Will Amtrak Let Me Bring My Emotional Support Animal on Board?

Emotional Support Animal Will Amtrak Let Me Bring My Emotional Support Animal on Board?

Will Amtrak Let Me Bring My Emotional Support Animal on Board?

With a barrage of information out there, determining who needs and qualifies for an ESA may represent a challenge. To simplify things, DoNotPay offers a product to help you get your pet qualified as an ESA.

Animals helping human beings manage their stress and anxiety most likely goes back centuries, but they weren't protected under the law as ESAs until the late 1980s. Their popularity continues to grow, and today over 200,000 Americans own emotional support animals. ESAs mostly come in the canine and feline form, but legislation exists to allow almost any species as an ESA.

But while a pet monkey might qualify as an ESA in the apartment you rent, that doesn't mean your helpful primate gets to come along to a restaurant, on a flight, or your Amtrak train trip.

How to Define an Emotional Support Animal or ESA:

An ESA does not represent the same thing as a service animal. A service animal receives special training and certification to help humans with physical needs. Most of us think of a Seeing Eye dog for the blind as the typical example of a service animal. But animals may also receive training to help people make up for the absence of other senses or mobility. These animals' role in their owners' lives measures as nothing short of amazing.

The table below outlines the differences between an emotional support animal vs a service animal:

ESAService Animal
DefinitionA pet, whose presence is determined to be needed for the mental health of a patient. The pet is prescribed by a licensed mental health professional to a person with a disabling mental illness.According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are dogs that are trained to perform tasks or do work for people with disabilities.
Does the assistance animal have access to public areas?NoYes
Can the assistance animal be banned or restricted when the owner is obtaining housing?NoNo
Will the owner of the assistance animal be charged a pet deposit for living with one?NoNo
Is the assistance animal allowed on flights free of charge?NoYes

But many people may not need help with physical problems but do suffer from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, depression, and even addiction. The companionship of an animal may help curb these and other emotional problems. 

Unlike a service animal, a pet does not need special training to qualify as an ESA. Scientific studies show that animals positively affect our hormonal balance by reducing stress-related hormones like cortisol and Alpha-Amylase and increasing good feeling hormones like Oxytocin. The changes in these hormones explain why healthcare professionals recognize pets as ESAs.

But, because ESAs don't receive specialized training, they aren't necessarily allowed everywhere in public. If you need to bring your pet with you on a trip to which you're traveling by air or rail, you will need to obtain an ESA from your doctor or healthcare professional.

How Does Amtrak Handle the Issue of Emotional Support Animals?

Your landlord may need to allow your bull mastiff or even your python as an emotional support animal, but the same does not hold for public modes of transportation.

Amtrak only allows dogs and cats as ESAs, but that doesn't begin to cover the rules. The ESA policy at Amtrak points out that regarding ESAs in public, species other than dogs and cats aren't protected under the law when it comes to public places.

Furthermore, Amtrak lays out other rules. You may only take your pet with you on the train if it weighs under twenty pounds with the carrier included. The twenty-pound weight limit certainly restricts larger breeds. You may only bring your pet on rides lasting fewer than seven hours.

Additionally, you may not take your pet with you into eating, sleeping, or restroom quarters. You must also carry the pet onboard in an approved carrier. You must complete paperwork and show proof that your pet's shots and vaccinations are current, and your pet needs to be at least eight weeks old. Amtrak also charges $25 to bring your qualified pet.

Certain trains exist where pets (whether they qualify as ESAs or not) won't be allowed. Additionally, Amtrak allows only five animals on any given train. Service animals represent the exception to all these rules. A certified and trained service animal may ride on any of Amtrak's trains and accompany the passenger to any area. Service animals receive protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and ride for free for the most part. If the animal takes up a seat, Amtrak may charge a fare.

What Is an ESA Letter, and Does Amtrak Require One?

An ESA letter written by an authorized healthcare professional represents official documentation that your pet acts as an emotional support animal to assist you with conditions such as depression, anxiety, or other recognized mental health issues. Some examples of who may write an ESA letter include the following:

  • Physician
  • Physiatrist
  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Licensed Mental Health Counselor
  • Licensed Social Worker
  • Physician's Assistant

The letter must include the professional's licensure information and the date written. An ESA letter represents a prescription for improved mental wellness for all practical purposes.

Amtrak’s Position on ESA Letters:

While Amtrak recognizes the validity of Emotional Support Animals at this time, they do not require an ESA letter for your pet. As long as the pet meets the qualifications, and you bring along the appropriate carrier, they allow it onboard.

You may need your ESA letter to bring your pet to restaurants and other businesses for your final destination. But, ESA letters serve a vital purpose for renting living quarters. A landlord cannot refuse you because of an ESA, and they cannot charge you extra rent.

How to Obtain an Emotional Support Animal Letter on Your Own:

If your pet serves as an Emotional Support Animal, again, you don't need to go through certified training to get them registered. But you do need an ESA letter as documentation to prove you need an ESA. Even if your current living situation doesn't require one, it's a good idea to get the documentation for future dwellings or everyday errands and travel plans. Listed below, you'll find the basic steps in receiving an ESA letter:

  1. Find an ESA form letter and prepare it for your future appointment.
  2. Consider your options for professional help from your physician or licensed mental health professional.
  3. Schedule an appointment either in person or virtually with the chosen professional.
  4. Review your situation and symptoms with the healthcare provider and explain why you need an ESA.
  5. Request an ESA letter using the ESA form letter you obtained earlier.

Though the steps above seem relatively simple, it doesn't always go smoothly for those seeking an ESA letter. Your regular doctor may express a reluctance to sign if not previously aware of your mental health issues. Some healthcare professionals may require you to come in for multiple appointments and do psychological testing before agreeing to sign an ESA letter.

If you attempt to do the process with online services, you will need to log into different sites and juggle multiple passwords.

Why Not Let DoNotPay Help You Obtain Your ESA Letter:

Whether you need an ESA letter for a rental unit, travel, or just everyday occurrences, DoNotPay's Service and Emotional Support Animals product covers all your related needs. Just follow the steps below to let DoNotPay take the frustration out of the ESA letter process:

  1. Search "service animal" on DoNotPay.

     

  2. Select the type of issue you need help with, including contacting your landlord about your ESA/service animal, asking your airline about ESA options, or requesting ESA/service accommodations at other venues.

     

  3. Answer a series of questions about your current situation and the details of your ESA/service animal, so we can generate the best results for you.

     

And that's it! Depending on your issue, DoNotPay will generate a letter to your landlord and mail it on your behalf, contact the airline agency and get back to you with an answer, or send a letter to your mental health professional requesting an ESA letter.

Three Reasons It Makes Perfect Sense to Use DoNotPay for Your ESA Needs:

If you're still not sure that you should use DoNotPay for all your ESA needs, consider these three simple yet essential reasons:

  1. Fast—You won't spend hours or days looking for an appropriate healthcare professional for your ESA letter.
  1. Easy— You don't need to worry about taking multiple tests or keeping track of numerous usernames and passwords.
  1. Successful—You can relax knowing that DoNotPay's legal experts know how to take care of all your ESA needs.

DoNotPay's Products Help With All Aspects of ESA:

Just follow the links below for product information for your ESA needs:

Find Out More About What DoNotPay Can Do for You:

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If you'd like to learn more about DoNotPay’s products for pet owners and non-pet owners alike, please visit us here.

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