Traveling With a Service Animal

Can I travel around my community and the country with my service animal?

Of course you can! Depending on where you want to go and how you want to get where you are going, there are different laws that may impact you.  For example, if you need to get to the shopping mall and want to take a private taxi, then Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will protect your right to bring your service animal.  If you catch the public light rail train to your job three cities away, then Title II of the ADA provides you the right to bring your service animal along for the ride.  If you want to fly to San Diego to soak up some sun, then it gets a little more complicated.

What types of transportation are covered by the ADA?

Learn more about how the ADA covers transportation

The ADA National Network produced two factsheets that describe an individual’s rights regarding accessible transportation. Reasonable Modifications to Policy, Practice & Procedure in Public Transportation describes the different modifications an individual with disabilities can request and how to request them. The ADA & Accessible Ground Transportation describes the responsibilities transportation providers have, including providing paratransit options, to ensure equal access to individuals with disabilities.

If transportation is offered by a private company, it is covered by Title III. Privately funded transportation includes, but is not limited to, taxicabs, airport shuttles, intercity bus companies, such as Greyhound, and hotel-provided transportation.If transportation services are offered by a state or local government, then they are covered by Title II. Publicly funded transportation includes, but is not limited to, bus and passenger train (rail) service, including subways and Amtrak.

The ADA also covers how transportation services are operated. Examples include: announcing bus stops; providing adequate time for people with disabilities to board and exit from vehicles, and allowing service animals to accompany people with disabilities in both vehicles and any facility, including bus and train stations, operated by the transportation service.

So, why is flying complicated?

There are two laws that provide rights for individuals with disabilities and responsibilities to airports and airlines. The first law, the ADA, covers U.S. airports and terminals. While you are waiting for your flight at an airport, the ADA ensures accessibility, like accessible bathrooms, closed captioning on televisions, and animal relief areas for service animals.  The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) covers the airline and the airplane. As soon as you board an airplane, the ACAA is in effect.  The ACAA also requires airlines to provide animal relief areas and provide escort service to individuals traveling with service animals to these areas upon request.

What does the ADA say about the accessibility of airports?

Whether they are privately or publicly operated, airports must be accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities. Air carriers are responsible for the accessibility of all airport facilities including transportation systems, like airport shuttles, within terminals and between the terminal and other destinations that are owned, leased, or controlled by the air carrier.

For areas of terminals in foreign airports that serve flights that begin or end in the United States, access to people with disabilities must be provided. This can be achieved through any combination of facility accessibility, auxiliary aids, equipment, assistance of personnel, or other appropriate means consistent with safety and dignity.

Air Carrier Access Act

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) requires airlines to make accommodations for an individual with a disability.  Accommodations include assistance with boarding, transporting luggage through a terminal, and allowing service animals to remain with their handlers.  Take a look at Flying with a Service Animal for information about an individual’s rights and responsibilities under ACAA.

At the end of 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that it revised its Air Carrier Access Act regulation on the transportation of service animals by air. While we take the time to update our information, check out a summary of the changes available on DOT’s website. You can also find some additional information in DOT’s Aviation Consumer Protection’s article about service animals.

What about hotels? Can I bring my service animal to a hotel?

Hotels and other places of lodging are considered public accommodations.  Public accommodations are covered by Title III of the ADA which says that they may not discriminate against people with disabilities and may not deny full and equal enjoyment of the goods and services they offer. So, yes, you can bring your service animal to a hotel or any other place of lodging. Individuals with disabilities accompanied by a service animal cannot be required to pay a surcharge, even if people accompanied by pets are required to pay fees, or to comply with other requirements generally not applicable to people without pets.  If a place of lodging normally charges individuals for the damage they cause, an individual with a disability may be charged for damage caused by his or her service animal.

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