Service Animals Can Help Make Your Accessible Vacation a Reality
Service animals are an invaluable resource to a person with disabilities. Your service animal can help make an accessible vacation a reality for you. However, it can be quite daunting to think about the extra considerations to successfully fly with your treasured companion and assistant.
Under the ADA, businesses that service the public, which includes lodging providers, stores, transportation companies, etc., must allow service animals that accompany a person with disabilities to go wherever other customers have access. Here are some helpful hints that may ease the task.
- When booking, be sure to let the airlines or your travel agent know in advance you will be traveling with a service animal so that they can plan accordingly.
Preparing for the Trip:
- Know the quarantine laws prior to going to a foreign country. TravelinWheels will include this information on its website for any countries we cover.
- Some destinations, including Hawaii require dogs to be microchipped. If you haven't done this, you may consider it. It's quick and painless and provides an extra level of security for your service animal.
- Know where service animal relief areas are in advance. Check our transportation section for service animal relief areas in airports.
The Day of the Trip:
- Be sure to have your service animal's harness, any necessary paperwork, including vaccination records, identification, etc. on hand.
You may bring a small blanket for the service animal to rest upon during the flight. The floors can get cold. However, if you forget it, they will be just fine.
- Do not provide food or water to the service animal prior to the flight. Don't worry, they can go a while without it, and it will save you headaches later on.
- Give yourself plenty of time.
- Do not provide sedatives to your animal. These could affect them negatively during the flight.
- Let the service animal do its business prior to heading to the airport, and if you have a long commute, go directly to the relief area BEFORE going to security. Most relief areas are quite a distance away, and are outside of security. It's never fun to have to run the dog to go potty and do a second trip through security.
Security: Here are tips directly from the TSA website:
- If you have a service animal, you are encouraged to inform the security officer that the animal accompanying you is a service animal and not a pet. This will provide you with an opportunity to move to the front of the screening line since the security officer may need to spend more time with you.
- It is recommended that persons using an animal for assistance carry appropriate identification. Identification may include: cards or documentation, presence of a harness or markings on the harness, or other credible assurance of the passenger using the animal for their disability.
- At no time during the screening process will you be required to be separated from your service animal.
- Security officers have been trained not to communicate, distract, interact, play, feed, or pet service animals.
- The security officer should ask permission before touching your service animal or its belongings.
- You must assist with the inspection process by controlling the service animal while the security officer conducts the inspection. You are required to maintain control of the animal in a manner that ensures the animal cannot harm the security officer.
- If you need to leave the secure boarding area to relieve your animal, you must undergo the full screening process again. Inform the security officer upon your return to the security checkpoint and she/him will move you to the front of the screening line to expedite the screening process.
- You qualify for pre-boarding. Make sure the gate staff knows you are there so that they can get you on board first. It will help with everyone's comfort for you to be there a bit early to take advantage of this benefit.
- Choose your seat wisely. A smaller dog may not have an issue being under the seat; however, a larger dog will require a bulkhead.
- If you have a layover, you can take your dog to the nearest rest area. Let the gate staff know what you are doing, and if you have to leave the security area, be sure to take your boarding pass and identification with you for re-screening.
Lastly, enjoy your flight! P.S. We love to hear other's tips and tricks! Feel free to log in and submit your own!