Traveling With Service Dogs? Tips for Flying, Driving, and More

Posted by Megan Swinney
traveling with your service dog

More people have emotional support animals than ever before, making travel a little trickier. Thankfully there are many guidelines in place for traveling with your service dog. 

Traveling can cause a lot of anxiety for people. Service animals provide comfort and support for those who need it, but with so many different travel rules, how can you keep them all straight? If you have travel on an airplane coming up, here is a look at everything you will need to make sure you and your ESA reach your destination together.

Air Travel With Your Service Dog

?Flying is an ordeal, even if you do not have an assistance animal coming along with you. The U.S. Department of Transportation or DOT has definite rules for travel with service animals.

The only service animals that are recognized by airlines are dogs. According to the DOT, any other species does not count. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) specifies that any dog breed can be a service animal to someone with qualified disabilities, including physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or mental disability. Service dogs are also used for visual impairment.

While the U.S.DOT only recognizes dogs, airlines are free to set their own guidelines for which species they want to allow as psychiatric service animals. So if you want to bring your trained service dog, you will be good to go on any airline. However, if your comfort animal is a cat or a guinea pig, you will need to check with your specific airline.

According to the DOT, an airline can deny you a service animal if:

  • Your dog is a direct threat to the health and safety of others
  • Violates airline safety requirements
  • Your dog is disruptive at the departure gate or in the cabin
  • Is not allowed in your destination country or on international flights
  • DOT service animal form is not filled out

Some animals are illegal to travel with, whether you have a domestic flight or international travel. Ferrets and Sugar Gliders are two of the pets that are not allowed to fly on planes. 

Specific Travel Guidelines

RELATED: Our Road Trip Survival Guide for Traveling With Any Dog

The DOT's guidelines are similar to those listed under the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA). Service animals do not need to be certified, but they need to perform a function for their owners, such as pulling a wheelchair or being a guide dog. Each airline also has guidelines for how a service animal can travel.

Most airlines allow up to two service dogs, and they usually do not count toward your carry-on luggage total, even if they are in a kennel. While some airlines do not allow service animals in the bulkhead seats, others do, so it is always best to double-check your airline's current policies.

American Airlines Dog Requirements

American Airlines requires that all service animals be over four months old, and they do not recognize emotional support dogs. Fees and requirements will apply to those animals who are not specified service animals. Your service dog must be able to sit in your foot space, under your seat, or on your lap.  You may bring your pup in a kennel, but it must fit in the same spaces.

Before your flight, you need to provide additional documentation to the airline, including the DOT form, vaccination records, and a health certificate. The airline will issue you a service animal ID card that is good for a year or whenever your pup is due for their next vaccine.

While on the plane, your service dog must not

  • be in an exit row
  • be in the aisles
  • sit in a seat
  • cause any sanitation issues
  • eat from tray tables

Delta Service Animal Travel Requirements

Delta's requirements for traveling with your service dog are very similar to American Airlines. They require a service animal air transportation form and a Relief Attestation Form to be filled out before your flight to ensure your animal's health and the safety of all their passengers. If your flight is less than 48 hours after you book, the forms can be presented at check-in or the departure gate. If it's your first time flying with your accessibility animal, it never hurts to ask the airline questions beforehand to make sure you have everything squared away.

Other Service Dog Considerations

Many airports have animal relief areas for pre and post-flight pup preparation. In addition, the airport can help escort you through TSA if you need an extra hand getting around with your service dog or need to visit the relief area quickly.

Some destinations like Hawaii have specific requirements for service animals. So be sure to check with your destination to see what forms you need to fill out or carry with you before booking your trip.

Who's your favorite airline to fly with your service dog? Let us know over on our Wide Open Pets Facebook page! 

READ MORE: Dog Steps and Ramps: Just More Reasons to Take Your Dog Everywhere

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Traveling With Service Dogs? Tips for Flying, Driving, and More