Bringing a Service Dog on International Travel

Over the years, airlines have had issues with untrained dogs causing incidents on flights such as biting, having accidents, and other issues that put the health and safety of passengers, crew, and highly trained, appropriate service animals at risk.

As a result, the Transportation Department enacted stricter regulations on what they consider a service animal. They have tightened this definition to only include service animals, excluding emotional support animals. Only service dogs are permitted to fly as service animals and any companion used for emotional support is not protected. Passengers can still fly with their pets, but they must pay a pet fee and check them into the cargo hold if they wish to fly with them.

Flying with your service animal takes a certain amount of preparation to ensure it goes smoothly. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we’ve gathered our top tips to help you make travelling with your service dog safe and easy.

Preparing Your Service Dog to Fly Within the United States

A major factor when flying with your service dog is their bathroom habits. Depending on where you are traveling within the States, your dog may need to hold their bathroom for five hours or more. You will have to regulate their bathroom habits to ensure they can hold it for the duration of the flight.

Your service dog should use the bathroom before you enter the airport and should be capable of using the pet relief stations in the airport to ensure they are ready to board and can hold their bathroom for the duration of the flight. They have no concept of how long they will need to hold it, but you do, so be sure they can go potty on command and relieve themselves prior to boarding your flight. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, these are all things we teach service dogs to do so that are prepared to fly.

In addition, you need to notify the airline that you are flying with your service dog at least 48 hours prior to your flight. There is paperwork you will need to fill out. This process can take time since many airlines are now utilizing a third-party verification service where they will call the organization you got your service dog from to verify that it is a trained service dog.

It is critical that you don’t just show up at the airport with your service dog expecting to get on a flight. With the new rules surrounding flying with animals, it will not happen without the official paperwork and verification.

Can I Fly Internationally with My Service Dog?

When it comes to flying internationally with your service dog, it can become complicated. At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we do not encourage international travel for our paired teams. This is because when you travel internationally, you are not protected by the same laws for people with disabilities that have a service dog as you are in the U.S.

Another issue is lack of education about service dogs and the confrontation that may result. While these issues sometimes arise in the United States, they are even more prevalent in other countries where they are not required to follow our laws regarding service dogs.

Some countries don’t have any service dog laws protecting people with them or they have their own laws that may differ from those in the U.S. Even in countries that do have laws protecting service dogs, there is often a lack of education on the matter, and it becomes very difficult to navigate.

A major risk of international travel with your service dog is if you encounter a country that doesn’t allow service dogs public access. You may then be forced to place them in a kennel somewhere that you know nothing about. This could put the health and well-being of your service dog at risk.

International travel also presents the issue of food. You must consider how you will transport enough food to sustain your service dog. Depending on how much your dog eats and how long you will be gone, you could be looking at travelling with a very heavy suitcase. Water in other countries will also differ from what your dog is used to. This can lead to GI upset and if your dog gets sick, you have no way of knowing if their veterinarians can provide them with the proper level of care.

Another concern for your service dog is vaccines. Other countries may not regulate vaccines for their dogs, or your dog could be attacked by a stray animal who is not vaccinated. In another country, your service animal can also be exposed to disease or parasites that could lead to extreme illness.

For international travel, your service dog must also be prepared to hold their bathroom for 8 to 12 hours. Many international flights are at least eight hours depending on where you are travelling to. There is not always a layover on an international flight and even if there is, you could end up in an international airport where there is nowhere for your dog to relieve itself.

Keep in mind that dog relief stations are a U.S. accommodation.

Can I Travel with My Service Dog on a Cruise Ship?

If you are planning to go on a cruise with your service dog, there are several things you should consider before making that commitment. Like flying internationally, cruise ships oftentimes do not sail under the American flag. They are sailing under other countries who have regulations different from the U.S., which can lead to issues when travelling with your service dog.

Before going on a cruise, you would need to make sure there are areas on the ship available where your dog can relieve himself. You also need to consider that many cruises are going to a tropical destination that is hot, so your dog would not be able to stay out on the deck when you go to the pool, but they could go to the restaurants and shows. If that’s what you are interested in during your time on the cruise, then that may be fine for your service dog.

During the cruise, your ship will be stopping at multiple ports along the way for off-ship excursions. If you are with your service dog, it is not likely you will be able to participate in off- ship activities. This is because, many other countries do not follow the same rules and regulations the U.S. does for service dogs. As mentioned in the previous section, even if you can take your service dog with you to certain places in other countries, you risk your service dog being attacked by another dog or animal or contracting a disease or parasite.

This is why we do not typically recommend international travel or cruises to our recipients to ensure their safety and the safety of their service dog. When you are paired with a service dog, it is life-changing in many ways. If you are an avid traveler and enjoy international travel or take cruises often, then a service dog may not be the best fit for your lifestyle. Once you are paired with a service dog, they are a permanent part of your life and should be with you at all times. We want you to enjoy life to the fullest with your service dog, but there are certain lifestyle changes that may be required to ensure the safety of your service dog.

Have Questions About Traveling with Your Service Dog? Contact Us Today!

If you have any questions about traveling with your service dog, we would be happy to help you! Contact us today to learn more.

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