Transportation and Guide Dogs

Advocacy Tools

Access in the United States

Transit entities are covered by a federal law called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and must permit service animals to accompany individuals with disabilities in vehicles and facilities. Entities covered under Title II of the ADA include publicly-operated services such as buses, subways, Amtrak, commuter railroads, and Paratransit.

Private transportation services covered under Title III of the ADA include Over-the-Road Buses such as Greyhound; taxicabs and limos; shuttles; tour buses; and rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft.

Keep in mind that the Department of Transportation’s definition of service animal is not restricted to dogs only. Passengers with disabilities may be accompanied by legitimate service animals such as cats, birds etc. as long as the animal meets the DOT’s definition of a service animal. A transportation provider may ask if an animal is a service animal or ask what tasks the animal has been trained to perform, but cannot require special ID cards for the animal or ask about the person's disability. A service animal may not be excluded unless the animal is out of control and the animal's owner does not take effective action to control it or the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. It is important for service animal handlers to remember that keeping an animal under control includes knowing how to board with the animal and position it appropriately in the vehicle so that it does not block aisles or exits. Allergies, fear of dogs, and religious or cultural beliefs are not valid reasons for refusing to transport passengers with service animals.

Check out this instructional video on service animals and transit systems created by the Southeast ADA Center.

The DOT’s Federal Transit Administration Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division work to ensure that both public and private transportation providers offer service in a manner that does not discriminate against customers or potential customers with disabilities. Common examples of discriminatory conduct include:

  • Charging extra fees for "cleaning" or higher fares to customers with service animals
  • Asking a customer to disclose that he or she will be accompanied by a service animal
  • Segregating customers with service animals from other passengers
  • Refusing to transport more than one person accompanied by a service animal together in the same vehicle
  • Placing restrictions on the vehicles in which customers accompanied by service animals are transported
  • Making customers with service animals wait longer than other passengers before providing transportation services

Questions and complaints about public transportation should be directed to the DOT’s Federal Transit Administration Office of Civil Rights at (888) 446-4511. Questions and complaints about private transportation services should be directed to The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division Disability Rights Section at (800) 514-0301.

Access in Canada

In Canada, most major transportation carriers are regulated by the federal government through the Canada Transportation Act (CTA) and the Accessible Transportation for Persons with Disabilities Regulations (ATPDR). This legislation applies to transportation carriers including bus, rail, marine, and large air carriers traveling between provinces and with a point of origin or destination within Canada. There may be different rules or exemptions for charters and small carriers or those operating within one province. The ATPDR gives people with disabilities the right to be accompanied on board with their service dogs. A carrier may require that the handler maintain control over the dog with a leash, tether or harness during travel. The carrier may also require that the handler provide, at the time the reservation is made, a declaration that the dog has been individually trained by an organization or a person specializing in service dog training to perform a task for the person with a disability. Before departure, the carrier can also require an identification card attesting to the disability and the dog’s specialized training. If the carrier retains an electronic copy of the card, the handler need not provide it again. If a service dog is too large to safely lie down in the floor space at a handler’s passenger seat, the carrier must provide the handler with the floor space at the passenger seat adjacent to the handler’s seat at no extra charge. Where extra space is needed for a service dog, it is advisable to make this request a few days prior to departure to ensure that this accommodation is made available. In the case of transportation carriers overseen by provinces or territories, it is important to determine if there is accessibility legislation such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act or the Accessibility for Manitobans Act which may be responsible for setting transportation standards. Where such legislation does not exist, we recommend that you contact the appropriate provincial/territorial human rights commission to learn about your rights with respect to transportation.