More than ordinary pets, service dogs improve the daily living experiences of people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act makes provisions for service dogs to go with their owners everywhere, and aeroplanes are no exception. If, for a reason, you cannot fly with your service dog, can someone else do it for you?
It is possible for someone else to fly with your service dog. But their purpose will determine if your service dog will be treated as a service dog or as a normal pet. It is best to confirm from an airline carrier what rules apply per situation.
This article delves into the rights of airlines to request proof of a service dog. I will also discuss how someone else can fly with your service dog, and the documentation airlines need for service dogs.
Can Airlines Ask for Proof of a Service Dog?
When it concerns service dogs, there are specific details airlines can ask for and others they have no business with. They are within their rights to confirm the identity of a service dog. But how they go about it might differ from what you have in mind as ‘proof’.
Airlines must allow a service dog to accompany a person with a disability if the disability is obvious and:
- The person has given them a “credible verbal assurance” of the identity of the dog.
- They can see tangible cues like tags, vests, and harnesses.
- The behavior of the dog is observed, and it remains within the control of its handler.
- If the individual voluntarily provides written documentation or ID cards.
If a verbal assurance does not satisfy them, they can ask the following questions: “What tasks or functions does your animal perform for you?” and “Would you describe how the animal performs this task or function for you?”
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), airline personnel may not ask about the nature of the individual’s disability (especially for psychiatric disabilities that aren’t visible), demand that the dog demonstrates its duties, or ask for any documentation for the dog.
The Department of Justice and ADA do not recognize the service animal certificates and registration documents provided by organizations and individuals as proof that the dog is a service animal.
Can Someone Else Fly With My Service Dog?
A service dog is a dog that has received individual training to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. People often refer to a service dog and its handler as a team.
When a service dog is out with someone else apart from its original team member, it is off duty and does not qualify as a service dog. If someone else were to take your service dog to a restaurant that doesn’t allow pets, your dog loses the privileges of a service dog and will have to stay outside.
Flights are no different from restaurants in this situation. The legal requirements that bind airline carriers to provide certain services to you and your service dog do not apply when your dog is with someone else.
They will have to fly with your dog as an average pet. This means they will be subject to the rules and fees required to transport your dog, whether in the cargo hold or in the cabin. A service dog trainer delivering your service dog to you may be the only exception to this.
It is in your best interest to get explicit instructions and confirmations from the airline you will use to avoid any inconveniences at the airport.
What Documentation Do Airlines Need for Service Dogs?
Many people take advantage of the fact that airlines rarely ask for documentation from service animal users and pretend their normal pets are service animals. This has made things difficult for the real users of service animals.
From January 11th, 2021, the Department of Transport implemented its new Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation on the transportation of service animals by air. The new regulations adjusted the definition of service animals to include and exclude some categories.
They restricted service animals to dogs only, excluded emotional support animals as service animals, and require that psychiatric service animals receive the same treatment as other service animals (no longer require a signed document of proof.)
Under the new regulations, airlines now require two forms to be submitted before a service animal can fly. They are:
- The DOT’s Service Animal Transportation Form
You can submit this “Transport Form” in two ways. If you already made a reservation long before the departure date, submit it at least 48 hours before departure. You can also submit it before the flight or at the gate if you made a reservation within 48 hours of the flight.
It is a self-certifying form; the handler personally makes all the attestations and signs the form. Some of the points the handler certifies include the dog’s vaccination, individual liability for any damages the dog’s actions may cause, care and control of the dog at all times, and the proper behaviour of the dog.
The form requires the name and contact of the service dog’s veterinarian, but it does not need the vet’s signature.
- The Service Animal Relief Attestation Form
This “Relief Form” is necessary only for flights longer than 8 hours. The service dog’s handler must certify that their dog will either not need to relieve itself while on the flight, or it can relieve itself in a manner that maintains the sanitation and health of the environment.
It is also a self-certifying form and can be completed without hassle. Airlines require a hard copy or digital copy of these forms as a condition for transporting service animals.
Although Individuals with psychiatric service animals must fill the Transport Form, airlines no longer need a signed letter from a licensed mental health professional as proof.
The addition of these forms presents a level ground for all airlines on their regulations for flying service animals. It also makes it easier for people with disabilities to fly with their service animals without worrying about the specific requirements of each airline.