Traveling with a Service Dog

Airport security is necessary for any trip, but when traveling with your service dog, there are a few things to consider. Service dogs under federal law, says they can go anywhere the public can, including the airport.

By preparing your service dog in advance and completing all the appropriate paperwork, you can help make your flying process more manageable and less stressful.

Does My Service Dog Need Identification to Fly?

Even though federal law states that a service dog is not required to have identification such as a leash, harness, or bandana that says that it is a service dog, Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs requires all our teams wear their vest. By making it easy for airport staff and others to identify your service dog quickly, you can help avoid any confrontations or issues that may arise.

It is critical to understand that there are only two legal questions the airline staff can ask you about your service dog. They can ask:

Is this a Service Dog? The answer would be “yes”. Remember the laws that define a service dog says it must perform a task or tasks that mitigate the challenges of a disability. If your dog is only for emotional support, he/she would not qualify.

What does your service dog do for you? If you are asked this question, you do not have to tell them your medical condition as your medical information is protected by HIPPA law. If you want to disclose your disability, that’s your choice, but it is not required. We suggest you answer this question as follows:” My service dog is trained to alert to my medical condition” or “My service dog is a mobility dog, a hearing impairment dog, or a visual impairment dog”. Please don’t feel pressured to disclose your disability because it is not legally required but you must be prepared to tell what task your dog is trained to perform for you.

What Am I Required to Do to Fly with a Service Dog?

It is essential to understand that airlines are an executive branch of the government under the Department of Transportation (DOT). DOT is not bound by the federal ADA service dog laws, but they have created regulations that mirror those laws.

The airlines found it necessary to create additional rules and required paperwork motivation due to irresponsible dog owners causing terrible incidents on planes where the dog was not trained appropriately. This led to dogs that were terrified and uncomfortable because they lacked proper training and socialization. These dogs were unprepared to be in a very small space with strangers who wanted to pet them resulting in people being bitten and injured, ultimately leading to the dog owners being sued as well as the airlines.

With these issues, airlines had to find a way to avoid these problems and protect their passengers and staff. Thus, they created guidelines for distinguishing between inappropriate and appropriate dogs. In many cases, airlines will not allow emotional support dogs to fly. However, they allow service dogs to fly at no extra charge. Service dogs are treated like a cane or wheelchair, which a person would not be charged for flying with.

Most airlines have created paperwork that needs to be filled out to confirm that the service dog is adequately trained. This paperwork should be filled out and submitted at least a few days before your flight. This paperwork is designed to protect you and your service dog by preventing you from encountering inappropriate dogs that could cause problems or even pose a threat to your service dog and the people on your flight.

What is My Service Dog Required to Do on the Flight?

The dog is required to lie on the floor at your feet, which, of course, is a limited amount of room. This is where prior training is crucial, so he/she is prepared to lay in a small space quietly for the length of the flight. The dog should also not be barking or lunging at people, acting aggressively, or presenting any type of safety risk. If the dog does become restless, it is crucial that you get the dog under immediate control. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, our dogs undergo extensive training to adapt to these situations, allowing you to travel freely and safely.

Can I be removed from the Flight Because of My Service Dog?

If the service dog is posing a public safety threat, he/she can be denied access to the flight. For example, suppose it is lunging, growling, or barking at people the airline has the right to deny you service for the safety of the other passengers. If the dog is barking at the recipient as an alert, this is not a threat.

If the airline you are flying with requires advanced paperwork and you fail to submit it, they can refuse service for not following their guidelines. This is not only to help ensure the safety of the airline and its passengers, but you and your working dog as well, to prevent inappropriate dogs potentially causing you harm.

Tips for Preparing Your Service Dog for Flying

Book Your Airline in Advance

This will give you time to research the airline requirements, such as advance paperwork, and will also provide you with time to check their amenities for your service dog, such as doggie relief stations, so that you can plan potty breaks accordingly.

Be sure you have worked your dog into a bathroom schedule that will accommodate the flight times.

Practice Certain Tasks/Situations

Ensure your dog has practice getting into small spaces and lying down for long periods such as the intended length of the flight. Make sure your dog is probably socialized, desensitized, and trained to deal with these situations. Because a proper service dog should be invisible, it should be as invisible as possible unless it’s performing a function.
Your service dog should be able to go right onto the plane, lay down at your feet, and fly the entire distance, mostly unnoticed. If your dog is not at that level, you probably need more time to be ready to fly with them.

How to Prepare at the Airport

Make sure your dog has gone potty before you go through security. Most airports have doggy relief stations, so be sure your dog potties one more time before you get on the plane. They don’t know how long they will be on the plane when they have the urge to go, therefore it needs to be addressed in advance.
The dog should also enter the boarding waiting area with you and lie down to wait to get on the plane.

Have Questions About Flying with Your Service Dog? Contact us today!

At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we are happy to answer any questions you may have about flying with your service dog. Contact us today to learn more!

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