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How to Travel with a Service Dog

If you are thinking about getting a service dog, there’s much to learn about traveling with these animals.

If you are thinking about getting a service dog, there’s much to learn about traveling with these animals. From knowing the difference between ESA’s and service dogs, to meeting the requirements for Service Dog Registration of America, you should be familiar with all aspects of traveling with your service animal before you embark on your first journey together.

Learn more about traveling with your service dog and how to prepare for the trip below.

The Difference Between Emotional Support Animals and Service Dogs

It’s a common misconception that service dogs and emotional support animals are one in the same. However, both of these statuses have different requirements and allowances.

Service animals are dogs that are specifically trained to perform certain tasks for those with disabilities.

Their work may include:

  • Guiding the bling
  • Pulling wheelchair
  • Calming someone down in the middle of a severe anxiety attack

These are not pets, but workers.

An emotional support animal, on the other hand, provides comfort to their owner. The owner needs their current mental health professional to determine that the presence of an ESA will provide emotionally therapeutic benefits. ESAs are still considered pets.

The Service Animal Certification Process

The process of getting a certified dog first requires medical confirmation of a disability.

Once that is confirmed, the dog will go through training to ensure it can provide proper support. After this round of training, there will be another round of training with the owner (you) and the animal to create a bond.

Depending on your unique circumstances, the process may also involve agency referrals, personal references, and interviews.


Here’s what you need to know about this type of dog’s protections while traveling:


You are allowed to bring your service dog onto any plane for free, no matter their size. Most airlines recommend advance notice that you will be accompanied by a service animal so they can properly prepare for their presence.


No business owner can refuse to let you have this type of dog with you. They are legally only allowed to ask whether or not your dog is a service animal and what duties the dog performs for you. You are never required to disclose any further information.


The same goes for lodging. No landlord is allowed to refuse a service dog or charge higher rates to live with one, as these animals do not qualify as pets.

Tips for Traveling with a Service Dog

Ready to embark on your first adventure with your service dog by your side? Here’s what you need to know:

Before the Trip

It’s important to let your airline know ahead of time that you will be bringing an animal companion with you and that they are a registered service animal. Note that clearance is only guaranteed on domestic U.S. flights, and international flight rules may vary based on your destination country.

At the Airport

Once you arrive at your airport, proceed through any security checkpoints with your dog. Be prepared to declare your animal when checking in and just before the security process. TSA will screen your dog and all its accessories with you.

On the Plane

Your dog will be allowed to lay beneath the seat in front of you. If your dog is small, he or she may be allowed to sit in the lap. As long as they don’t block aisles or other safety areas, they should be good.

It’s very important to limit their food and water intake a few hours before the flight so there are no accidents during the flight.

The Most Important Thing to Remember

You have a right to travel as you please with your registered service dog by your side.

If you have any additional concerns about flying with your service animal, there’s a toll-free helpline to reach TSA Cares, a program designed to help passengers with disabilities through the security screening checkpoint. Get in touch with them by calling (855) 787-2227.

With your dedicated service dog by your side, traveling just got a whole lot easier.