabilities that could qualify people for service dog usage. Those physical conditions include, but aren’t limited to, blindness or deafness, epilepsy, paralysis from any cause, allergies, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, scoliosis, asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, loss of limb, and seizures.

Mental Disability Definition

The Americans with Disabilities Act defines mental disability as any mental or psychological disorder that causes mental distress such as traumatic brain injury, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and some learning disabilities.

Mental Disabilities and Service Dogs

While mental disabilities may not be as easy to observe by members of the public, those who suffer from those conditions can sometimes be aided by highly trained service dogs. Those mental disabilities that qualify for service dog assistance include, but aren’t limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, depression, mood disorders, neurocognitive disorders, psychotic disorders, autism, and addiction disorders.

How Service Dogs Help

Service dogs can be trained to perform many tasks that are tailored to assist with the disabilities of their handlers. For example, service dogs can help those with physical disabilities such as sensory conditions by leading their handlers around in crowded places and alerting them to dangers. Some dogs assist their handlers with mobility by providing stability during walking or pulling wheelchairs. Other service animals are trained to provide medication reminders or sense when there’s a dangerous situation on the horizon, such as diabetic experiences plummeting blood sugar. Some dogs are even trained to dial 911 in an emergency or hail other family members to request help for a fallen owner. For those with mental disabilities, service dogs can help handlers recognize the oncoming signs of depression, for example, and distract them from triggering events. Other service dogs are trained to place their weight on their handlers as a form of deep pressure therapy that can stop an anxiety attack in its tracks. For those who suffer from PTSD, specially trained service dogs can insulate them in large crowds and help maintain space that would otherwise lead PTSD survivors to feel emotionally suffocated.

For those who live with disabilities, whether mental or physical, service dogs can provide needed assistance that can help restore function and feelings of normalcy. People who live with the conditions mentioned above can benefit from the assistance of a service dog. To learn more about what disabilities may qualify you for a service dog, contact the National Service Animal Registry at (866) 737-3930.

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What Is a Service Dog Exactly?

When you think of the term “service dog,” an image likely comes into your head of a dog in a red vest and harness. They’re likely a large breed of dog, and they may be assisting someone with an obvious disability, such as someone who is blind or in a wheelchair. While this image is not incorrect, it is a very limited view of what makes a service dog a service dog. Keep reading to learn what a service dog really is and what it takes for a dog to qualify for this title.

The Legal Definition

Legally speaking, a service dog is a dog that has received specialized service dog training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities. The dog is essential in helping the disabled individual to perform daily tasks without a human caregiver. Of course, the dog can also be a much-loved member of the family; however, first and foremost, they are there to get a job done and have received the necessary training to do so.

This means that, despite their importance to many people with mental and emotional disabilities, emotional support animals are not considered service dogs. This is because ESAs do not receive specialized training or perform set tasks that assist their owner; instead, they are a pet that provides a soothing presence to help people cope with symptoms related to anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other conditions.

Types of Service Dogs

It’s important to remember that not all disabilities are visible, and an individual may still have a condition that requires the assistance of a certified, registered service dog. Here are some of the more common types of service dogs that people use:

  • Guide dogs for the blind or visually impaired
  • Hearing dogs for the deaf or hearing impaired
  • Mobility assistance dogs for those in wheelchairs or with other mobility limitations
  • Seizure response dogs to help protect and assist individuals with seizure disorders
  • Diabetes assistance dogs to alert owners of low or high blood sugar levels

Additionally, certain dogs may be trained to assist those with mental health or psychiatric issues. However, as noted above, these dogs are given task-specific training to assist with these disorders, rather than simply providing comfort. These tasks may involve intervening if the owner displays violent behavior, alerting parents to an autistic child in a dangerous situation, retrieving medication during a panic attack, and so on.

Guide dog is helping a blind man in the city

Rights of a Service Dog

Service dogs that have been trained and recognized by the service dog registry have certain rights that other dogs don’t. They can enter stores, restaurants, and other public areas where pets are not typically allowed. They can live with their owners in pet-free housing without being required to pay a pet fee. They can travel on planes and other public transportation with their owners. Business owners and workers are not legally allowed to question the handler regarding their disability but can ask if the dog is a service animal, as well as what task the dog has been trained to do.

If you would like to learn more about service dogs, emotional support animals, and the rights that extend to each of these, click the link above or contact us today.

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Tips for Finding the Best Emotional Support Dog Vest

Your emotional support dog is a valuable companion that greatly influences your well-being on a day-to-day basis. Professionally trained to make people suffering from anxiety or depression feel at ease, emotional support dogs are known to provide a wide variety of benefits for their owners. The benefits your support dog offers are numerous and valuable, which makes the need to have them by your side at all times incredibly important. An emotional support dog vest lets others know that your furry friend isn’t just any pet. As you walk around, your support dog is working to ensure you feel relaxed, and people need to respect this. The best emotional support dog vest will allow your service animal to do their job to the best of their ability. It should also be easy for you to put on and take off the vest. If you’re currently looking to buy an emotional support dog vest, consider these few factors before making any final decisions.

Sizing

Your vest should fit your emotional support dog perfectly. This will require you to measure your dog’s girth and length, which can be easily done using a tape measure. If the vest ends up being too tight, your support dog won’t feel comfortable, and won’t be able to do their job as well. If it’s too loose, it’ll slide around and potentially fall off while your support dog is wearing it. Sizing is one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to finding the best vest for your companion.

Practicality

Not only should the vest be comfortable for the dog, but it should also make life easy for you as well. Since you’ll regularly be putting the vest on your support dog and taking it off, you want to buy one that makes doing both of these things easy. You’ll also want to purchase a vest that can have a leash attached to it easily. As you browse various dog vests, make sure to consider your best interests in addition to your support dog’s best interests.

Prominent Patches

Whether you’re going to grab a coffee or are walking through the airport, your support dog’s vest should clearly indicate that they are trained and on duty. You don’t want strangers coming up to pet your support dog, as this will inhibit them from looking after you properly. Ensure that the vest you purchase has prominent patches that communicate your dog’s emotional support responsibilities.

Design Features

The latest emotional support dog vests are equipped with features that make it more comfortable for your dog to wear, especially for long periods of time. Padded straps, exterior pockets, and mesh lining are all features that your support dog may appreciate. There’s no shortage of beneficial design features that support dog vests are equipped with, so do some research to find one that’s suited to your needs.

Location

Where you live should be taken into consideration when buying an emotional support dog vest. If cold, harsh winters are something you’re exposed to, you’ll want to find a dog vest that keeps your support dog warm and dry. If you live in a part of the country that often has rainstorms rolling through, a waterproof dog vest may be in your best interests. Be sure to consider the weather your support dog will be exposed to regularly before buying a vest.

If you’re in need of a quality emotional support dog vest, visit National Service Animal Registry’s online store today!

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Service Dog Vests: Compulsory or Not?

Most people get excited when they see a service dog wearing their vest. It’s fascinating to watch a service dog at work. Have you ever wondered if the owner put the vest on them because the law requires it? Read on and find out more about service dog vests and whether they’re compulsory.

Service Dog or Emotional Support?

With the increase in people who need dogs for assistance or emotional support, sometimes it’s difficult to identify whether a dog is truly a service animal. Many dog owners feel their dogs do aid, especially in the area of emotional support. That doesn’t necessarily mean they can be classified as a service animal. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as a dog trained to do work for a person with a disability. It’s important to know the difference between a service animal and one that provides emotional support. Both provide comfort and support to their owners. Only a service dog is considered a working animal. Service dogs receive a variety of legal protections. They’re allowed in just about any public place. Emotional support dogs, on the other hand, are not allowed the same protections or access.

Service Dog Attire

You’ve likely seen dogs wearing sweaters, dresses, and even vests. Dog owners love dressing their four-legged friends. There’s a distinct difference between a dog sweater and service dog vest. The vest a service dog wears normally has a patch designating the dog as a service animal. Many vests worn by service dogs have a message embroidered on the vest letting people know not to pet the animal. You can easily tell the difference between a cute sweater and working dog’s attire. The vest of a working dog isn’t usually frilly or cute. They look business like and not like they’re dressed in a costume.

To Wear or Not to Wear a Vest

While they may look official, those dogs you see wearing service vests can get away without wearing anything at all. That’s because the ADA doesn’t require service dogs to wear a vest. They’re also not required to have any identification proving they’re a service animal. Even though currently, wearing a vest isn’t compulsory, there are a few advantages of making sure your service animal does wear a vest in public. First, if you plan on entering a hotel or restaurant with your dog and they aren’t wearing a vest, you’ll likely be asked to leave. You’re less likely to be questioned if the dog has one on when you visit these types of places.

The Benefits of Service Vests for Dogs

If you’ve ever seen a service dog vest for sale, you’ve probably wondered if there are any benefits to your dog wearing one. Even though they’re not compulsory, other than the advantages we discussed above, there are two other benefits. When people see a service vest on a dog, they immediately become aware of the dog’s presence. In turn, they also notice you. When people are alerted to a person with a disability, they often make room on the sidewalk or street. This helps keep you safe. When someone sees a dog and its owner approaching and the dog isn’t on a leash or easily identified as a service animal, they often become worried. The vest acts as accreditation for dog and comforts strangers knowing the dog is trained and won’t be aggressive.

While there are no laws yet that make wearing a service vest compulsory, it’s still an excellent idea to have your dog wear one in public. Whether you have a service dog or emotional support dog, let National Service Animal Registry help you find the best harness or vest.

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Introducing a New Dog to the Resident Cat

So, you’re bringing your sweet, new dog home to the den and you’ve already read up on how to welcome him into the pack with ease and grace in Part 1 of this series. But what if your unique pack includes a member of the feline variety? Introducing your new ESA to an established cat is another thing altogether and can be fraught with tremendous challenges if the two of them aren’t disposed to be friendly with each other. In ancient times, cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.

Ideally, you want your special pack to be tight-knit and well-bonded, for the obvious fact that it’s simply a better way to live. Luckily, there are certain strategies you may employ to help your beloved cat and your new service dog/emotional support dog (or just dog) adjust to each other, leading to a happy family all around.

Can Dogs and Cats Really Be Friends?

Long considered quintessential enemies, cats and dogs are often comically portrayed as each other’s arch nemesis. Perhaps it is this ingrained meme that makes the reality of dog-cat friendships so insanely cute. Indeed, it is not uncommon for these animals to be quite affectionate with each other: nuzzling, playing and sleeping in a cuddle puddle.

It’s wonderful to witness the bond that can develop between a hound and a feline, and a joy to see what pleasure and companionship they bring to their relationship. There can also be an extra benefit: Your emotional support dog/service dog and your Purrs-a-Lot will entertain each other, so you don’t have to be always on duty!

Even if your cat and new dog don’t become the best of friends (you can’t force personality and chemistry, even with animals), they can at least be taught to respect one another and live in a general state of peace. There is nothing more tiresome than having to break up frequent fights or, even worse, being forever on the alert for the safety of your cat.

While it’s true they can be the best of friends, it’s also true that they still need time to get acquainted initially. In the beginning, some tension is inevitable. Naturally territorial, a resident cat will likely feel threatened by the arrival of any new animal, particularly that curious, slobbering oaf of a dog, who is likely insensitive about his invasion of Kitty’s personal space. There is bound to be some hissing and general unpleasantness.

The unpleasantness will, of course, be compounded if there is an actual physical threat to the safety of the cat from the emotional support dog. In some cases, the dog is the one who is threatened!

It is therefore advisable to facilitate an introduction that allows for a minimum of stress and predisposes the animals to recognize the other as family, thus setting the stage for a healthy relationship between the sweet beasts of your heart and home.

Match-Maker

Some cats and emotional support dogs/service dogs are more naturally disposed to be friends and need very little in the way of assistance to move through the tense acquaintance phase, becoming quick friends on their own. Others may not reach that place so quickly – if at all. It’s all a matter of personality, age, prior experience, temperament, and inclination. All factors in the relationship equation.

Take prior experience, for example: Has the dog or cat ever been emotionally close to an animal of the other species before, or is this their first opportunity? A cat that is familiar with dogs will likely have an easier time adjusting to this new dog, while a cat with no prior experience will take longer to “break in.”

Age is another factor. An old cat may be cranky and less inclined to become buddies with a young and energetic emotional support dog. The cat may even attack the hound, or at best, ignore it, with an occasional hiss and swipe to put the dog in its place. However, an old cat and an old service dog may match one another’s energy perfectly.

The main thing is to be sensitive to both animals’ personalities and needs. Consider how their energy levels match-a hyper cat and a rowdy dog may have great fun expending energy together, while a shy, quiet cat, may be overwhelmed by a boisterous emotional support dog.

While it’s normal to have tension, along with some growling, hissing, and over-excitement in the beginning, is this something that seems likely to go away in time, and with training? You’ll have to be the judge.

Step by Step:

As always, the key to easing a service dog, emotional support dog, or any animal through a transition is to do it slowly and one step at a time. Here’s a list of the steps to help introduce a new dog to the resident kitty. Use all the steps, or pick and choose, based on the personality of the animals involved, and how you observe them respond to each other.

1. Create Individual Clearly Defined Spaces.

It’s a good idea to begin by making sure both your service dog/emotional support dog and your cat have their own, separate safe zones. If possible, keep the cat’s space, along with all the kitty stuff (kitty litter, toys, food, and water, etc.) remains in its current location, unless the new dog will necessitate a change. Any space changes should be performed before your dog arrives. This enables your cat to get used to things. You can, of course, block off a portion of the house where the dog will initially be restricted to. The important thing is to limit and protect the cat’s private space.

Allowing the dog to sniff and investigate the cat’s space while the cat is in another room or outside (and vice versa) will remove some of the dog’s drive to explore. Let’s face it: The cat’s gonna do what the cat wants to do – when the cat wants to do it!

2. Smell Exchange

If possible, it’s ideal to introduce the animals to one another’s smell, even before bringing your new support dog home. Both cats and dogs have incredible noses with acute senses of smell and if given the chance to become familiar with a particular odor, the less offensive and threatening it will be for the cat, or exciting and stimulating, for the service dog. This, in turn, will create a greater openness to knowing one another upon initial meeting.

You can let them get a whiff of each other by “swapping smells,” or giving each animal a towel or old t-shirt to sleep with and then switching the now odor-drenched textiles so doggie is sleeping with meow-meow’s scent and vice versa.

If it is not possible to introduce smells ahead of the move-in date, no worries. You can implement the same technique once your new dog is in the house, but still segregated in a different room or area than the cat. You can even just swap their bedding.

3. Opposite Side of the Door Feedings

An old trick: feed the kitty and your emotional support dog at the same time, but on opposite sides of a door. They will be able to smell, hear and sense one another, but without the threat or overstimulation of actually seeing one another. Additionally, the food will help them come to associate the smell and sound of the other with something wonderful and delicious!

4. Observe Each Other Through a Gate

Now it’s time to “lift the curtain”, so to speak. Let your dog see the cat through a pet gate. You may want to keep the dog on a leash during this phase, even though they are separated, for training purposes.

Allow them to observe each other, and as they do, observe your emotional support dog. How is he behaving? If he remains obsessively fixated on the cat, lunging, and barking, digging at the barrier and staring at her intently for more than a few days, you may have an aggressive dog on your hands. If so, that require a few other precautions (see below).

Before moving on to the next step, it’s a good idea to see if the emotional support dog and cat are relatively at ease in each other’s presence. They should be able to ignore the other and show relaxed body language.

5. Leashed Face-to-Face

Now that the animals have become pretty familiar with one another and are showing more comfort, remove the gate. Let both animals inhabit the same space, but keep your new dog on a leash, to be safe. Again, stay at this step until both animals seem calm around one another.

6. Grand Finale! Off-leash Hang Time

It’s finally time to let the animals be in a room together with total freedom. They should be adjusted to one another at this point, but you’ll still want to chaperone the first few off-leash meetings or until you feel comfortable. Just use your best judgment and observe body language. You should notice any agitation or aggression.

If the cat is an outdoor cat, it’s a good idea to test the animals together outside as well. Sometimes a different environment, like being out of doors, can alter the behavior of an dog who has become used to the rules inside the house, but isn’t so sure what the rules are in the “wild” where a cat might otherwise be fair game. Better to chaperone out there too, and make sure all is well between the animal kingdoms before letting them run loose together.

Aggressive Dogs

Hopefully, your emotional support/service dog will easily habituate to the cat. Some dogs, however, have very strong predatory instincts, and if this is the case with your pooch, you’ll have to do some extra training to facilitate a respectful relationship between your pooch and your kitty.

Strong predator instinct can be recognized by specific body language and behavior: if the dog displays excessive growling, barking, or maintains a fixed stare at the cat, he is treating her more like prey, than as a member of his family. He might repeatedly jump at the cat or be generally obsessed with this other critter.

Specific training techniques to guide an aggressive dog include refocusing their attention. If your dog is fixated on the cat, pull his attention away by saying his name and getting him to look at you. Once he does look at you, offer him a treat. Repeat until the dog learns there is more reward in not being overly obsessed with the cat.

If you are having difficulty finding success, and your emotional support dog is absorbed by your cat in an aggressive way, it may be time to seek professional help.

Occasionally, a dog just is not suited to a cat (or vice versa). If you’ve given it time and patience, but the dog continues to act aggressively to the cat, it may not be a good fit. You’ll need to decide what your options are at that point.

Kittens and Your New Dog

Kittens are especially vulnerable, and even an emotional support dog who has previous cat buddies and is decidedly not a cat chaser, may see a sweet little kitten as a toy. The dog may play too rough and wind up injuring the kitten. If the kitten is a bit older and quite playful, its erratic moves can encourage a dog to play too roughly.

To avoid this sort of trauma, it’s a good idea to chaperone the meetings between these creatures. A kitten will not be territorial and may not even have developed an appropriate fear of dogs. So, in this case, it is really important to protect the little thing.

When you aren’t on patrol but want the animals to be around one another, you can keep the kitten in a big crate, so the emotional support dog can see, but not touch.

Conclusion

Hopefully, by now your cat and dog are well on the way to becoming friends. Just remember to make sure you give both your dog and your cat a lot of love and attention. It can be easy in the excitement of having a new emotional support dog to give less attention to your resident feline. Cats need a lot of reassurance, however, and your cat will benefit to understand he/she still has an important place in your heart. Giving her plenty of attention will help minimize jealousy and ill will toward her new dog friend.

Also, the more the emotional support dog sees you being affectionate with the cat, the more he’ll understand the cat is a special friend – and vice versa. Let them witness the other as family through your behavior.

And, as always, exercise patience. Sometimes, it takes a little time for a new dog and cat to become totally at ease in each other’s’ company, let alone build a familial relationship. Give it time; it will be worth it! Before long, you’ll be enjoying being at the head of a cohesive, multi-species pack!

Good Luck!

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Feeding Your Service Dog Less May Lead to a Longer Life

Most people love their pets, but for the disabled, a service dog isn’t just a beloved friend. They are an essential part of their lives, and vital to their independence. Service dogs are employed around the world to help guide the blind, alert deaf to important sounds such as doorbells or phones, and to alert to a wide range of medical conditions.

It can cost between $20,000-$60,000 to properly train a service dog and replacing them when they become too old to work or pass away is both heart wrenching and difficult. Both the handler and the dog must learn to work with a new person, and there’s no guarantee that the match will work.

Between the expense and the level of effort it takes to transfer to a new service dog, it makes sense to keep a beloved friend in service for as long as possible. The good news is, keeping your dog in good weight can not only extend his life, but make those years higher quality as well.

Weight gain is a growing problem for dogs

In the United States alone, 54% of dogs are overweight or obese. A 2014 study conducted by Banfield pet hospitals found that overweight dogs live shorter lives than those who are a healthy weight. The difference in lifespan came to about 2 ? years.

Overweight dogs are also prone to a number of chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and even ACL tears. These problems may shorten your pets lifespan, but critically for service dogs, could bring an end to their career.

If they ever have to undergo surgery, they are also more at risk because overweight dogs have to work harder to breathe and may take longer to wake up after anesthesia.

Feeding less is the best choice

Weight loss happens when a dog takes in fewer calories than it burns. While you can increase exercise in the hopes of helping your pet burn calories, the reality is your service dog probably already gets plenty of exercise every day as he performs the tasks required of him.

The saying goes, “You can’t outrun a bad diet,” and is meant as advice for runners who hope to lose weight through adopting running as an exercise routine. The same is true for dogs. Although exercise can help burn more calories, your service dog’s diet is where we truly need to look in order to help him lose weight. There are several methods you can use to help him lose weight, including:

Stop free feeding

Some people choose to keep unlimited amounts of food available for their dog. The theory being that a full dog won’t beg, and that they won’t overeat if they know there is always more food available. Dogs are opportunistic feeders however, and tend to eat more than they should, especially if it is readily available to snack on at a moment’s notice.

Instead, carefully read the instructions on your dog’s food, and follow the guidelines. These guidelines are different from brand to brand, and even between lines of the same brand.

Follow package instructions carefully

Different brands of dog food have different calorie amounts. A cup of food for one brand could have a vastly different calorie count than a cup from a different brand, even though it is the same volume. Read the package carefully, and double check that you are following instructions properly. Some people read the daily intake suggestion and think 1 cup per meal for example, and it is actually 1 cup per day.

If you want to feed multiple meals per day, split the daily value total into portions, rather than accidentally doubling or tripling the amount of dog food your pet receives with multiple meals of his daily value.

Get a body scale done on your dog

Most vets are happy to perform a body scale assessment on your dog, so that you know how far you need to go. They will give you a number between 1-5, with 1 being completely emaciated and 5 being morbidly obese. A body scale can let you know your dog’s condition and help guide you towards a healthy weight.

Include treats in overall feed amount

Many people forget that the treats and chews they offer their pet throughout the day also have calories. When feeding your service dogs his main meal, it’s important to subtract the amount of treats you have given from the total amount of kibble for the day.

Treats can add up to a surprising number of calories if you give them frequently, so if you love giving your service dog a few extras when it is off duty, this may be the culprit to his expanding waistline.

Feed less

If you have been carefully measuring your dog’s food, either by weighing it or by following the package instructions and your dog has not lost weight, it’s time to cut the amount of dog food. The measurements on the back of your dog food are simply guidelines, and they don’t always accurately reflect your dog’s needs.

Age, level of activity, and chronic diseases such as thyroid problems can slow down your dogs metabolism and make him need less than the recommended amount. If you see no change in his weight after reducing his food, it’s time to cut how much is getting in his bowl.

How much to cut your dog’s food

If you always measure your dog’s food and follow the guidelines on the back of the bag, you may be wondering where to go from there. Your dog food may suggest different measurements depending on energy requirements, but a good rule of thumb is to reduce the food you are giving your dog by 5% and then wait a few weeks to see how effective that is.

The delay between food reductions gives your service dog a chance to get used to the smaller amount of food, as well as time to lose weight. If he hasn’t lost enough weight after a few weeks, you can reduce the amount again. If you find yourself feeding less than 75% of the daily recommended amount, it may be time to switch to a lower calorie food instead.

Feeding your dog the correct amount of dog food can be tricky. The weight ranges on dog food labels can be huge and make it hard for you to guess what the appropriate amount is. Many labels also fail to meet standard calculations.

Your service dog will probably need to be on a diet for somewhere between 6-8 months in order to achieve a healthy body weight. Even just five pounds could take over a month as your dog gradually loses the weight.

Even if your dog has a lot of weight to lose, it’s important not to rush your dog’s weight loss. Rapid weight loss can have problems of its own, such as nutritional deficiencies, or even behavior problems such as digging through your trash.

It’s healthiest for your pet to lose the weight gradually, so that he has time to adjust to the reduced amount of food before making more adjustments. Your vet can be a very helpful guide here, letting you know if weight loss is too much or not enough.

Even if the weight loss is gradual, you will notice a difference in how your service dog is working as the weight comes off and he enjoys more energy and better health. Weight loss is a long term project, and is the same for people as it is for dogs. The best chance for your pet to not only lose the weight but also keep it off is a slow approach.

Why less food is so important

Most service dogs are larger dogs, such as labs and shepherds. On a medium to large sized dogs, a few extra pounds aren’t as noticeable compared to a couple of extra pounds on a tiny yorkie. Yet even just a few extra pounds on your service dog can not only decrease his lifespan, but also his quality of life. According to VCA dog hospitals, just 5 pounds of extra weight can be enough to put your dog at risk for chronic health conditions. The smaller your dog is, the more those extra pounds can stress the body.

Your service dog is a partner that gives you independence. Making sure he is healthy enough to continue to help you for as long as possible is a sensible step and is as easy as pouring a few less kibble into his bowl. He might not love a diet, but he will love the good health he can enjoy well into his twilight years as your partner in life.

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Coronavirus: The Need for Emotional Support Animals is Real

Covid-19 brings a slew of stresses that can trigger any number of emotional responses. It seems everything is threatened, from our health to our livelihoods, to our natural sociability. Now, it is perhaps more evident than ever how much comfort an emotional support animal can offer through companionship and touch. An emotional support dog, cat or other pet can provide deep therapeutic wellbeing in these troubling times by providing friendship, purpose, and presence.

According to the CDC, some responses to the COVID-19 outbreak can include severe fear and anxiety. This may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping or changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in diet and eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exacerbation of chronic health conditions
  • Exacerbation of mental health conditions
  • Alcohol and drug abuse

The CDC recommends a few ways to cope with stress and anxiety about the virus, including regular exercise, meditation, deep breathing, reducing your amount of news intake, avoiding alcohol and other substances and staying connected to loved ones through whatever means available. An emotional support animal can also be a great support.

The Stresses of the Corona Virus and How Emotional Support Animals Can Help

Below are a few of the emotional fears that corona virus can trigger. They are by no means insignificant and an emotional support animal is just one way to help mitigate fears and assuage overwhelm.

Isolation

In times of social distancing and mandatory stay at home orders, itis no surprise that a sense of isolation or loneliness can be developed or magnified, resulting in anxiety, depression or even PTSD. An emotional support animal can help soothe these emotional burdens by providing companionship, connection and touch. Letis look at each of these in turn:

Companionship provides the simple, but profound comfort found in sharing a space, or a life, with another living, breathing creature, such as an emotional support dog. Of course, an emotional support animal becomes more than an anonymous creature—they become an integral member of your family and an irreplaceable part of your tribe—even if together you are a family or tribe of two.

This companionship can of course develop into a deep bond of intimacy and love that is the definition of friendship. A friendship with your emotional support dog or other emotional support animal, as with any friendship, can provide feelings of joy and connection. You enjoy each other’s company and develop a rapport of sorts.

Your emotional support dog can also help in times of isolation by providing touch. Touch is something so often underacknowledged, and yet so crucial to the emotional well-being of human beings. An emotional support animal can of course provide plenty of nourishing touch. They are there to nuzzle, scratch, pet and cuddle.

Unemployment and Loss of Financial Security

Our ability to provide for ourselves and our families is critical our sense of overall security. When we lose a job or are in financial stress, especially with no idea when our situation will change, it’s normal to feel our stability deeply rocked. An emotional support animal can help alleviate some of the burden by providing a sense of purpose.

How do they give us a sense of purpose? Well, just as they provide nurturing and comfort, they also require a certain amount of attention and nurturing. An emotional support dog, for example, will get you out of the house to go on walks. (Incidentally, getting out of the house, even just for short walks and with a mask covering half of your face, can also help with feelings of isolation.) An emotional support cat needs you to change the kitty litter and of course, all emotional support animals need to be fed and watered every day.

It may seem small, but even these small responsibilities provide purpose. And it is a comfort to tend to the needs of a loved one, even if you aren’t able to work for a paycheck for the time being.

The Unknown Future

A fear of the future is a general, murky fear of the unknown. What does the future have in store? The truth is, we never know what the future has in store for us, but the sensation is truly magnetized in times of crisis.

One way to soften the anxiety around the unknown, is to ground into the present. Emotional support animals can be wonderful at helping us do just that. Your emotional support dog will snap you out of your ruminations on the end of the world when they need to go outside to pee. And when your emotional support cat curls up with softly squinting eyes in the evening, their purr resounding through the room, you’ll reminded that all is well in this moment.

Emotional support animals also have the ability to make us feel safe and at home—they help us relax, give us a feeling of snugness and warmth. In a world of unknowns, these sweet beings can make us feel deep gratification and contentment, grounding us in the present moment.

Illness, Death and Grief

On the extreme end of this virus crisis is both the fear of illness and death, and actual illness, death and grief from losing loved ones—made all the more awful since social distancing prevents large funerals and group grieving.

When dealing with these fears, an emotional support animal can help in all the ways mentioned above: they may help you to be more present, give you a sense of purpose and provide a nourishing relationship full of affection and touch.

When faced with the loss of a loved one, there may be no great consolation but time. However, sometimes just having a familiar presence by your side is a subtle, but appreciated comfort. An emotional support animal can be that friend.

Your Emotional Support Animal

In these troubling times, being able to find comfort in an animal friend can make a world of difference to your emotional well being.

If you live in an apartment that doesn’t allow pets, or you feel overwhelming stress when traveling alone, you may want to get a registered emotional support dog or other animal. An emotional support dog by your side could help assuage anxiety while maintaining social distancing in public, for example.

Alternatively, if you already have a special animal, you could get them registered as an emotional support animal.

Whatever your registration needs, the National Service Animal Registry can help. An emotional support dog or other animal can help relieve the emotional uneasiness during this pandemic.

If circumstances related to Covid-19 are causing severe anxiety and stress, be sure to seek help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can also call the disaster distress helpline at 1-800-985-5990. Get your own ESA letter and make your pet an emotional support animal here.