' ' '
A dog on a southwest flight in cabin

Registering An Emotional Support Animal On Southwest?

Emotional Support Animals Flying On Southwest

By: Anonymous Client

The need for emotional support animals on southwest has increased in recent years. because the stigma for mental health has steered in a positive direction.  More people are getting help from psychologists and psychiatrists to live healthier lives. That is where I am at with my life. For one-and-half years, I have been getting treated for anxiety and depression. My fear and anxiety have increased when I fly. I have been on a flight where we had mechanical issues that had to be resolved in the air and we made a nose-dive landing. I have been on some turbulent flights that have descended into severe thunderstorms. I have been living in Arizona and my immediate family resides in Chicago. I like to visit them on the holidays and summer vacations

On my journey to be mentally healthy, I got the surprise of my life when I got my first dog for Christmas. I named her Wendy and she is a chocolate Labrador retriever

What is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)?

 According to the United States Dog Registry, an ESA is any animal that provides emotional support to their handler suffering from a mental or emotional disability. Under federal law, ESA can accompany their handler in housing (including “no pet” housing) and air travel (inside a cabin) without additional fees or charges.

How Old Was Wendy When I Registered Her To Be An Emotional Support Animal on Southwest?

When Wendy was four months old, I registered her to be my emotional support animal (ESA). However, the dog only has to be Not to be confused with a certified service dog. A service animal are dogs who are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. These tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling wheelchairs, alerting seizures, calming people down when they have anxiety attacks because of a disorder, and other specific duties.

An ESA dog at the airport

How To Register Your Emotional Support Animal To Fly On Southwest

I did my homework in preparing for my flights and have learned so much since my first flight with my dog Wendy. I get asked all the time at the airport what steps I took to get my dog as an ESA and the steps I take at the airport. I hope for anyone that struggles with fear of flight, anxiety, and depression that wants to have an ESA that this provides useful information.

Please do your homework. It is vital because it is a big deal to take an animal in the cabin of the airplane. Remember, handlers have their rights under Federal law and establishments have their rights to ask you to leave under certain circumstances. Each airline has their own policies and procedures to get your ESA signed up to board a flight. Look on the airline’s website so you know how to properly comply with all rules and procedures because each airlines’ ESA policy and procedures are different.

ESA is a privilege not a right

Emotional Support Animal on Southwest in 4 Easy Steps

The rules  for Southwest ESA requires:

  1. The handler has documentation from a doctor
  2. The animal must have proof of training
  3. You must pay the one time fee
  4. The animal be in a carrier OR on a leash
Southwest Logo

I registered my dog online to be an ESA and paid the one-time fee. When flying with an ESA, the handler must have a signed letter by a doctor and/or licensed psychologist justifying your need to have an ESA. A handler can get a licensed counselor to call and interview the handler upon registration of the ESA or the letter can be signed by their own doctor and/or counselor. I chose to use my counselor. The letter cannot be dated more than one-year-old.

What To Train Your Dog To Become An Emotional Support Animal

It is essential to have the dog trained. I worked on my dog’s training and went through the advanced courses at my local dog training facility with my dog. I worked with her a significant amount of time outside of the class to work on loose leash walking and general obedience behavior. It was hard work, but I was determined to do this the right way because an establishment does have the right to ask me and my dog to leave if she misbehaves or defecates on the airplane.

Nice To Have Training Commands

Flying with an Emotional Support Dog on Southwest

How to Prepare

My preparations for my flight departure start with packing. I pack my suitcase and I check it at the airport. My carry-on bag consists of Wendy’s essential items. This includes her bowls, some dog food, training treats, her dog seat belt, and her doggie water bottle. I pack her poop bags, pee pads, and baby wipes in case she defecates in the airport (which has happened before). I pack a file of all our paperwork which includes all her obedience training certificates, her updated vaccines document, my letter from the psychologist, my cards to educate the public of our rights if we are confronted, and her ESA identification card. Sometimes, I take a taxi to the airport. When I make the call, I make sure to tell them that I will have an ESA with me just to make sure the driver is notified there will be a dog in the car. If the driver is allergic to dogs, the company will assign a driver who is not allergic to dogs.

Arriving At The Aiport

When we arrive to the airport, we report to the inside Kiosk. That is when they will ask for my identification and for my letter from my counselor. I ask the kiosk to update my boarding pass to pre-board so I can board the plane and get a seat at the window per airline policy. My dog and I take the elevators and make our way to airport security. When it is our turn, it can be challenging to take off my shoes, empty my bag, take off my sweatshirt, and empty my pockets with one hand all while I am still holding my dog with the other hand. I go through the detector first while my dog is in a stand/stay position. Once I am in, she will go in. The TSA does a hand swab on me and then we are free to go and we can get our items back together again with one hand while the other is handling Wendy

A dog looking out the window at an airplane while waiting at the gate

At The Gate

When we walk to the gate, I purchase a water bottle for us to share and some of the water goes in her doggie water bottle. I take her to the Animal Relief station prior to the flights. She will never defecate in there because of all the smells. I will go to the bathroom in the family restroom prior to the flight.


When it is time to board, I usually do not sit in the front row for a couple of reasons. First, if I am seeing someone with a physical disability and the elderly who have a more dire need than I to sit there. Secondly, I can control Wendy moving around a little better when she is in the second or third rows. She will lay down under the seat in front of us where people put their carry-on bags. Also, per airline regulations, ESAs must sit at a window seat and cannot be in an emergency exit row. Luckily, with the airlines I fly is ‘choice seating’. There are people that will look to sit close to the first row, but when they see my dog, they proceed on. The people who sit next to me are the people who love dogs and want to be around her. She is an excellent conversation starter.

During the Flight

My flights are a little over three hours. During that time, she will either sit up, lay down, and sleep. The flight attendants like to give her treats and attention. Once we get off, we go to baggage claim where I find my dad and my suitcase. When she gets to my parent’s house, I let her loose and run around in order to burn of the energy from sitting on a plane for three hours.

A dog under an airline seat

Concluding Thoughts About Flying With An ESA Dog On Southwest

I hope this give readers encouragement and answers any questions. Remember, do your homework. Airline companies have different policies and procedures. Make sure your note to justify the use of an ESA from the appropriate medical professional is up to date. Make sure you know the rules and know your federal rights as an ESA handler.

Check Out

1 thought on “Registering An Emotional Support Animal On Southwest?”

  1. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is fantastic, let alone the content! Willetta Darrick McTyre

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The Ultimate Training Guide

Look Out For An Email. 

You Can Also Download The Guide Below

Download here