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Emotional Support Animals

What to Consider Before Taking Your Emotional Support Animal to a Convention

While Emotional Support Animals provide important services to those who own them, they are still animals, and are not subject to the same legal exemptions as Service Animals. If you are thinking about bringing your ESA to a convention or similar event, here are some important things you need to consider before doing so.

It is important for the health and safety of both your animal and of every other person and animal at the convention that you consider your answers to these questions carefully, and address them honestly.

Is my pet allowed to be here?

Rules will vary from convention to convention, but it is important to check ahead of time, both with the convention itself and with the venues it is held at, whether Emotional Support Animals are allowed, and, if so, under what circumstances.

Am I allowed and/or is it safe for me to leave my animal in my hotel room unattended for long periods of time?

First, check with the hotel if this is allowed. Not all hotels allow animals to be left unattended, and the ADA agrees (see question 29).

That said, if you are allowed to do so and decide it’s better for your pet to stay in your hotel room while you socialize at the convention, you need to be aware of how it will handle the time alone, such as whether it will have enough entertainment to keep it from becoming bored or anxious, and how and where it will relieve itself when you are gone. If you are unsure about the answer to these questions, it would be better to keep your animal at home.

What are my pet’s physical needs?

Many animals, especially reptiles, amphibians, and fish, have specific physical and environmental needs that would be difficult to meet in a convention setting. Please consider if you can help your animal meet and maintain these needs for the entire time you have them with you; if your reptile is albino, for example, it may not do well with the bright lights of a convention setting, and would likely be better off staying away from the convention.

Can my pet handle the stress of traveling to a convention?

Travel, be it short or long periods, can be very stressful for animals. Whether you are taking one long trip each way or are able to commute to the convention from home every day, you need to be aware of how your travel arrangements impact your animal’s mental health, as well as how your animal reacts to stress. If your animal is stressed out from the trip, it is unlikely to be able to provide you with the support you need. If the amount of travel your convention experience involves is likely to stress your pet out, it would be safer to leave them at home.

Do I have the energy to run interference with other people on my pet’s behalf?

As you may be aware, animals draw a lot of attention. In a space with a lot of other people, there will be many who will be interested in interacting with your animal. Make sure you have the energy to field questions about your animal and whether people can touch or hold it, and, if so, to tell them the proper way to do so. If you don’t think you have the energy for this, it may be better for your animal to stay away from the convention.

Does my pet have any sensitivities or allergies?

It is difficult to control what other people wear at conventions, as elsewhere in life. If your pet has a sensitivity or allergy to a specific scent, or if they are likely to gobble up things that have been dropped on the ground, regardless of whether that item is food, it may be safer for them to stay out of the convention. Convention attendees wear all sorts of scents and body paints, and amphibians in particular may require an emergency vet trip if they come into contact with them.

In the event that my pet has a health emergency, is there a vet near the convention center that can treat them on short notice?

While there are lots of vets who can treat cats and dogs, a lot of other animals can be more difficult to find a doctor for. If your ESA is a reptile, amphibian, bird, fish, small mammal, or almost any animal that is not a cat or a dog, it would be good to find out if there’s a vet who can treat them near the convention. No matter what your pet is, finding a vet available to provide emergency services during the convention may literally save their life. Finding a vet who will be able treat your pet before the convention itself can save valuable time. If you cannot find a vet near the convention who will be able to treat your pet in the event of a health emergency, it may be best for them to stay away from the convention.

Is my pet a social animal? Does it do well in crowds and new situations?

As much as your pet may love you, and as much as you may love your pet, it may not be mentally prepared to deal with the large, loud, and visually distracting crowds at conventions. Stress can greatly impact your animal’s health, and being surrounded by strangers for long periods of time, many of whom may try to touch, handle, or pet it improperly can be very distressing for animals. If your animal is not used to dealing with crowds, it would probably be safer for them to stay away from the convention.

Even if your pet is used to large crowds similar to those found at conventions, it is important to pay close attention to their emotional state. If your pet is starting to show stress from being in convention spaces, it may be time for them to leave the convention.

What are my plans for when my pet needs to relieve itself?

It can be difficult to find locations for an animal to relieve itself in primarily human spaces. Even locations that are prepared to handle service dogs or horses may not have areas for birds, reptiles, or smaller mammals. Do your research on the convention space and figure out a plan for taking care of your animal’s needs.

Is my pet a flight risk, and/or is it possible to keep my pet on a lead?

It is important to be able to keep your pet on a lead when they are in convention spaces. If you lose control of them or lose them entirely, it can be dangerous for them to wander unattended. Dogs and cats may be found and turned in to shelters, dogs may be reported to animal control as hazards, and any other animal runs the risk of either being unrecognized as a pet or of ending up in a situation with someone who will not care for them properly. If you cannot keep a lead on your pet, it would be safer to keep them away from the convention.

How does my pet react to or interact with other animals?

If your animal is not well socialized and well behaved with other animals, it may be a safety risk not just for your animal, but for others’. If your animal has a high prey drive, if it is aggressive to other animals or to humans, or if it poses a health or safety risk to other animals, it would be better to keep them away from the convention.

If your pet is likely to interfere with a Service Animal doing its job, it is important that they stay away from the convention. While Emotional Support Animals provide real and valuable help to the people who have them, many Service Animals are trained to save their handler’s life. If a human or another animal interferes with a Service Animal while they are working, it could result in their handler becoing seriously injured or dying. If your animal cannot leave Service Animals alone, then they need to stay out of convention spaces.

How will my pet cause other people to react?

If your ESA is an insect or other invertebrate, a skunk (de-scented or intact), a mouse or rat, or any other animal that commonly triggers phobias or extreme negative responses, it would be safer to keep them away from the convention. Even if your pet is not a common phobia, it is important to have a plan in place for if someone reacts badly to it. If you cannot come up with such a plan, it would be safer to keep them away from the convention.

Does my pet commonly cause allergic reactions?

While larger convention spaces may allow enough air flow to prevent a severe allergic reaction, smaller areas such as board rooms (commonly used to host panels and video viewing) will not. In addition, immune-disordered attendees and convention and venue staff will have already been made further vulnerable by the presence of large groups of people, not all of whom are considerate enough to wash their hands after using the restroom. If your animal produces a common allergen, it would be better to keep them away from the convention.

In the event of an emergency where you have to leave the convention or hotel without your animal, what is your plan for its care?

Unfortunately, even with everything else taken care of or thoroughly planned for, emergencies and accidents can still happen. You may have to leave the convention in a hurry, such as if you need to go to the hospital. In those cases, you need to have a plan in place to make sure your animal will be cared for properly. After you have come up with one plan, make sure you have at least one backup, in case the first one falls through. If you are unable to come up with a plan for emergency situations, it would be safer to leave your animal at home.

While this list covers many situations and eventualities, it is not exhaustive. Therefore, if you think of a problem that is not on this list, please send it to the author via so it can be accounted for.