Before you think about traveling with your service animal, you should become familiar with the Department of Homeland Security’s rules and regulations on the subject.
First, the Department of Transportation defines a service animal as ‘‘any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If the animal meets this definition, it is considered a service animal regardless of whether it has been licensed or certified by a state or local government.’’ If your animal doesn’t fall into this category, it is considered a pet and other rules and regulations need to be followed for a pet.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the DOT has rules that require airlines to allow passengers to fly with their service animals in the cabin on all U.S. airlines. There is no limit to the number of service animals that can be on any flight. Service animals do not need any health certificates to travel and they do not need to be confined in a container or cage.
American Airlines, for example, does not charge for service animals traveling in the cabin. However, the animal must fit on your lap, at your feet or under your seat, be well behaved and under control, but if the animal is too large, it will need to be checked and travel in a kennel since service animals cannot block any aisle. There are some requirements on documentation. Animals must have an animal ID card, harness or tags and, if it’s a psychiatric service animal, you must have supporting documentation dated within 1 year of your scheduled flight from a licensed mental health professional or a medical doctor.
Don’t be surprised if your animal has difficulty flying, even though he has a quiet temperament and handles the car well. Let your airline crew know that you are traveling with a service animal so they can help with seating.
Before you board, make sure you’ve taken your animal for a walk so they can pee and limit their water intake for the flight. If you leave the secure area you will need to go through security again. Be sure to bring them a few treats for the ride.
TSA personnel cannot separate you from your service animal and you are not required to remove the leash or collar.
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