Pet Travel Rules

May 19, 2018

Service animals often wear vests to signify their working status.
Credit Can Do Canines [Flickr]

If an animal is behaving badly  (growling, hissing, biting), chances are pretty good it is not a true service or support animal.  A legitimate service or support animal is trained to move through crowded areas and confined spaces without acting out.  

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Airline travel for pets has been in the news lately. The death of a dog in an overhead luggage bin earlier this year prompted United Airlines to adopt a more restrictive policy with regard to pets. A dog, cat, rabbit or pet bird will be allowed in the cabin, in a kennel that can fit under the seat in front of the passenger. Only dogs and cats can travel in the cargo compartments, and certain breeds that are susceptible to respiratory problems are banned.

Now American Airlines has issued its new policy with regard to service or support animals inside the cabin. Beginning in July, the airline will ban certain species including goats, reptiles, rodents and insects. The company has experienced a 40% increase in passengers with service or emotional support animals and believe some are trying to pass off their pets as support animals. They say the new policy is intended to protect travelers with legitimate, trained, well-behaved service animals.

Other airlines also have adopted stricter policies, such as Delta, which has had to deal with people bringing ducks, pigs, even a kangaroo on board, claiming they are emotional support animals.

So, if you plan to travel by air, and you have a legitimate service or support animal, communicate with the airline in advance to ask what credentials you must provide to document the service or support status of your animal.

If you are considering other ways of getting from here to there, riding the train might be an option for traveling with your pet, as long as it is a small dog or cat that weighs no more than 20 pounds. And unless you are traveling with a certified service dog, animals of any species are not allowed on a Greyhound bus.

There are two other possibilities for pet owners. One is to travel by car, although that may limit your options for overnight stay, and you won’t be able to leave your pet in the car while you go into a restaurant or theater.

The other option? Leave your best friend behind, in a reputable kennel or boarding facility, or with someone who will take care of it while you’re away. It’s good to get away but it’s great to have a friend to come home to, when you’re speaking of pets.

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