Any pet can be used for emotional support, whether it be a dog, cat, rabbit, spider, or in this case, a tortoise. Whether the pet you use for emotional support is recognised as an ‘Emotional Support Pet’ in the legal sense is a separate matter and will be considered in this article.
Emotional Support Pets
In a nut shell, Emotional Support Pets are animals that have been registered as an Emotional Support Animal by a licensed therapist, psychologist, doctor, psychiatrist or any other licensed mental health professional to provide comfort and minimise negative symptoms to a person with an emotional or psychological condition. There are no restrictions as to what species of animal the Emotional Support Pet should be.
Emotional Support Pets in the United States
In the United States an Emotional Support Pet is an animal that provides comfort to relieve the symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. It is crucial to note that under US law, any animal can be an Emotional Support Pet, and they are also not legally classed as ‘pets’, rather animals. The fact that any animal can be classed as an Emotional Support Pet suggests that a tortoise would qualify.
Emotional Support Pets in the United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, Emotional Support Pets do not receive the same kind of legal recognition as their counterparts in the United States. Service animals such as guide dogs have legal recognition (for example they’re allowed into places other animals are not), but currently Emotional Support Pets lack this recognition.
You may stumble across websites in the United Kingdom promising to register your pet as an Emotional Support Pet which will, in turn, allow you to take your pet shopping or travelling. As already outlined, Emotional Support Pets are not legally recognised in the United Kingdom and therefore there is no online registry of Emotional Support Pets, so to put it bluntly, these websites are looking to scam you. We would recommend you give these websites a wide berth!
Can you Fly With Emotional Support Pets?
In the United States this isn’t a big issue because airlines are more lenient as a result of the legal recognition that Emotional Support Pets receive. In the United Kingdom, however, you will face great difficulty in getting your Emotional Support Pet on board a plane. The following airlines only permit dogs on board as Emotional Support Pets:
– Virgin Airlines
Given that airlines do not have to allow any Emotional Support Pets on board, because they are not legally recognised, the fact these three airlines allow dogs on board is a great step forward.
However in any case, permitted or not, taking your tortoise on board a plane is something we wouldn’t recommend. Tortoises are extremely sensitive to temperatures and planes get extremely cold.
Can Tortoises be Service Animals?
Unfortunately tortoises cannot be Service Animals. Service Animals are trained to perform specific tasks such as responding to seizures, picking things up from the floor or opening doors, none of which a tortoise could be trained to do.
Practicalities of Tortoises as Emotional Support Pets
On a more general note it is worth pointing out, in respect of Emotional Support Pets, that tortoises do not like to be handled by humans, and in fact should be handled as little as possible. They are not fluffy animals that like to be cuddled but instead prefer their own company.
Many a novice tortoise owner has claimed that their tortoise likes cuddles and falls asleep on their lap, when in fact the tortoise more than likely fell asleep because it was cold and as a result, its body was unable to function properly hence it withdrawing and falling asleep.
Tortoises need to be kept in the correct conditions as dictated by their species. On this basis they are probably not the best animal to choose for a Emotional Support Pet unless you rely on your tortoise for emotional support in the general sense and aren’t looking for any kind of legal recognition of its status.
If you are looking for an Emotional Support Pet that you want to take on a airplane or take to the shops, we’d recommend you choose a different pet that is more receptive to not only human interaction but also the human environment.en flying at altitude.
To subject a tortoise to these types of conditions would be cruel. A tortoise needs the correct temperature, substrate, food and lighting to stay healthy, all of which are completely lacking onboard a plane. The safest option for your tortoise would be to leave him at home.