Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Just like everyone else, service dog owners will stay at a hotel every so often. When they do, they can bring their service dogs with them for the duration of their stay. No matter how extravagant or simple the hotel is, the service dog must be allowed to remain with its owner as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA defines a service animal as any animal trained to provide help to an individual with a disability. Their assistance allows an owner to perform a task that they are unable to perform themselves. Therefore, service animals are not pets because they serve a specific and essential medical function. 

Service dogs may accompany their owners wherever they go. Due to this right, federal regulations let service dogs into public areas, like hotels. Hotels aren’t permitted to decline the presence of a service dog within their business, even with a “no pets” policy in place—hotel’s pet policies do not apply to service dogs. 

What Questions Can a Hotel Ask?  

If a service dog’s function isn’t immediately apparent, like a guide dog, employees may only ask the dog owner two questions:

Is your dog a service dog? If your dog is a service dog, what service does it provide?

It’s against federal regulations for hotel employees to ask for any proof, like a certificate or license. Due to privacy laws regarding health and disabilities, employees aren’t allowed to inquire about the service dog owner’s qualifying disability

Most hotel employees are aware of ADA and service dog regulations. However, some staff may be unfamiliar, ask too many questions, or behave inappropriately. If this occurs, a dog owner can politely ask to speak to their supervisor.

Can a Hotel Make Limitations Regarding Your Hotel Experience?

Hotels cannot isolate service dogs and their owners from other guests or restrict them to certain rooms.

ServiceDogCertifications.com

A hotel isn’t allowed to restrict a service dog owner from amenities that other customers can access. For example, the restaurant areas of a hotel should be accessible to a service dog and it’s owner. Shopping areas and hotel grounds should also be open to service dog owners.

Can a Hotel Charge Extra Fees for Having a Service Dog?

Hotels are not allowed to charge fees for a service animal that guests without a service animal don’t have to pay.

ServiceDogCertifications.com

A hotel can’t charge a fee that wouldn’t apply to patrons without a service dog. For example, a hotel may charge for the repairs for damages incurred by a service dog. However, those same fees would also apply if a non-disabled person would be charged for the same damages. 

Hotel owners should think of a service dog as an extension of a person’s effort to overcome a disability, rather than an animal. It would be wrong to charge a person with a disability a fee for their cane or wheelchair; thus, the same applies to a service dog. 

When Can a Hotel Limit or Refuse Services Due to a Service Dog?

Hotels can refuse customers whose service dog behaves aggressively or becomes disruptive.

ServiceDogCertifications.com

There’s a reason why service dogs undergo extensive training. Poor behavior by a service dog can compromise their ability to do their job. These dogs are around the public more than other dogs and, and need to be safe at all times. 

If a service dog growls or barks at other customers, the hotel can ask the owner to remove the service dog from the premises. 

Hotels may also refuse entry to a service dog in sterile settings. For example, a medical area where surgery is performed can be considered a location where a service dog isn’t allowed. 

What is a Service Dog Owner’s Responsibility in a Hotel?

The hotel employees aren’t obligated to care for the service dog. The dog’s needs have to be met by its owner. Feeding, exercising, grooming, and toileting the dog is the owner’s responsibility. 

A service dog needs to be under the owner’s control throughout the entire stay. The dog should always have a leash or a harness unless it interferes with its tasks. The employees and guests aren’t allowed to feed, pet, or play with the service dog. Also, service dogs should be in the presence of their owner at all times. Leaving a service dog alone in a hotel room can endanger hotel staff and put the legitimacy of the service in question.

When visiting a hotel the service animal needs to be under the supervision of the owner at all times. Visiting Hotels with Your Service Dog 

When staying at a hotel with your service dog be firm but courteous towards the hotel employees and other guests. Recognizing a service animal might be difficult at first. The ADA doesn’t require service dogs to be registered or have a certificate. However, having the appropriate documentation on hand can reduce the need for clarification between service dog owners and hotel employees. Registering a service dog can help make fulfilling their task easier for you and them. 

If initially there is tension between a hotel employee and a service dog owner, it’s best to remain calm and explain the legal rights of service dog ownership. Bad experiences in the past may have shaped the employee’s views. Setting a good example and presenting a well-trained service animal may help overcome any disagreements left in the room.

Download the DOT Form – Service Animal Air Transportation Form (pdf) here.

If you plan to fly with a service dog, there is one document you should be familiar with. In 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation revamped its rules for assistance animals on flights. As a result, emotional support animals were banned on flights, but service dogs maintained their right to board flights as long as the passenger submits a new federal form to the airline before departure. 

If you own a service dog, you are allowed to board the cabin of flights free of charge and with an exemption from pet rules under U.S. air travel rules. That includes both service dogs that help with physical disabilities and psychiatric service dogs that help with mental health disabilities. 

In this article, we will review the DOT’s Service Animal Air Transportation Form and explain how to use it when flying with your service dog in the future. 

Basic Requirements

Before you consider completing the DOT’s Form, there are three essential requirements you must have fulfilled:

Have an eligible disability

To own a service dog, you must have an eligible physical or mental disability under ADA and ACAA rules. 

Have a task-trained service dog

You must have a dog that has been trained to perform one or more tasks relating to your disability.

Have a service dog trained for public settings

Your service dog must be capable of behaving at the airport and during the flight.

Read on below for more details on these three requirements. 

Information about the Owner and Animal 

The first part of the Service Animal Form asks for information about you and your service dog. In most cases, service dog owners will fill in their names as the “Handler” and leave the “User Name” blank. The “User Name” might be needed if the person transporting the service dog is different from the person who needs the dog for their disability. For example, a transporter may be taking a service dog on a flight to meet the dog’s new owner in another location. 

The Service Animal Form also asks for the dog’s name and weight. Note that service dogs are not subject to the same weight restrictions as pets on flights. A service dog can sit on the floor in your foot space as long as it does not encroach on the space of another passenger or the aisle. 

Animal Health Section 

This part of the Service Animal Form asks you to verify that your service dog has been vaccinated for rabies and does not have fleas, ticks, or a disease that would threaten other people or animals. 

You must also include your veterinarian’s name and phone number. The Service Animal Form notes that a signature from the veterinarian is NOT required. Your veterinarian’s contact is requested for informational purposes — you make the certifications about your service dog’s health. 

Disability and Training Requirement Section  Service Dog Owners Must Have a Disability 

The most important part of the Service Animal Form is the section that asks you to verify that your service dog has been trained to assist with a disability. By definition, a service dog must be fully trained to perform a job or tasks relating to a physical or psychiatric disability. 

The term “disability” is a legally defined term under federal disability and air travel laws. A disability includes physical conditions like visual impairment or compromised mobility and mental health conditions like severe depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Whatever the condition may be, it has to “substantially limit” at least one major life activity.

If you believe you may have a psychiatric disability, a licensed mental health professional is best qualified to evaluate whether you meet the eligibility requirements. If a licensed professional such as a therapist or doctor assesses that you have a disability, they can sign a PSD letter for you that puts their findings in writing.  

There are penalties and legal consequences for making misstatements on the Service Animal Form. That has caused some anxiety among service dog owners who previously have not been subject to any documentation requirements. For owners with “invisible disabilities,” a PSD letter can provide comfort knowing they have a documented, eligible disability. 

Service Dogs Must Be Fully Trained 

Whether it is a service dog for a physical or a psychiatric disability, a service dog cannot be considered a legal service animal until it is fully trained to perform tasks that assist with the handler’s disability. 

On the Service Animal Form, you must indicate who the trainer or training organization was. If you trained your service dog yourself, you would list yourself. The DOT has made clear you do not need a third-party trainer or organization to have a service dog. Many service dog owners train their dogs on their own without outside assistance, and the DOT recognizes this. 

Service Dogs Must Always Be Well Behaved 

In addition to being task-trained, service dogs must be trained to handle public settings without causing any disruptions. You must also verify on the Service Animal Form that your service dog has not behaved aggressively or caused serious injury to another person or dog. 

Other Assurance Section

The last part of the Service Animal Form asks you to confirm that your service dog will be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times at the airport and on the plane. You have to acknowledge that the airline may charge you for repairs if your service dog causes any damage on the plane. 

It’s important to recognize that there are consequences for not completing the form accurately. You must check the box acknowledging that you are signing an official U.S. DOT document which can subject you to fines if you knowingly make false statements. You must be truthful about your disability, and the level of service dog training your dog has achieved.   

Conclusion 

While at the airport, service dog owners should keep in mind that in addition to the Service Animal Form, there are a few other ways airport and airline staff can verify that you have a service animal

Airport and airline staff can verbally ask two questions:1. Is your service dog required because of a disability?, and2. What work or task has your dog been trained to perform?Note that they are not allowed to ask for specific details regarding your condition or for your service dog to demonstrate its task on command.  Staff can observe whether the service dog has been properly trained to be in a public setting or if it is disruptive.   Staff may be on the lookout for physical accessories, such as harnesses and vests, even though these are optional and not required by law.

The Service Animal Form may, at first glance, cause anxiety among service dog owners; after all, before the DOT’s rule changes, service dog owners were generally not accustomed to any type of documentation requirements. 

While the new form is a burden for service dog owners, individuals with eligible disabilities and properly trained service dogs should be able to complete the form and make the necessary representations easily. 

Sometimes you have to take some time away from home, whether it’s for business or pleasure. If you have a service dog, you can bring your dog with you while you travel. Because Hilton offers so many hotel options, there’s a good chance that you and your service dog may stay at one of their establishments. If so, understanding the Hilton Service Dog Policy can make your stay even more comfortable. 

Hilton Hotels Welcomes Service Dogs

Hilton Hotels boast 575 hotels over six continents worldwide. As a leader in the hotel industry, Hilton Hotels and Resorts sets the benchmark for customer service. With 90 years in the hotel business, Hilton uses its extensive knowledge to provide for all the needs of its clientele — including people with disabilities.

Americans with Disabilities Act Protects Your Rights

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of individuals with disabilities and defines service dogs as animals specifically trained to perform a task for a person with a disability. Under the ADA, a service dog may accompany their handler anywhere the public has access to — including hotels where no pets are allowed. In most circumstances, hotels can legally charge a pet fee or refuse to allow pets into their establishment. Service animals, however, are not pets and are exempt from limitations and additional fees. 

Staying at the Hilton with a Service Dog

Many of Hilton’s hotels and inns have very pet-friendly policies. However, depending on the individual hotel, they have limitations for where pets can go. Pet fees are mandatory for pets to stay. Service dogs, however, do not fall under the hotel’s pet policies and are not subject to the same fees. 

Where a Service Dog Can Go

According to the ADA, service dogs have public access and may accompany their handler wherever the public is allowed. For example, in a hotel, the public is welcome into their dining room, but the kitchen is only open to employees. Therefore, a service dog may accompany their handler into the dining area, but not the hotel’s kitchen. 

Hilton Hotels’ service animal policy will have every service dog feel at home. Alternative Goods and Services

In some cases, it’s not reasonable or possible for a service dog to accompany its handler to a specific area. If the service dog’s presence affects the handler’s ability to use the hotel’s goods and services, the hotel may make accommodations. The hotel may offer to secure the animal in a safe location and offer the assistance of an employee or provide an alternative service. 

However, segregating a person with a service dog from other patrons because of the presence of their service dog is not allowed. 

Fees and Charges for a Service Dog at Hilton

Although pet fees don’t apply to service dogs, the hotel may charge a handler for any destruction of property. The charges would not be classified as a pet cleaning fee. Instead, charges would be priced as per a cleaning or damage fee incurred by any other guest. 

Recognizing a Service Dog

Hilton workers understand the importance of customer privacy. However, a Hilton employee is allowed to ask the following questions to verify a service dog

Is the service dog necessary because of a disability?  What task has the dog been trained to assist with? 

Hilton workers — or any other employee — may not ask a service dog owner to provide proof or have the dog demonstrate the task they perform.

Keep in mind, however, service dog’s laws and regulations may vary from country to country. In Canada, for example, Hilton employees may ask for documentation because Canadian laws allow for that practice. Conversely, in the United States, the ADA prevents people from asking for documentation or proof that a dog is a service dog. 

Care and Control of a Service Dog at a Hilton 

The Hilton is not responsible for the care, feeding, grooming, or toileting of a service dog. The handler must look after the service dog, including have the dog relieve itself in appropriate areas only. 

The service dog must be under the control of its handler at all times. A Hilton employee may ask the handler to remove the animal from an area if the service dog becomes aggressive, growls, barks excessively, attacks, or jumps at other customers or employees. If other patrons are severely allergic to dogs, reasonable efforts are made to meet the needs of all parties. 

Staying at a Hilton Hotel with Your Service Dog 

Although it’s not mandatory, it’s best to let Hilton’s hotel services know that a service dog will accompany you when making a reservation. By doing so, it allows Hilton to make reasonable accommodations and ensure a stress-free stay. All Hilton staff receive training on addressing the needs of people with disabilities, enabling you to enjoy your stay with your service dog at any Hilton Hotel.