Traveling with Service Animals

Q. Must air carriers permit passengers with disabilities to travel with a service animal?

A. Yes. If a flight segment is scheduled to take eight hours or more, an air carrier may condition permitting a service animal to travel in the cabin upon the passenger providing documentation that the animal will not need to relieve itself on the flight or that the animal can relieve itself in a way that does not create a health or sanitation issue on the flight. An air carrier must accept as evidence identification cards, other written documentation, presence of a harness or tags, or the credible verbal assurance of the individual with a disability using the animal.

Passengers traveling with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal must provide a letter from a licensed mental health provider that is no more than one year old stating that the passenger needs the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger’s destination.

Air carriers are not required to accommodate certain unusual animals, such as snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents and spiders.

With respect to other unusual or exotic animals that are presented as service animals, such as miniature horses, pigs, or monkeys, a U.S. carrier must determine any factors that preclude the animal from traveling in the cabin. Factors include size, weight, if it would cause a significant disruption, if it poses a direct threat, or if it would be prohibited from entering a foreign country that is the flight’s destination.

If an air carrier decides not to accept an animal as a service animal, a written explanation must be given to the passenger within 10 calendar days of the incident.

Foreign carriers are only required to carry dogs as service animals.

— Excerpted from Accessible Air Travel, a free brochure from United Spinal Association.  Click here to get the answers to these and many other questions:

  • What services must air carrier personnel provide to passengers with disabilities on board the aircraft?
  • What are the FAA regulations concerning seating next to emergency exits?
  • What mobility aids and other assistive devices may passengers with disabilities bring into the aircraft cabin?
  • What are the requirements concerning priority cabin stowage for wheelchairs and other assistive devices?
  • When can passengers expect to have their wheelchairs removed from the baggage compartment and returned to them?
  • What procedures apply to stowage of battery-powered mobility aids?
  • What procedures apply when passengers’ wheelchairs or other devices must be disassembled for stowage?

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