Posts Tagged ‘service animal’

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. 

A disability doesn’t end at the doors of a school. For the most part, a school may be where a child or young adult learns to navigate the world with their disability. Because service dogs are part of how a person manages their disability, a service dog must be involved in a child or young adult’s development and can indeed accompany their owner to school.

Show everyone that the rights of your service dog should be respected. Get your service dog registered below.

What are Service Dogs? 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is a service animal trained to take on a task for a person with a disability. The task that the dog performs has to be related directly to the person’s disability. This task is often something the person can not achieve on their own and necessary for safety or daily life. 

For example, some dogs receive training to detect impending seizures in a person with epilepsy. Others can identify low blood sugar in diabetic patients. Service dogs are vital to the mental and physical well-being of the person they serve and are covered by federal law. 

Service dogs are similar to but different from emotional support animals (ESA) and therapy animals. Service dogs are specifically trained for a person’s disability and perform vital tasks that can not be executed by the person they serve. Service dogs are not pets. They are a medical tool to help their owners overcome the hardships of the disability. 

What are Their Rights? 

Because service dogs are crucial to their owners’ well-being and quality of life, they fall under federal law. They are allowed to go wherever their owner goes, whether it be a business, a public park, or a school. 

A service dog can be taken to school to continue the assistance to their owner. Service Dog in Primary and Secondary School

Two federal laws apply directly to service dogs’ presence for students with disabilities in public schools: 

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)Title II of the ADA is broad and allows for civil protections for all individuals with disabilities. The law does not allow any discrimination by federal, state, and local governments. This law includes all public schools. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation ActSection 504 does not allow discrimination against people with a disability in programs that receive federal funds, including public schools.  

These two federal laws permit a student with a disability to use a service dog in schools. These students cannot receive unfavorable treatment or be charged fees that are not the same as those for students without service dogs. These students are not allowed to be isolated or set apart from others because of their service dog. The fear of a dog or allergies is not sufficient reason to deny a service dog’s presence within a school, but the school may offer the use of other locations when possible. 

In short, service dogs are allowed in universities and K-12 grade public school campuses for students with disabilities. Students with service dogs can’t be penalized in any way for having a service dog. However, the care and grooming of the service dog should be determined beforehand, especially in the case of small children. 

Service Dogs in College

Individuals with a disability may use a service animal on their campus and in their dorms. The Fair Housing Act covers both service animals and emotional support animals in housing areas and dormitories. However, only service animals remain covered under the ADA regarding other areas of the campus. The ADA allows service animals into classrooms and other university facilities. 

However, it’s important to remember that the person with the disability has the responsibility for the care and grooming of the dog. Also, the dog can’t be dangerous or disruptive and must be under the owner’s control at all times. 

Service Dogs and Students

A service dog offers a person with a disability the freedom to participate in the world around them. Taking away a service dog deprives a child, adolescent, or young adult the ability to foster their independence and achieve their goals more fully. A service dog is not a pet, but an extension of a youth’s mastery over their disability. 

Service Dog as Part of the Education

Learning to live with their disability requires a service dog’s assistance, and learning to live with their disability is part of why they are in school. Allowing the full use of their rights enables students to empower and educate themselves in a supportive environment. Through a well-rounded education and life experience, children and young adults with disabilities can grow into productive adults. Federal laws recognize this need, and schools must abide by them, for the benefit of all. 

Service dogs are an amazing medical tool and are often underutilized due to a confusion in Service Dog regulations. We will go through what a service dog is, who can qualify to have a service dog, where you are allowed to take your service dog, and the benefits of completing your service dog registration. 

If you qualify for a Service Dog and go through the proper steps to train your dog, you may want to register your Service Dog so that you can provide your registration card and identify your animal as a service dog. There are many people out there that do not know the rules surrounding service dogs and having a Service Dog ID card can help to mitigate conflict. 

Registered Service Dogs are required to be well trained must be under their handler’s control. What is a Service Dog? 

A Service Dog is an assistance animal that is specifically trained in aid in a mental, emotional, or physical disability. Service Dogs must always be in the control of their handler and must service a specific function for their handler’s disability. A certified Service Dog should not pull their handler or bark at others when in public, unprovoked. 

Qualifying for a Service Dog 

If you experience an emotional, mental, or physical disability, you qualify for a Service Dog. For more information and a list of disability that may qualify you for a Service Dog, read here

Once you have identified your disability, your next step is to identify what task your dog can perform to help aid in your disability. 

A common misunderstanding is that Service Dogs are required to be professionally trained. This is untrue. If you are capable, you are allowed to train your service dog yourself! For many people, paying $20K for a service dog isn’t feasible so being able to train your own service dog is an important right. Even if you choose to hire a trainer or purchase a trained Service Dog, you may still choose to register your new Service Dog for your own convenience. 

Don’t qualify for a service dog? You may qualify for an emotional support animal. Read more about emotional support animals here

You are permitted to train your Service Dog yourself. How to Register your Service Dog

If you want to register your dog as a service dog, your dog must provide a service for your disability. A professional trainer is not required for your dogs to be called a service dog. If you are in need of a service dog, you may personally train your dog to provide a service for your disability. 

To register your Service Dog, you can start your Service Dog Registration process online by entering your information along with your animal’s information here

To register your service dog, complete the registration in the link below.

Service Dog Regulations

Service Dog regulations are governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This is different than Emotional Support Animals which are governed by Fair Housing and the Air Carrier Access Act. 

Even if you you have completed your Service Dog registration, your service dog can still be denied access if it is not well behaved. 

Service Dogs are distinctly different from emotional support animals. Emotional support animals are also a class of assistance animals, but do not require the same amount of training as Service Dogs and therefore do not enjoy the same access rights. If you are interested in an ESA, read more here. It is important to know the difference so that you can determine which animal is best for you and your needs. 

To qualify for an Emotional Support Animal, you need an ESA letter. Registration is not sufficient.  Do I need an Doctor’s note for my Service Dog?

Service dogs do not require a note or letter from a doctor. If your dog is trained to provide a service for your disability, a doctor’s note or letter is not required. 

If your animal does not provide a service or task for your disability, but instead provides comfort and support, you will need a note from a doctor to qualify your animal as an emotional support animal

A doctor’s note is not required for a service dog. However, if you need an ESA, a doctor’s note is required.  Where are Service Dogs allowed to go? 

In short, you are allowed to go everywhere that you are allowed to go with your service dog. 

Service Dogs can go into restaurants, hotels, beaches, in the workplace, airplanes, and are granted housing access. 

Emotional Support Animals only have access to air travel and housing. You may choose to register both your Service Dog or our Emotional Support Animal. If you have an Emotional Support Animal, you will also need an ESA Letter from a licensed mental health professional as registration alone is not sufficient. You may request an ESA letter from your therapist, if you need help guidance with how to find a therapist who is well versed in ESA regulations, you may read this post. 

As touched on earlier, Service Dogs are not the same as Emotional Support Animals but people can confuse the two. In order to avoid any issues when traveling with your Service Dog, its important to be well versed in your rights and how to handle any confrontations. 

Service Dogs have public access rights. This includes no dog beaches, restaurants, air travel, hotels, and no-pet housing.  Going to Public Places with your Service Dog

If you expect to be traveling with your Service Dog, you may choose to order an ID card and Service Dog Vest. The ADA is clear that both items are not required but the reality is that people are not well aware of ADA regulations and you may experience unpleasant confrontations without it. It is always up to you if you want to stand your ground and educate those who are not well aware of Service Dog rules or you may prefer to have your Service Dog ID handy. There is no right answer, do what is best for you. 

Once you have requested access for your Service Dog, you are never required to disclose your disability to anyone. If you are asked to disclose your disability or asked to demonstrate your Service Dog’s tasks as a condition for granting reasonable accommodation (aka access to wherever you need to go), you may report that business or establishment to the ADA. 

If your Service Dog is denied access, you may report the business to the ADA.

The ADA exists to protect people with disability and if any business is denying access without due cause they need to be reported. 

From time to time, the person you are dealing with just may be unaware of service dog regulations. If you encounter an employee who is dying access “because pets aren’t allowed”, your next step is to request to speak with a manager. We advise against arguing with any employee regarding your Service Dog to avoid escalation. If you are unable to speak with a manager for any reason, ask for the employees name so you may report them to the ADA.

Service Dog Registration

Service Dogs are an important tool and we are lucky to have them. By knowing your rights, you can travel comfortably with your dog. If you would like to register your Service Dog and have your Service Dog ID handy when traveling with your service dog, you can start by completing the Service Dog Registration form below. 

You will be able to order a Service Dog identification kit and register your animal in an international database of service dogs and handlers. You will also be able to pull up your Service Dog ID and registration card using your mobile device anywhere. To complete the service dog registration process, complete the form in the link below.