Traveling With Your ESA Overseas

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As you know, your pet is considered family. I raised Nobu, a shiba inu, since he was 3 months old. After my cancer diagnosis, I got Nobu registered as an emotional support animal at This enables you to fly with your ESA without it needing to be in a cage. Usually Nobu lays down on the floor in between my feet. Please be sure that your dog is trained and well behaved!

Your ESA must wear a vest that clearly states its purpose. I bought mine on amazon here.
ESA Vest

Getting Nobu to Spain had all the information on what documents were needed for every country. The paperwork cost $18.50 but I’ll post the paperwork on here so you can see it as an example. Timing is crucial so please triple check your paperwork and dates.

Instructions specific for Spain:
Spain Info Rev28

When I got Nobu – he had an embedded 9 digit microchip. The EU requires a 15-digit microchip number so I had the vet put in another microchip. AFTER the microchip was inserted, he got his rabies shot.

Vet Certificate – to be completed by the vet no more than 12 days prior to travel date.
Sample Vet Cert
Spain Vet Cert Rev 28

Your airline may request a Veterinary Certificate for Domestic and International Travel

Then you take all this paperwork to your local USDA office (do not bring your pet) and get it endorsed and pay a fee of $38.00. You can either mail this or do this in person. I did it in person because of the time frame. There is an LA office:

Los Angeles Animal Import Center
222 Kansas St.
El Segundo, CA. 90245
Monday – Friday 7:30 am – 11:30 am

I suggest coming here EARLY! For example, I arrived at 6:45 am and there was already a line. Have all your paperwork ready. They accept credit cards. Then you must enter the EU within 10 days of the USDA certificate.

Here is a list of other offices and instructions for the USDA:
USDA Area Office Listing 101816
USDA Instructions

Booking Your Airline Ticket

  • Most airlines accept ESA but always double check that they do. For example, I found that RyanAir does accepts service dogs, but not ESA.
  • If you know your dog can hold his pee, I prefer booking direct routes to and from. Also, be careful with booking tickets that have a layover in countries that are strict with animals such as the UK, Ireland, Japan.
  • Be sure to notify that you will be traveling with your ESA.

Day of Travel

  • Make sure you have your pet goes on a long long walk
  • Bring some food in a ziplock bag and a bowl for water
  • Arrive to the airport early because you will need to check in at the counter and ticket agents will check your paperwork.
  • ESA letter cannot be more than 1 year old
  • If you have a layover, some airports have Dog Relief Areas

My Experience Arriving in Spain and then back to the US


Upon arriving to Spain, no one stopped me once, questioned me – NOTHING!! I thought to myself – I stressed so much about getting all this paperwork and no one even cared lol. Anyways, find a vet and bring all the paperwork there. The vet will issue you an EU passport.

7 months later, I fly back to the US. 13 hour direct flight from Barcelona to LAX. The flight attendants LOVED him. I even brought him to the back of the plane so they could pet him. On the customs form, make sure to mark that you ARE bringing an animal. I have global entry so I breezed right through immigration. When I got to customs, they acknowledged my dog and waved me on. I didn’t have to show any paperwork or anything!

So this is my experience traveling with Nobu. If you have any questions, please contact me –

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