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In December of 2020, the Department of Transportation made extensive revisions to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), the law that requires airlines to allow service animals. These changes have been in effect since January of this year and have important consequences for you and your assistance dog.
To begin with, the definition of “service animal” has been limited to include only service dogs that provide assistance to disabled persons. Now, airlines no longer have to accommodate Emotional Support Animals and service animals other than service dogs—although Psychiatric Service Dogs meant to serve those with mental illnesses are still protected.
You must also fill out 2 new DOT forms. The first, the Service Animal Air Transportation Form, certifies that your service dog is healthy, trained, and well-behaved. The second, the Service Animal Relief Attestation Form (needed only for flights lasting 8 hours or more), certifies that your assistance dog will not need to relieve themselves during the flight.
You must carry these forms with you at all times and, if you reserve a seat more than 48 hours before the flight, you must submit them 48 hours in advance. An airline cannot prohibit you from submitting these forms online if you are unable to do so in person.
As for where to keep your assistance dog on the plane, you may keep them on the floor directly in front of your seat or (if your airline permits) on your lap. Most airlines will not allow your assistance dog to extend into the aisle or for them to be in an emergency exit row. Your dog must always be leashed or harnessed, both onboard the plane and in the airport.
You may read a summary of the above guidelines here. However, these are only the federal regulations for service dogs, not the regulations of every airline. Airlines may impose their own additional restrictions on assistance dogs, such as a minimum age of 4 months, a maximum of 2 service dogs per passenger, or a vaccination certificate separate from the DOT form.
Below are links to the policies of several major airlines regarding service dogs:
For international or interstate travel, you should check the laws of the country/state that you plan to visit. You can access them easily on this page of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website by selecting your destination from the drop-down list for countries or the drop-down list for states.
So long as you and your airline follow all of these guidelines, you and your assistance dog should enjoy a safe and comfortable flight.
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