Flying With Your Dog

Last month we held a special training session for one of our teams. He is planning a trip that includes a flight, and was unsure of what to expect, especially with respect to taking his service dog through the screening process. After conferring with a TSA representative, we arranged for a visit to the Redmond Airport.

If you plan to fly with your dog, make sure he or she is calm and under control and will allow handling by strangers. In addition to the usual screening procedures, you will need to pass through the x-ray frame alone, so it is important for your dog to have strong obedience skills. Probably the easiest order of events is to put your dog on a sit-stay or down-stay while you walk through, then call your dog through. Your dog should also stand still while being patted down, but you don’t need to remove the service vest.

The right for a person to travel with his or her service dog or emotional support animal in the cabin of the airplane is provided by the Air Carrier Access Act.1 Airlines are exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act, and so there are some additional rules to follow. While not required by the ACAA, it is advisable to contact the airline ahead of time to smooth the way for your trip. Generally, if a person’s disability is not obvious he or she must submit a letter (dated within the past year) from a health-care professional stating that the person has a diagnosed disability and is to be accompanied by a service dog (or emotional support animal).

When you contact the airline, you will probably want to request a bulkhead seat (the first row after cabin divider walls). This will allow more room for your dog. Also, it is a good idea to potty the dog as “last-minute” as possible, and not feed the dog within a couple of hours of the flight. Consider pre-boarding to allow more room and time to get settled. There are conflicting opinions about whether you should leave your dog at your seat when visiting the lavatory. Technically, a service dog is not to be left unsupervised, but a large dog may not fit in the restroom with you. Flight attendants are not meant to hold onto your service dog, but may be willing to. When deplaning you will probably want to wait until  other passengers have gotten off, again to allow space to move.

Happy flying!

Shannon Lucas, Program Director

  1. 14 CFR Part 382