HOW TO GET AN EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMAL
By now, I am sure you know about Taco, my new Toy Australian Shepherd. I got him from Gunslinger Toy Aussie Shepherds , a breeder in Kansas and it was love and first sight and as random as it can get.
I was in pre season training in Scottsdale, days before flying to my first events of the year in Australia. And I was struggling. Minutes before grabbing my phone to —surprise, surprise — check instagram, I had decided to cancel my trip to Australia. I was dealing with major stress and anxiety over the matter, and the only thing I know it helps me to stay away from all these emotional feelings is to watch puppy videos.
Normally I go on to old videos from Coco. Coco, for those who dont know, is my first Toy Aussie Shepherd. She was also a matter of coincidence, but the best random decision we ever took. She used to travel with me on tour, and funny fact is that with her I played one of my best seasons on the LPGA. She travelled 6 months with me and the first month on the road I was able to get two top 10s in a row.
Long story short, I had to send Coco home to Spain with my parents because of travels to Asia and South Africa for more than two months, and when the time came to get her back, my parents were too deeply attached to her.
Back to Taco.
He is such fun, lovable and loyal little puppy. Everyone says that this breed needs a lot of attention and have a lot of energy, but to be honest, and with my experience with these dogs; dogs always get used to your lifestyle. If you take naps they learn to take naps, if you travel a lot they learn to chill on your lap and travel with ease.
How to get an ESA (emotional service animal)
The idea with Taco is for him to travel with me everywhere I go. I was dealing (and still are) with some emotional and mental issues in which I took advantage and got him to become my personal emotional support dog. For your dog to become a service animal, all you need is a valid medical prescription from a licensed psychologist or psychiatric. Since being an emotional prescribed animal from your licensed mental doctor, airlines are not allowed to ask you what kind of emotional imbalance or ailment you are suffering. This is kind of nice because most of us don't like feeling vulnerable in front of strangers.
If you do not happen to be working with a licensed mental doctor, for A or B reasons —in my case, it took time to finally open up about my situation — there are mental institutions that will look after you and if they find ir necessary they will prescribe you the ESA medical prescription letter head.
The best two options I know are EZ Care Clinic and Chilhowee Psychological Services . If you click on each name, it will send you directly to their website where you can learn more about getting the service done online. I believe they range from $200-$300 for the ESA paperwork. And I also think the prescription letter is valid for 1 year.
Normally how it works is that you have to do a few hours worth of tests online that will let you know if you are eligible to call in for an appointment. If they find you eligible to speak with a doctor, you will then have to meet up with them via Skype and have one or two sessions explaining what kind of emotional distress you are feeling and why do you think an ESA dog will help you cope with whatever struggles you might have.
Once you get approved by the medical institution or your doctor and you have your prescription letter, it is recommended to register your dog in the National Service Animal Registry. This is super easy and simple, you will pay depending on what kind of services and paperwork you require. But you will then get a diploma and a photo ID for your dog.
The nest step is to buy the ESA harness that you will need your dog to wear it in public places. I bought mine in Amazon, click here for a direct link. Buying it in Amazon is your easiest and safest bet.
How to travel with your emotional support animal?
To travel with your pet national and internationally is easier than you can imagine but it requires some paperwork you must be willing to do in advance. Like everything in life, if you get your shit together ahead of time, you are capable of having everything under control and avoid last minute fiascos.
A- Travel within the US
To travel nationally with the dog is easy. Airlines don't ask for health certificates every time you travel, but if you don’t have an ESA (emotional support animal) certain airlines charge you different amounts. They all vary from $100-$200 per destination. The prescribed medical letterhead for your ESA is the only thing you must carry with you at all times when traveling with your pet. This is to guarantee you are not charged the pet airline fee.
Each airline has its own preset requirements and guidelines to follow through when you fly with an ESA animal. To learn more about the paperwork you need to fly with your pets for each airline click here. This is crucial you add it to your bookmarks if you are an avid traveller, because it will save you from last minute inconveniences. You will see that almost every airline that allows travelers to fly with ESA dogs they require extra documentation to be submitted at least 24-48 hours before your flight. Make sure you read carefully through all of them.
B- Travel Internationally
To travel internationally is a whole different story. To be able to travel with your dog or ESA dog, you must first oblige not only by the airline guidelines but also you must take into consideration the requirements of the country you are traveling to. Each country has its own set of rules to be followed or hence, your dog could either stay in quarantine or you will be denied to travel with them.
For international travel, health certificates are mandatory. But these health certificates must be done by accredited USDA veterinarians. And not every state has them, so this is another issue that needs to be taken care of ahead of time. The easiest thing to do is to google vets around you and start calling in one by one asking if they are accredited to do an international health certificate. If they have an accredited vet they will ask you to which country you are traveling to and they will let you know what kind of paperwork to bring for the appointment.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that international health certificates must be done NO EARLIER THAN 10 DAYS BEFORE TRAVEL. According to the last vet I visited, this is a specific requirement from the airlines themselves.
International Health Certificate Requirements
Most of the countries require your dog to be vaccinated from the rabies and the 4 rounds of DHPP (distemper, hepatitis, parvo and parainfluenza) vaccinations. Your dog doesn’t have to wait to get all of the DHPP vaccination boost before flying internationally. But you must keep all the original certificates of the vaccinations since the vet and the airlines always ask for them.
You cannot give your dog the rabies shot before they turn 3 months old, and there is a 28 day incubation period in which the vaccination is considered active so you must wait until your dog turns 4 months old to truly fly him to the US or Europe. There is also recommended to give them the Bordatella and Lepto shots.
When traveling to Europe, it is mandatory to get your dog microchiped. However there is only one type of valid microchip to enter the EU. The microchip must be ISO and must have 15 digits to be read by the machine at the European customs. There is also something important to keep in mind — to fly to Europe from the US, you must get your dig microchipped before you give him the rabies shot. It is mandatory to get the microchip dated either same day hours earlier than the rabies or the day before (to be safe).
In order to find all the information needed to travel with your pet international, the best website to visit is called Pet Travel. There you will find all the documents you need depending from where and to where you are traveling to.
Last but not least, once you have your health certificate in hand you must either mail it with a return label or drive to an USDA Endorsement office. All the international health certificates MUST be endorsed to fly out of the country. The endorsement of the health certificate is like a stamp. And the USDA has to stamp it for you to be eligible to fly with your pet. Regardless if it an ESA or a regular pet.
There are very few offices in the US. To learn where is your nearest one I will recommend you to visit United State Department of Agriculture website. There is a charge of $38 for a regular endorsement fee. And they dont accept cash, only credit card. (The might allow money order or check, please check to verify). I always managed to drive to the closest one. There is one in Miami next to the airport and I have always flown from there to either Colombia or Europe.
I believe this is a perfect little summary to get you going. I did my best to link all the necessary information into one blog.
Please let me know if you have any additional questions.