ESA vs. PSD and the Importance of Advanced Certifications

Differentiation and significance: ESA, PSD, and PSD as Assistance Dog

Emotional Support Animals (ESA):

Since 2021, ESAs no longer enjoy the same legal privileges asservice dogs in the USA. As they are not accepted as cabin companions by US and international airlines anymore, PSD-USA does not offer corresponding certifications. For more about the history of ESAs in the USA, see our dedicated section.

Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD):

PSDs are specially trained to assist people with psychological impairments through targeted tasks. They are certified according to US-DoT standards and guidelines of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), including the ability to fly in the cabin. In the USA and on flights to and from the USA, this ability does not need to be proven under current laws, leading to numerous organizations offering PSD certificates at low prices without any real qualification of the dog. Contrarily, our certification offers a comprehensive training program that respects the dog-human bond, the dog’s qualification, and airline requirements.

PSD as Assistance Dog:

An evolution of the PSD concept. These dogs are trained not only to US standards but also in line with European and international requirements. Their training focuses on the individual bond with the owner and the ability to operate in various public and private environments, including exemplary behavior in airports and during flights, contributing to flight safety. In collaboration with our partner PSDeurope, the leading organization for online training and
certification, we offer a comprehensive program that meets not only US standards but also European accessibility act guidelines and official IATA recommendations. This allows PSD owners to travel globally with their dogs without restrictions or discrimination, fulfilling all requirements for traveling and flying in the cabin. We also seek recognition from global institutions like ESAAT, PSDP, and IAADP to promote wide acceptance of our training.

Please decide which of our PSD certificates best fits your travel needs

The History of Emotional Support Animals in the USA

The concept of Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) has origins dating back to antiquity. In ancient Greece, animals were used for emotional support. The formal recognition of ESAs in modern USA began in the 1960s when psychiatrist Boris Levinson introduced animal therapy in hospitals and prisons.

Legally, the regulations for service animals and ESAs were quite distinct. Service animals, such as guide dogs, are specially trained to perform specific tasks related to a person’s disability. ESAs, on the other hand, provide emotional support but are not trained for specific tasks. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals have extensive privileges not afforded to ESAs.

In aviation, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) of 2002 enabled passengers with disabilities to travel with their ESAs in aircraft cabins without additional fees, provided they could present a healthcare provider’s certification of the need for an ESA. In subsequent years, airlines relaxed their rules for passengers with ESAs, allowing animals on board without extra fees or extensive documentation, as long as certain criteria were met.

However, these liberal regulations led to abuses and oddities. There were reports of a variety of unusual animals being registered as ESAs, including alligators, goats, and even kangaroos. The issue escalated when passengers falsely presented their ESAs as service animals to gain access to no-pet areas, leading to legal disputes and discussions about the appropriateness of ESA regulations. As a response, airlines changed their policies, and since March 2021, they are no longer legally required to allow ESAs on board.

Recent developments indicate that the legislation surrounding ESAs is evolving, with society increasingly recognizing the importance of mental health and the role of ESAs. The future legal status and public perception of ESAs remain to be seen.

In any case, an ESA certification for your dog is no longer sufficient to take it into the cabin on flights within the USA. Especially on international flights, it has never been possible to fly with ESAs. For this, you will need one of our PSD-USA certifications with qualified online training.

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