This is My "Emotional Support Dog"


So I'm checking into the my flight at the United Premier section of SFO, and things are going just fine. I notice a man with a dog to the right of me. I take notice because it doesn't look like a seeing eye dog, and it doesn't have any sort of "clothing" on to identify itself as a special dog. It looks like this guy just brought his pet in here. Whatever - this is San Francisco. I turn back toward the counter and stop caring. Then I hear the following...

Passenger: "Hi! My name is ___ ___. I'm checking in for my flight to _____, and this is my emotional support dog!"

Agent: "Your what dog?"

Passenger: "This is my emotional support dog. Here's my doctor's note and travel agent's note."

Surprised Agent: "Okay… let me see… okay… looks good to me…"

Passenger: "Terrific!"

I walk over to the security line, and I see that he and his dog are right behind me. He immediately announces to the line, "This my emotional support dog!"

I tried so hard to contain my laughter, and I was luckily able to keep it all in.

In any case, I'm on my flight to Denver now, and I didn't get the ugprade. I could really use some emotional support. Maybe I should get a friendly dog prescribed to me.




Carl February 2, 2012 at 02:54 pm

There is no requirement that either emotional support animals or service animals wear any special vests. So long as the dog has been reasonably trained, you probably won't notice it during flight. I've arrived on a flight to Brazil and only on deplaning realized there was a dog in the row behind me.

Babies are far more likely to negatively impact your travel.

Of course the dog owner needs to be responsible about both having a trained animal and having managed its needs.

A. S. February 2, 2012 at 04:11 pm

I honestly don't think I would have been able to hold in a chuckle.

Stan February 2, 2012 at 07:41 pm

Just curious why you (or anyone) would think this is funny? What if it was the guy's support dog? Maybe he hates flying or has other issues, who knows. Just curious why it would be funny?

It also seems a bit strange that you would take a picture of some guy and his dog and then blog about it online.

Kevin February 2, 2012 at 07:54 pm

@AS, don't know how I did it, but I did! @Stan, I'm a pretty strange guy. I'm a geek who flies over 100,000 miles per year, and I find humor in unusual situations. Sometime I even photograph them and blog about them... Weird me!

@Stan--it doesn't seem strange to me that Kevin would cover this. "Emotional Support Dog"--I am sorry, but what BS...

G Lagen February 3, 2012 at 02:44 am

I have to share this story with you so maybe it will help you put this into perspective. I can see why you would think this was funny, because it's unusual. But you don't know what people's issues are until you scratch the surface. If you would have asked the person in this blog why he has an emotional support dog, maybe he would have shared his story with you. I was directly affected by what happened on 9/11 and fell into a deep depression, which had me medicated for eight years. I was desperate to get my life together and the doctor thought to slowly wean myself off the heavy dosages I was on montly...and to get an "emotional support dog". I started my first decrease in dosage in September 2009 and brought a little pooch home on January 1st 2010. If you have images of some crazy man, I wish to note I am a million mile actual flyer on United. That dog has done so much for me...I can't even tell you. I get two seats, put his little bed on one, he jumps up and we fly together. I am still decreasing my meds - Rather than walking around like a zombie medicated, one little Italian Greyhound has brought me out of a dark hole. You just never ever ever know. It could easily been your brother, your cousin, your dad...or you. All it takes is one second for something to happen to change your world. I share this so it may be a teachable moment. Thanks.

jamie February 3, 2012 at 01:01 pm

People really need to calm down with the serious comments. It's not that serious. I find this to be extremely hilarious. Awesome blog Kevin!

anonymous February 3, 2012 at 04:38 pm

I think that Kevin's point is that this was just unexpected. I know of a girl at work who has the cutest dog. We work for a consulting firm and spend a good amount of time in the air. She's openly said to me that she has a doctors note for an Emotional Support Dog, not because she's afraid of flying, but that it means she can fly with her dog for free.

Obviously, there are people like G Lagen who have legitimate reasons... and then there are others. No judgement on the fellow pictured - it's just something you don't see every day!

G Lagen February 3, 2012 at 11:35 pm

I agree, it's very funny - but I don't make it known by talking very loud. It seems this guy was seeking attention. My little one has a little tag hanging from his collar and I do keep a note with me from the doctor just in case. But I've never been asked to produce it. They are allowed on certain flights, on certain aircraft and not always in all classes, you can't just show up at the airport with one.

Think about it, when I walk with him it screams "this guy has issues" and won't exactly get me any dates (laughing). Sorry about the punctuation/spelling in my previous comment. It's tough typing on an iPhone.

Jake February 11, 2012 at 05:48 pm

Matthew, I almost couldn't believe that you said what you did below. That is an utterly thoughtless jerky attitude to have. My hope is that you never need one yourself some day but if you do, maybe someone will laugh at you and claim it's BS and then you will know how it feels. Rude. Unbelievable. Grow up.

"@Stan--it doesn't seem strange to me that Kevin would cover this. "Emotional Support Dog"--I am sorry, but what BS..."


When I run into hard times, I rely on my Emotional Support Horse but United won't let me take him onboard.

Emily April 19, 2012 at 09:57 pm

I, too, am completely baffled as to why this is funny. Since when is it socially acceptable to openly mock the treatment of medical disorders?

For those of you unaware; it has been clinically proven hundreds and hundreds of times that interaction with a dog (or other pet) can drastically improve the physiological and psychological well being of people. It has been clinically proven millions of times that mental illnesses are real, are medical in nature, require proper treatment, and can become disabling (about 20% of mental illness cases meet the ADA definition of disabled). I don't even know how to begin to explain the expansive empirical support for the fact that prescription medications work, but often come with problematic side effects that make it difficult for the patient to function, and some rx drugs may cause permanent damage to the body.

Sure, this guy may have been a tool for announcing to the line that he had an ESA... but this bogger was obviously a bigger tool for posting pictures of him online and mocking the poor man. For those of you who are entertained by this or think ESA's are "BS," you clearly need to improve your awareness of mental illnesses, have respect for what people with them experience, and grow the hell up.

And you thought comment 12 was a joke!


Katie September 14, 2012 at 12:02 am

Honestly, emotional support animals are protected under several federal laws. Yes, SOME people use this to fly their pets for free, and I'm sure that some people get doctors' notes saying that they need their pet in their apartment or "no pet" housing in order to help alleviate their mental/emotional disability symptoms, but for some people, this is the real deal. Some people have serious emotional disabilities, and until you have experienced how debilitating that is, please don't mock those who are currently living with one.

Pami October 13, 2012 at 03:32 pm

Emotional Support Dogs are not service dog at all. They have a different law all Airline can required that they have a vest and Emotional Support Dog patch on along with doctor note. So don't get upset if someone is laughing at people like this. Because they did not have the right uniform and patch on how do you know they are not just laughting because the person is so dumb not to do this. I have a service dog and he always has a uniforn and patches on out in public. I know you don't need one but it helps people know he on duty. In the picture the dog is not acting like a emotional support animal he is snifing the floor when the dog should be in a sit by owner side. Maybe this guy just wanted to take his pet with him. If you have Emotional Support Dog train them right or don't have one. Look up train a emotional support dog online. To get vest and right patches go online at www.Pup' for ESD patches. Let me know if this help[ you out!

frank November 10, 2012 at 01:12 pm

I am so saddened to read these careless comments.

Bobby November 20, 2012 at 05:05 pm

I know this looks ridiculous... and I have an ESA (emotional support animal) that's just over a year old Vizsla. I suffer from severe social phobia and having her there really, really helps. 98% of people that come up to me want to pet Sadie or talk about her which greatly diminishes my "freak out" mode. My anxiety is so bad that when people talk to me I know what I want to say and in my head I am fine, but the words literally wont come out of my mouth or my mind goes blank - which makes me come off as a total weirdo (I guess I am by society's definition).

Anyways, I think he might be taking advantage of the situation, but Sadie really does help me travel... though I do agree, it sounds ridiculous! I also don't go to the security line announcing this is my ESA! I think most people with an ESA wouldn't be able to do call that much attention to them without the consequences they're seeking to avoid in the first place.

J.L. February 21, 2013 at 11:22 am

This is an absurd post, and I'm a little surprised it hasn't been deleted. Why are we openly mocking someone for using a service dog? Is the author equally contemptuous of blind people, paraplegics, the deaf, etc...? Are the only people allowed in airports those that meet the author's privileged standards of "normal?"

Gigi July 5, 2013 at 04:36 am

I'm flight attendant and a few years ago a woman boarded with her medium sized dog and told me it was an emotional support dog, as she was a nervous flyer, and he calmed her down, I had never heard of such a thing and she immediately snapped at me and said " I have a note to prove it!". I didn't have a problem with it, as I am an animal lover and am happy to see any dogs on the plane. I told her that the dog could not be on the seat however, that the dog had to stay at her feet. She said she knew. As soon as we took off the dog was up on the empty seat ( I know, imagine the concept - and empty seat!) next to her. When I reminded her again she said " I can't help it - the dog is scared - he's a nervous flyer!". Uh huh.. Draw your own conclusions.

Any September 21, 2013 at 08:47 pm

"Ha ha, this guy has a mental disability!" Really funny post.

Anonymous March 10, 2014 at 01:49 pm

I myself do have an emotional support dog due to severe anxiety. Honestly, it is not something you should make fun about. If that guy had a doctor's note he was actually ill. It is not funny at all that there are people having those anxiety disorders. I honestly would not wish the terror and the feeling as if you are dying while having an anxiety attack to anyone. Obviously, you never had a dog and that is why you apparently cannot comprehend the powerful effect animals can have on us especially in calming us down. You should be ashamed to make such a sneaky comment about a disorder like that. Owners and their emotional support dogs are very close and yes, the dog might even sit on their lap. If that is what calms people down than so be it. It is a well known psychological concept that touch helps to amplify whatever emotion you deal with.

vknqueen May 9, 2014 at 12:55 am

@Pami comment #16 Emotional Support Animals DO NOT NEED A VEST. In fact this is the first sign that the permission for the esa is bogus in nature. There are sites online that charge for the vests and patches and an extra $99 to give the owner a short interview and write a letter of permission for an esa about a person they have never treated. You are dead wrong about your research.

Andrea H August 8, 2014 at 01:28 am

To legitimately have an emotional support animal, you have to have a diagnosed mental or emotional illness out of the DSM-IV, have a note from your doctor or therapist that is treating you for that mental/emotional illness and it has to be on their letterhead, and include the date of their medical license and the state in which it was issued. No, the animal does not have to wear a vest. The only special circumstances an emotional support animal is allowed where it would otherwise not be allowed is 1) airlines and 2) housing that otherwise does not allow pets. That's it. No restaurants, no stores, no where else. And the emotional support animal does not have to help you on the flight, it can be that it helps you at your destination. I have an emotional support animal after dealing with depression for 10+ years, my emotional support dog has been what has helped me the most. Should I stay home and never visit my family on the other side of the country because I suffer from major depressive disorder? No, I am going to visit them in September and I am taking my ESA with me. If you think it's silly or BS, I don't really care. I have a letter from my psychiatrist stating that she prescribed it to me and that I need him at my destination to help me treat my depression while I am there for 2 weeks. End of story. People can snicker or think what they want. I really couldn't care less. Unfortunately there are people who find ways to get letters to just avoid paying pet in-cabin fees, and there are "doctors" and "therapists" on the internet who will write you a letter for $150 and you can fly with your pet in-cabin for a year as many times as you want. Those people are giving ESA's a bad name. It's shameful! Terrible for those of us who have a real need for them.

Erica July 23, 2015 at 10:46 pm

I see no reason to keep going back and forth about whether or not an emotional support dog is a legitimate thing. It is not our place to judge that man or anyone else with an emotional support dog (whether they really do benefit from the dog or are taking advantage of the law). Who we should be judging is the author of this post. It's his blog, so he's free to say what he wants. But writing this doesn't make him sound like a good person. He doesn't sound like someone I would want to sit next to on the plane, I'd rather sit by the guy with the dog.

E Baez January 29, 2016 at 07:05 pm

For those who say to "tone down seriousness" this blogger posted his article and he had to get prepared for the diverse responses.

Personally, ignorance is not funny. Like others have said here you could of simply asked what an emotional support animal is and he either could of explained or tell you it's none of your business. But while blogging and poking fun you could of googled it up and informed yourself. Who are we to judge? Ignorance is contagious and there's no antidote, but that's my opinion.

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