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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Traveling with your assistance animal

It's that time of year again that many of us begin to think about traveling to be with family and friends for the holidays. While traveling with your trained assistance animal is your privilege, there are some steps you need to take to make sure your trip goes smoothly.

Know what to expect
The Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration has universal guidelines for traveling with your assistance animal. But each airline interprets them slightly differently.

Some people are uncomfortable flying, and so are some animals
Even the best trained assistance animal may have difficulty flying and you need to judge your own animals temperment before you consider flying. If you are at all concerned about how your assistance animal will react to flying consider driving, Amtrak or Greyhound. Please note that while emotional support animals are afforded the same privliges as assistance animals under the ADA law they will also require special documentation from your doctor.

Contact your airline before you travel
The crew may need to make preparations for your boarding, so you must call to make them aware of what type of animal you use. The agent may also be able to help you select the most comfortable seat for you and your animal. Find a direct flight if possible because it will make for an easier experience for you and your animal.

We've provided some links to the major carriers to make your life easier. Carrying certificates of training or identification cards, such as the ones we provide will help speed things along.
Before you arrive, limit water and exercise your assistance animal
Most likely, it will be a long time before you'll find a good place for your service animal to relieve themselves again. Note: 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.

Arrive at the airport early and let security know that your animal is not a pet
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. Again, carrying appropriate identification such as 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 is required. At no time during the screening process will you be required to be separated from your service animal.

Be polite and accommodating of the Security Officers
Being polite and friendly with the Security Officers will go a long way to making your admission quicker. Remember, they have a stressful job and treating them with respect will make things easier. Security Officers have been trained how to treat assistance animals and their handlers. They know not to communicate, distract, interact, play, feed, or pet service animals.
You must assist with the inspection process by controlling the service animal while the Security Officer conducts the inspection. You must maintain control of your animal in a manner that ensures the animal cannot harm the Security Officer.

Proceeding through Security
Advise the Security Officer how you and your dog can best achieve screening when going through the metal detector as a team (i.e., whether walking together or with the service dog walking in front of or behind you). If the walk through metal detector alarms in the situation where you and your service dog have walked together, both you and the dog must undergo additional screening.

If the walk through metal detector alarms on either you or your service dog individually (because you walked through separately), additional screening must be conducted on whoever alarmed the walk through metal detector. If your service dog alarms the walk through metal detector, the Security Officer will ask your permission and assistance before they touch you service dog and its belongings. The Security Officer will then perform a physical inspection of your dog and its belongings (collar, harness, leash, backpack, vest, etc.) The belongings will not be removed from your dog at any time.

Check in at the gate
After you've gone through security, check in at the counter at the gate. Let the flight attendants know that you have an assistance animal. If this is your first time flying with your assistance animal on this airline, ask them what you need to do. Most likely you will be allowed to board the aircraft first.

Boarding the airplane
Once you've passed through the skybridge to the aircraft, the flight attendants on board will guide you to your seat. Most airlines require your assistance animal to use the space at your feet. Small dry treats for your animal will help them feel more comfortable. Avoid bringing water onto the plane for your dog.

Happy Thanksgiving and safe traveling!
We want to wish all of you a warm and happy Thanksgiving holiday! You can always refer others to confirm your registration here with your 10 digit code. Safe traveling!

3 comments:

HearingK9Girl said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm bookmarking this to save all those links to the airlines for later. Happy Turkey Day!

Logan said...

Great tips! Here's another one. If you have a long flight and want to give your service dog just a little water on board the plane, ask for ice cubes.

ServiceDog said...

Ice cubes are an excellent idea, they hydrate and also are a crunchy treat. Thanks!