If you want to board a flight with your psychiatric service dog or service dog, this article will explain the one document you need for all airlines.
In 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation completely updated its rules for assistance animals on flights. The new rules essentially banned emotional support animals from flights but still allow for service dogs and psychiatric service dogs to board, as long as their owners use a newly created federal form.
If you plan to fly with a service dog or psychiatric service dog, you must now complete and submit the DOT’s Service Animal Air Transportation Form to your airline before boarding. Passengers who can complete this form can board the cabin with their assistance dogs free of charge. Service dogs are also exempt from size and weight limitations applicable to pets. They are permitted to sit on the floor and your lap if they are small enough.
The DOT Form has raised many questions and confused service dog and psychiatric service dog owners who previously did not need to provide documentation to verify their service dogs.
The DOT Form can seem intimidating at first, but it should be easy for most service dog owners to complete once they’re familiar with it. In this article, we will provide a clear guide and helpful tips on how to complete and use the DOT Form for traveling with your service dog or psychiatric service dog.
How to Fill Out the DOT’s Service Animal Air Transportation Form
The first section of the DOT Form asks for basic information regarding the owner of the service dog and the service dog itself. For most people, the name of the handler and “user” will be the same person.
However, there may be instances where the handler and user may be different, so two names are required. For example, a helper may be transporting a service dog on a flight to its owner.
In this section of the Form you will also need to provide a written description of your service dog (including its weight) and name. A photo of your service dog is not necessary, and you do not need to carry around any type of ID card for your dog when you travel.
The animal health section of the Form requires you to confirm that your service dog has been vaccinated for rabies. You must provide the date of the last vaccination, and the vaccination must be current. You also have to verify that your service dog does not have fleas, ticks, or a disease that would endanger other people or animals.
The last part of this section requires the name of your service dog’s veterinarian and their telephone number. The veterinarian does not need to sign the form.
The term “disability” has a specific meaning under the DOT’s rules. A disability eligible for a service dog can be physical or mental/emotional in nature. Whatever the health condition may be, it must substantially limit one or more major life activities.
- Physical disabilities are conditions like visual impairment or mobility issues.
- Psychiatric disabilities include conditions like severe depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, or phobia. A licensed mental health professional can evaluate whether you meet the criteria for mental health disability under ACAA rules and issue a PSD letter.
It’s important to be truthful about everything you add to this form. The DOT Form is a federal form, and there are potential penalties and consequences for knowingly making misrepresentations. You want to make sure you are accurate about whether you have an eligible disability.
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Service Dog Training Requirement
To be considered a service dog, the dog must be fully trained to perform a task or work related to the owner’s disability. The DOT Form asks for the name of the animal’s trainer, but it is completely fine to list yourself if you trained your dog. This has caused some confusion with service dog owners, as many service dog owners undertake training themselves without using a trainer. If you were responsible for training your dog, you would put your name as the trainer along with your phone number.
The DOT’s regulations made clear that you do not need a third-party trainer or organization to train your dog or certify that they have been fully trained. The DOT specifically rejected any requirement that service dogs be trained or evaluated by any organization in creating the Form. The DOT believed this would create an undue burden on service dog owners, many of whom are capable of training their animals without outside help.
Service dog owners also do not need any certification of the training from any organization. A common misconception is that service dogs need to be “certified” in order to be official – that is not untrue. You alone are responsible for confirming that your dog is fully trained.
Service dogs that help with physical disabilities perform countless tasks such as guiding visually or hearing impaired people, pulling wheelchairs, and providing diabetic alerts when there are changes in the owner’s blood sugar.
Psychiatric service dogs perform numerous tasks. They include things like: providing comfort during moments of anxiety or panic with pawing, pressure or licking, reminding handlers to take medication, interrupting psychotic episodes or dissociative events, or providing a buffer against crowds or other triggering threats.
In addition to attesting your service dog has been task-trained, you must confirm it has been trained to behave in public. In public areas, your service dog should be under your control at all times and not exhibit disruptive or aggressive behavior like biting, barking, jumping, or lunging at others.
Your service dog should also not relieve itself during the flight or in the gate area (except on flights longer than 8 hours; see below). You must also attest that to your knowledge, your service dog has not behaved aggressively or caused serious injury to another person or animal.
The final section of the DOT Form requires you to recognize that your service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times while at the airport and during the flight.
You must also acknowledge that if your service dog causes any damage, the airline can charge you for any repairs. Finally, you must acknowledge that you are signing an official DOT document. That means if you knowingly make false statements, you can be subject to fines and other penalties. Therefore, it’s important to be truthful and accurate about your health condition and service dog’s abilities.
For Flights Longer than 8 Hours
If you are boarding a flight that will last longer than 8 hours, you must complete an additional form, called the Department of Transportation’s Service Animal Relief Attestation Form (Relief Form).
The Relief Form is fairly straightforward to complete. It requires you to select one of two options:
- Your service dog will not relieve itself while on the aircraft; OR
- Your service dog can relieve itself during the flight without creating a health or sanitation issue.
If you select the second option, you also have to describe how your service dog will relieve itself without creating a health and sanitation issue (for example, using a dog diaper). The Relief Form also requires you to acknowledge that you may be charged by the airline for damage caused by your service dog.
How to Submit the DOT Forms
Most airlines have an option during booking to notify them that you will be traveling with a service dog. After booking a flight, you will submit the form either through an online link or to an email address.
The form should be submitted at least 48 hours before your flight. If you book a flight taking off within 48 hours, you can usually provide the form in person at the gate when checking in.
For airline-specific guides to flying with a service dog or psychiatric service dog, visit the following pages:
- Alaska Airlines
- Allegiant Air
- American Airlines
- Air Canada
- Delta Air Lines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Jet Blue
- Southwest Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- United Airlines
After submitting the DOT Form to the airline, you will be ready to fly with your service dog without any charge. The airline cannot request any further documentation. If you book a roundtrip flight, the airline can only ask you to complete the DOT Form once for that trip (and not for both legs of the trip). Some airlines will keep your DOT Form on file for future travel, and others require the form to be submitted each time you book a flight.
Once at the airport and on the flight, airline staff is not allowed to ask for further documentation. They can verify you have a service dog by:
- Asking whether your dog is required because of a disability (you do not have to reveal any specifics about your condition), and asking what work or task your dog is trained to perform (but they cannot request that you have your dog demonstrate its task).
- Observing the service dog’s behavior (i.e., is it well behaved, disruptive, or aggressive).
- Looking at physical indicators such as harnesses and vests (but these are not necessary, nor do they qualify your dog to be a service dog).
Remember, as a service dog owner, you have a right to privacy regarding the details of your condition. Airline staff can never ask that you have your dog demonstrate its task, which could be embarrassing or traumatic for the owner.
While traveling, it’s also a good idea to keep a copy of your completed DOT Form with you during your travel.
Qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog Letter Online
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