When traveling with an emotional support dog, you may encounter members of the public who may question its presence. Perhaps they are a staff member trying to protect the well-being of their guests, or merely a curious passerby. Whatever the case, you may become the target of scrutiny of those who question whether your emotional support dog can be in a public place or not. Although being put on the spot can be embarrassing, you can easily move past these situations by answering their questions.
Here are some sample questions the public may ask you. We have also supplied you with possible responses, as well as reasons why, so you aren’t caught off guard and may then continue going about your business.
“Is your emotional support dog a service dog?”
No. There is a difference between emotional support dogs and service dogs. Service dogs are trained to perform special tasks related to their handler’s specific medical condition. They are different from emotional support dogs, who do not need special training but who may provide support for a number of physical or psychiatric disabilities.
It is illegal to call a dog a service dog when it is not one, even if it provides you with important assistance such as emotional support. Emotional support dogs are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and as such do not have the same rights when traveling in public.
“Doesn’t your dog need to be wearing a vest?”
No. There is no law requiring your dog to wear a vest, and that includes service dogs, emotional support dogs, and therapy dogs.
However, an emotional support dog vest may help the public understand that your dog is providing you with crucial assistance and is not a pet. Be sure your vest clearly states the words “emotional support dog” to avoid any confusion or misinterpretations.
“Is your dog really allowed on this airplane?”
That depends. The Air Carrier Access Act has allowed airlines to modify their policies in regards to traveling with animals. As such, ESAs may be allowed on a flight if you have proper documentation, and as long as the animal does not pose a danger to other passengers.
Wherever you travel with your emotional support dog, it can be a good idea to provide resources that inform the public that your dog is not a pet. An emotional support dog vest and identification such as an ID card can satisfy the public’s curiosity before they even ask you their first question.