Airline Travel for Pets Guide

Flying with Service Animals

­If the cute dog ahead of you in the security line is wearing a harness, don't touch. Such harnesses, often placed on guide dogs, usually mean the dog is working.

That dog can go right through security and enjoy a plane ride along with its owner. Businesses are required by law to allow service animals entry into their establishments or airplanes.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, service animals are individually trained animals that specialize in certain forms of assistance:

  • Guide dogs for the blind
  • Hearing dogs for the deaf
  • Mobility dogs, such as dogs that can pull wheelchairs
  • Alert animals that warn of an oncoming seizure and then protect the person if a seizure occurs
  • Other animals, such as monkeys, that perform similar tasks

Service animals are allowed onto airplanes free of charge. Even though your animal can accompany you, you may encounter a few hiccups along the way, such as:

  • Identification: Most airlines require a visible harness or restraint identifying the animal as a service animal. You may also need an Animal Identification Card and a certificate of health or rabies-free document. In almost all cases, they will ask you to verbally confirm that the animal is a service animal. "Verbal assurance" is usually defined as explaining what the animal does, how it assists you or where it was trained.
  • In-Flight Rules: It is generally required that your service animal not block the aisle or emergency exits.
  • Quarantine: International travel might land your service animal in quarantine. Check with the airline to find out what the regulations are for your destination country. Until 2000, Hawaii was a problem for service animals arriving on airplanes. They have since remedied the situation, but you may want to call ahead for reassurance [sources: Frontier, Delta, United Airlines, HDOA].

You may think service animals are just for people with physical disabilities, but there are emotional-needs animals, too. Next, we'll take a look at how to travel with comfort animals.