The Ultimate Guide to Traveling With a Service Dog

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling With a Service Dog

traveling with a service dog

The Ultimate Guide to Traveling With a Service Dog

Summer means that it’s time for vacations, but can you travel with a service dog? Check out these rules and tips for traveling with a service dog successfully.

Traveling with a service dog might sound like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be stressful as long as you’re prepared!

Have you always wanted to travel with a support animal but aren’t quite sure about the process for doing so? Superdog is here to help! This guide has everything you need to know for seamless traveling with your support dog.

traveling with a service dog

What You Need for Traveling with a Service Dog

The Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines to allow you to bring your support animal for free. But due to travel guidelines, you’ll need to carry certain documentation with you. Make sure to have these items to avoid disruptions to your travel plans!

traveling with a service dog

Service Dogs

While businesses are normally not allowed to ask for proof of a service dog’s status, things are a little different for air travel. Most airlines ask for something to prove that your dog isn’t a pet. Usually, this includes items such as cards, documentation, a harness, or a doctor’s letter, but it’s a little different for each airline.

Again, they can’t ask you about your disability, but they can ask what tasks your dog can perform. And remember, emotional support animals aren’t service dogs, and it’s illegal to misrepresent them as one.

traveling with a service dog

Emotional Support Animals

Emotional support animals are also allowed on airlines but tend to be under stricter scrutiny. Make sure to have your emotional support animal (ESA) letter on you at all times. ESA letters must be prescribed by a licensed mental health practitioner in your state.

The letter must assert that you have a diagnosed mental health problem and the emotional support animal is a form of treatment. It must state what kind of animal the ESA is. It also must state that you are under the letter writer’s care and include their license number, type, issue date, and state.

traveling with a service dog

Traveling with a Service Dog: Requirements by Airline

Each airline has different requirements for traveling with a service dog or an emotional support animal. We’ll cover the most current guidelines by America’s most-traveled airlines here. Always remember to call before your flight and confirm you have up-to-date information.

traveling with a service dog

American

When traveling, animals must fit by your feet or under the seat. If your dog is smaller than a 2-year-old, you can also choose to place them in your lap (as long as it’s smaller than a 2-year-old). If in a kennel, the animal must fit beneath the seat in front of you.

Each person can only bring one animal and it must be clean and behave well. Disruptive, uncontrolled behavior can result in the airline preventing your animal from flying. This includes growling, biting, and jumping.

Trained service animals do not need advanced notice, although the airline prefers it. Emotional support animals must have these forms submitted to American Airlines’ Special Assistance Desk at least 48 hours before flying. Emotional support animals must also be on a leash or harness at all times.

traveling with a service dog

Delta

Support animals can travel in the cabin if they fit in the space below the customer’s seat or in the customer’s lap. Only trained animals can travel, so animals that growl, bite, jump, or bark excessively may be denied transportation. Additionally, no pit bull type dogs can fly on Delta.

Trained service animals need to have current veterinary health forms available. Emotional support and psychiatric service animals must send in these forms at least 48 hours in advance of the flight.

traveling with a service dog

Southwest

Animals fulfilling the proper requirements travel free as long as they behave well. This means that they do not scratch, excessively whine or bark, growl, or bite. Southwest prefers you notify in advance if you’re traveling with a support animal by clicking on the “Special Assistance” link on your reservations web page.

Animals must fit on the floor or in the customer’s lap as long as it is small enough. If in a carrier it must be stowed for taxi, takeoff, and landing beneath the seat in front of the customer. When traveling with an animal you cannot sit in an exit row.

Trained service animals can fly if the customer can give credible verbal assurance that the animal is a trained service animal. If the disability isn’t visible, they may ask about how the animal helps with your disability. This may happen at several points along your journey to ensure it is a trained support animal.

Emotional support animals must have their ESA letter to show to employees. You can only bring one animal per person and they must be in a carrier or on a leash at all times. At the airport, present this documentation to the airline to get an updated boarding pass.

traveling with a service dog

United

Animals traveling on United must be in the space below your seat and need to behave properly in public. You can use a kennel as long as they fit the airline stowage requirements. Customers with support animals cannot sit in the exit row.

Trained service animals need to have their current veterinary health forms available.

Customers traveling with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals must complete these forms at least 48 hours before their flight. These animals must be older than 4 months and weigh less than 65 pounds. They are not permitted on flights that last longer than 8 hours.

traveling with a service dog

Basic Tips for Traveling with Animals

Traveling with an animal can be stressful for both you and your beloved pet. Consider these precautions when traveling with a service dog.

Make sure to limit the amount of water your animal drinks before the trip. It will likely be a long time before you’ll find a place for them to relieve themselves. It might require you going out and then back in through security all over again.

Make sure that your dog is well-behaved and under control. You might want to put them through Superdog’s training ahead of time to make sure they won’t act up unexpectedly!

Arrive early for extra security screenings. When you get to security, make sure to let the TSA Agents know that your dog is not a pet. You’ll likely go to the front of the line so they can further examine you both and ask questions.

When going through security, you can’t make contact with your dog except for holding the leash until after TSA clears them. If your disability prevents you from being able to hold the dog on a leash at all times, make sure to let them know. Finally, you might have to undergo a simple explosives trace testing process where they swab your palms.

Next, go to the gate and check in with your animal so you can let them know you have a service animal. Then you should be all ready to board the plane! You’ll likely get to board first with your animal.

traveling with a service dog

Need Support Dog Training?

If you’re traveling with a service dog, you’re going to need one who is well-trained. Whether you’re looking for training or are looking to buy a new, already-trained dog, Superdogs is here for you! Contact us today to find out how we can help you get the service dog you need for your condition!