Airlines & Cruise Ships

Traveling by Air or Sea with a Guide Dog

The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities who travel by air with service animals. The rule generally applies to flights of U.S. airlines, and to flights to or from the United States by foreign airlines. 

The ACAA permits service animals to be seated at the feet of a person with a disability at any bulkhead seat or in any other seat as long as when the animal is seated/placed/curled up on the floor, no part of the animal extends into the main aisle(s) of the aircraft and the service animal team is not at an emergency exit row seat. When making reservations, passengers are not required to notify the reservationist that they will be accompanied by a service animal unless they request an accommodation or plan to travel to Hawaii or to other countries. No additional fees may be charged for the service animal or for airport assistance when making connections or visiting animal relief areas. Carriers may require documentation that the animal will not need to relieve itself on flight segments scheduled to take eight hours or more.

Passengers who feel they have been discriminated against by the airline can file a complaint with the Department of Transportation’s Aviation Consumer Protection Division or request immediate on site assistance from a Complaint Resolution Official (CRO).

For more information or questions about air travel, passengers may call the Aviation Consumer Disability Toll-Free Hotline at (866) 266-1368; read about Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Air Travel of People with Disabilities; and check out travel tricks and tips from Seeing Eye graduates and our top tips for traveling by air with a guide dog.

Airport Security Checkpoints

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is responsible for screening air travelers with service animals. Passengers are expected to maintain control of their service dogs by holding onto the leash throughout the screening process. Passengers with animals may also be subject to explosives trace testing. At no time should TSA personnel require that the dog be separated from its handler or that the harness, collar or leash be removed from the dog. If a passenger exits past the checkpoint to relieve his or her dog, the passenger and dog will need to undergo the screening process again. When he or she returns to the security checkpoint, he or she can ask to move to the front of the screening line. 
Travelers with complaints about the screening process may request immediate on site assistance from a TSA supervisor or Passenger Support Specialist. Prior to travel, passengers with questions about screening policies, procedures or what to expect when they arrive at the airport security checkpoint may call TSA Cares at 1-855-787-2227 or email TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov.

Cruising with a Guide Dog

Planning a cruise with your guide dog involves two parts.  First, you will need to contact the cruise line to make arrangements for your dog. Many cruise lines require an international health certificate and current vaccination records. Generally a 4’ x 4’ wooden box filled with mulch, Second Nature or other type of absorbent material is provided for the relief area. Early boarding for orientation tours is often available upon request. There is no limitation on the number of service animals that can be brought on a given voyage and passengers may bring a reasonable quantity of dog food aboard the vessel at no additional charge.

Second, passengers cruising with service animals must also obtain all customs and other governmental approvals so that the dog may disembark with the handler in the various ports of call. Many countries have strict entry requirements for service animals and some do not allow service animals at all. Be sure to check with the cruise line to see what options, if any, are available for leaving your dog on the ship.

International Travel

International travel regulations can differ from country to country so be sure to allow enough time to find out what forms, vaccinations and blood tests may be required. Some of these requirements must be completed months before departure. Some countries may not allow service animals at all and some may restrict dog food from being brought into the country.  

International Health & Import Certificates

Many countries require the federal government to review, stamp and endorse all documents prior to a dog’s departure from the United States. The health certificate and supporting documents prepared by an Accredited Veterinarian are then endorsed by a state’s USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Services official veterinarian. The fee for stamping/endorsement varies by the number of tests required for the health certificate. Some countries also require their own import certificate to be filled out before allowing guide dogs to enter. Generally import permits can be obtained from the destination country’s ministry of agriculture or a state’s Veterinary Services official veterinarian.

Microchips

Most countries require your dog to be microchipped before carrying out the required rabies vaccination or other import requirements.If the destination country requires the ISO microchip, and the dog’s existing microchip does not meet these standards, contact the destination country to see if they would accept the dog’s current chip or tattoo as an alternative.  Always make sure that the microchip can be read before departing for a trip.

Rabies Vaccinations

Some countries may require an animal to have been vaccinated against rabies within a specified period of time before it arrives. This means that the dog might need to be revaccinated against rabies before the dog’s booster vaccine is actually due. Be sure that your vet documents the microchip number, the date of insertion and the location of the chip onto the dog’s rabies vaccination certificate.
Blood Tests

The rabies titer test (FAVN test) is required before traveling to Hawaii and many rabies-free countries. An interval of 3 weeks is generally recommended between the rabies vaccinations and taking a blood sample but some countries have more specific requirements. Some countries may also require other types of blood tests. The wait time to enter a country after a successful blood test has been drawn can vary from one country to the next. The day the sample is received at the Kansas State University Rabies Laboratory begins the countdown for the wait time.

Guide dogs returning to the United States must be accompanied by a current, valid rabies vaccination certificate that includes the following information:

  • Name and address of owner
  • Breed, sex, age, color, markings, and other identifying information for the dog
  • Date of rabies vaccination and vaccine product information
  • Date the vaccination expires
  • Name, license number, address, and signature of veterinarian who administered the vaccination