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Ecuador & ESAs

Ecuador & ESAs.

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Ma, our service dog at San Clemente Ecuador beach.

Many Ecuador Living readers ask about bringing pets to Ecuador.  A few ask about bringing service dogs and ESAs.  Here are some thoughts.

US law defines two types of medical assistance pets, Service Dogs and ESAS (Emotional Support Animals).  Service dogs are specially trained in behavior including discipline and at least one task that helps relieve a disability, that its handler has.

The handler must be handicapped under US law and the dog must be trained to assist with that handicap. Such dogs are service dogs and gain many rights in the US.

One right is that any airline that flies to the USA must abide by the US law relating to Service Dogs.

An ESA is different….it is a pet who provides a health balancing benefit to its owner through companionship and affection. They are not trained to mitigate a disability like service dogs.

Psychiatric service dogs like all service dogs (seeing eye dogs, seizure alert dogs, high mountain search and rescue, etc.) provide specific help for their handlers relating to the disability.

They might (but arecnot limited to):

* Pick up or retrieve objects.
* Aid with mobility.
* Wake a handler who sleeps through alarms.
* Alert handler to upcoming mood changes, panic attacks, anxiety and such.
* Remind the handler to take medication.

ESAs on the other hand require a doctor’s letter and enough training to behave in public without being a nuisance or a danger.

In America ESAs have two rights created by federal law…modification of “no pets” policies in most types of housing and the Air Carrier Access Act establishes a procedure for modifying pet policies on aircraft to permit a person with a disability to travel with a prescribed emotional support animal so long as they have appropriate documentation and the animal is not a danger to others and does not interfere with others.

Recently an Ecuador Living subscriber sent this Ecuador pet question to Sandra Boquero, one of our Ecuador shipping contacts (see more on how Sandra can help you below).

The subscriber wrote:  Hi Sandy: I am writing you as part of the Ecuador Living Club.  My question is specific to an ESA service dog (Emotional Support Animal).

I read through the listing of Traveling with Animals but did not see Service dogs addressed at all. http://www.nsarco.com/acaa.html   is a link regarding Air Carrier Access Act of 1986, which states that no foreign airline can discriminate against an individual with a physical or emotional disability.  There are not supposed to be any charges for flying the pet.  I do not know about the import taxes of bringing an ESA service dog in.

LAN Ecuador specifically will not allow a dog in the cabin.  Can you please address this issue for me and if possible, you may want to include findings within Gary Scott’s link.

Thank you very much for your input!


Hiking with Ma in the Andes overlooking Otavalo and San Pablo Lake.

I added the following comments: Dear Subscriber:  There are laws in the US, in Ecuador and then there is the knowledge and understanding of these laws by those who enforce them.  Our dog who traveled with us for many many years for example was a registered medical assistance service dog.  We always flew Delta and we were always given a free seat for her or at least she was allowed on board without charge.

However those did not always come automatically. Some Delta employees did not understand the laws.  We learned to always contact a Delta specialist who coordinated our service dog’s access. Even then once a flight attendant held up the flight refusing our dog access until we sorted things out… by insisting and forcing the attendant to contact a supervisor.

To reinforce our rights, we always kept all our service dog papers with us.  She wore her dog vest made with Medical Assistance Dog (Alerta Médica)  in Spanish for use in Ecuador, along with her licensed Service Dog Vest in English.

We know the rules but also know there are people at customs… and who work for airlines  who do not know the rules… everywhere.

We actually have had more problems with US customs than in Ecuador.

Once we were arrested at Miami Airport because a DEA dog handler thought we were Customs Officers with a Beagle Brigade Dog in his territory. Evidently there was a turf war there.  The officer simply would not listen to me.  We were forced to stand with hands on the wall until finally a supervisor came and sorted things out.  The supervisor was most apologetic. He even knew that Ma was a hound not a beagle!

Another time US customs (an officer in training) gave us a hassle making us prove our dog was a medical assistance dog… not realizing that the customs agents themselves were violating Federal Law.

In Ecuador, once we had a customs official demand that our dog had to arrive in and stay in a jail (crate).  Again we had to get a supervisor and only were allowed to pass through because we had made arrangements in advance and had access to people in higher up positions.  Ecuador does not have a service dog law so their assistance and allowance of our animal’s freedom is a courtesy not a requirement.  One time a pilot on Tame, an internal Ecuador airline, would not allow the dog on board. The pilot saw I was not blind and to him the only service dog was a seeing eye dog.  Because we had a good contact in security at the airport, we were able to get them to contact the pilot and explain. Finally we were allowed on board but only after we held up an entire flight for almost an hour.

All this related to our registered service dog who had all her papers and stamps etc. who was highly trained to deal with unusual environments such as airports, airplanes etc. and who we had arranged to be with us in advance.

Even then Delta only allows one animal per flight (excluding service dogs) and we always coordinated with the Delta service dog specialist.  We also contacted the health authorities in Ecuador in advance… sent them documents from the state where our dog was registered, etc.  We worked with the service dog specialist at Delta so they knew our dog was legit and had Delta help us prepare the airport staff in Quito so they knew our dog was with us and that she was coming through with us.  My suggestion is if you are on any plane coming into Ecuador with a dog/cat on the plane with you, then it is a good idea to inform the stewardess to ask the pilot to radio down and alert them that the animal will deboard WITH YOU, and not come in on a cage with the luggage. Then they know and expect what will happen…it makes life go smoother!

Even with all this as mentioned from time to time we encountered difficulty in both the USA and Ecuador.

In Ecuador, where verification of notarization is so important, a medical doctor’s letter may lack the weight of a state produced document so I would not depend on a smooth situation.

My recommendation is to not push.  Don’t try to use a non US airline if possible.  Whatever airline you use, get everything approved upfront.  Get names of everyone involved in case you have to haggle with  an employee or official who is ignorant of the law. Otherwise you may arrive in Ecuador okay but have problems there at the airport.  Work with someone like Sandra Baquero. Get your MD’s letter notarized by an Ecuadorian consul. Have Sandra contact the authority in Ecuador that deals with animals BEFORE you arrive. Let her get permission, etc. so when you arrive you do not have difficulties at the airport and be sure that the hotel (if you are staying at one) knows the animal is coming and has agreed (we have been denied permission to bring our service dog into some hotels).

Our solution with a dog in a hotel (which is very very rare in Ecuador) is that we just have our driver meet us at the airport and drive us straight to our destination, no matter what time of night it is…this is a sure way for happiness for all!

Be prepared from some obstacles, make multiple copies of all your documents (so your originals won’t disappear) and realize that you’ll have to let courtesy work for you because you will not have laws to enforce demands in Ecuador.  If you plan to travel around Ecuador and do not speak Spanish, hire a multi lingual guide who can help you explain that the dog is a medical assistance animal. Have your doctor’s letter translated and carry that and the notarization with the Ecuadorian consul’s stamp with you. 

Merri and I always try to overcome obstacles before they happen and know that children and animals don’t like surprises and hiccups!  We try always to smooth out the problems BEFORE we arrive!



Learn how to get our report on Ecuador Pet travel FREE as a member of the Ecuador Club

2013-2014 Super Thinking + Spanish – Writing to Sell – Business & Investing Course Schedule

Schedule 2013-2014  Super Thinking + Spanish  – Writing to Sell – Investing & Business Courses.

Here are photos I took of Mt. Dora…

mt-dora-images tags:


mt-dora-images tags:

its annual arts festival. 


June 21-22-23  Super Thinking + Spanish  St. Charles, MO  Single $699  /  Couple $899 (Teacher Mark Frakes)

July 5-6-7  Super Thinking + Spanish  Sarasota, Florida  Single $699  /  Couple $899  (Teacher Mark Frakes)

July 12-13-14 Super Thinking + Spanish Kelowna, BC, Canada  Single $699  /  Couple $899 (Teachers Shawn & Suzanne Bandick)

August 16-17-18  Super Thinking + Spanish  St. Charles, MO  Single $699  /  Couple $899 (Teacher Mark Frakes)

August 31-September 1-2  Super Thinking Writer’s Camp  West Jefferson, NC  (Gary & Merri Scott)

September 27-28-29  Super Thinking + Spanish  St. Charles, MO  Single $699  /  Couple $899 (Teacher Mark Frakes)

October 4-5-6  Super Thinking International Investing & Business Seminar  West Jefferson, NC  

Enroll here $799.   Couple $999 (Gary & Merri Scott)

November 15-16-17   Super Thinking + Writer’s Camp  Mt. Dora, Florida  (Gary & Merri Scott) 

November 21-22-23  Super Thinking +Spanish  Puerto Aventuras, Mexico Single $699/Couple $899 (Teachers Suzanne & Shawn Bandick)


January 10-11-12   Super Thinking + Spanish  Mt. Dora, Florida  (Gary & Merri Scott)

February 14-15-16  Super Thinking International Investing & Business Seminar  Mt. Dora, Florida  

Enroll here $799.   Couple $999  (Gary & Merri Scott)

For information more contact Cheri Hall at cheri@garyascott.com

Attend all seminars and courses and more FREE or at a discount as an International club member.  See details here.



About Sandra Boquero

One benefit of an Ecuador Club subscription is the access to the many contacts we have developed over the past 15 years such as customs agent Sandra Boquero.

An Ecuador Living subscrober sent this note: Sandra – I wish to say thank you for your wonderful care of our household goods from South Carolina to our living quarters in Cuenca. You handled each step of the way, from the container arriving on time in South Carolina to be filled, from the transportation of the container to the port of embarkation, from the container arrival in Guayaquil, through the customs process that went so smoothly in Guayaquil, and in two days the container content delivery into our condo in Cuenca.

We had heard many tales of how dangerous it was in Guayaquil, and that no one in their right mind would go through customs there, and that the only sensible place to go through customs was Cuenca.

Our experience however, was one of absolute smooth delivery of care. It was interesting to actually be there when the container was opened, and actually see first hand how the contents were handled. The customs staff were courteous and did not damage any of our boxes and other household goods. The repacking went well, and every box and item in the container was delivered to the condo within two days.

We wish to commend you for your professional care from start to finish.

Please feel free to share this letter with anyone. Others should be as lucky as we were to have your care of our goods.  With great admiration and respect,

Learn how to get our Ecuador contacts like Sandra FREE as a member of the Ecuador Club