Facts About Traveling with Service Animals
Editor: Here's a great compilation of laws regarding traveling with
service animals, including hearing dogs.
The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog or
other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual
with a disability. If they meet this definition, animals are considered
service animals under the ADA regardless of whether they have been
licensed or certified by a state or local government.
An operator cannot require a person traveling with a service animal
to sit in a particular seat on the vehicle. Access to public and private
transportation is a civil right for customers with disabilities under
the ADA, a customer with a service animal cannot be segregated from
other passengers and the service animal must be permitted to accompany
its owner on the vehicle. It is the responsibility of the customer to
ensure that his service animal does not block the aisle or exits or in
any way interfere with other passengers.
The provider cannot charge a fee as a condition for allowing a
service animal to accompany a customer with a disability. The
transportation provider can charge passengers with disabilities if a
service animal causes damage so long as it is the regular practice of
the entity to charge customers without disabilities for the same type of
A driver cannot ask for or require proof of service animal
certification or of the customer's disability. If a driver is unsure
that an animal is a service animal, they can inquire if the animal is a
pet. If the customer responds that the animal is a service animal, the
driver can ask what kind of service the animal is trained to perform. To
ask for or require proof of a disability as a condition for providing
service to an individual accompanied by a service animal is intrusive
and prohibited under the ADA. Although some states do have programs to
certify service animals, many do not. Some animals may have
certifications and some a licensed but operators may not ask for or
require proof of state certification or identification before permitting
the service animal to accompany the customer with a disability onto the
Any customer with a disability can travel with a service animal even
if the work of the service animal is done outside of the transport
situation. The customer determines the need for a service animal, just
as s/he does for a personal care attendant or a mobility aide.
Customers are responsible for maintaining control over their animals
and caring for them at all times. They should be prepared to answer
questions from the driver. The handler is responsible for knowing the
best way to board and position the animal on the vehicle, particularly
if the animal might be required to provide assistance during the transit
trip. The customer is responsible for managing interactions with other
passengers when situation arise, such as asking others not to pet, feed,
distract or interrupt the service animal while it is working.
Service animals are not entitled to a seat. Seats are usually
reserved for fare-paying customers and the handler is not required to
pay a fee for their service animal. Most service animals are dogs and
most dogs sit on the floor next to their handler's feet. Customers and
the transportation provider are encouraged to talk to one another to
determine what is responsible if a situation occurs where a service
animal uses a seat and work together on a solution. However, the
transportation provider is not required to displace another paying
customer to make room for the service animal.
For more information about service animals and air travel and the Air
Carrier Act call the Department of Transportation Disability Hotline at
(800) 778-4838 or (800) 455-9880 (TTY).
For more information about traveling with service animals contact
Easter Seals Project ACTION at (800) 659-6428 or visit
www.projectaction.org/ The Clearinghouse page provides the opportunity
to order or download a copy of the document titled, "Serving
Passengers Traveling with Service Animals". Visit the U.S.
Department of Justice Web site and download a copy of "ADA Business
Brief: Service Animals".
*Thanks to HLAA and Fairfax County Disability Planning &
(c)2007 by Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of
Hearing Persons (NVRC), 3951 Pender Drive, Suite 130, Fairfax, VA 22030;
www.nvrc.org. 703-352-9055 V, 703-352-9056 TTY, 703-352-9058 Fax. You do
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