Traveling with your service dog is easier now than ever before, but there are still a lot of important things to keep in mind - especially when it comes to air travel and hotels. When done wrong, travelling with your pet can be stressful and you’ll wish you had just left your friend at home. However, when done right, it can be an easy and rewarding experience. There are two aspects to making a successful trip with your service dog: planning ahead and knowing the laws.
First, you’ll want to do some research into where you’re going. If you’re traveling abroad, what are the rules regarding bringing animals into that country? You may have to secure certain paperwork from your vet ahead of time. Many countries will allow service dogs from abroad if you can prove they have been vaccinated and are in good health. Other countries may require your pet to spend some time in quarantine upon arrival.
The same can be said for hotels. Rules about service dog are not uniform – one hotel may allow dogs, another may not, and still a third may allow them but only in specific rooms or under certain circumstances. Before booking a room make sure that you know what their rules are, and make sure the management knows you’ll be arriving with a dog ahead of time.
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely planning on flying with your furry friend. This is another area where you’ll have to do considerable research. If your service dog is a registered service or therapy dog, you have a bit more options available to you. Service and therapy animals cannot be refused entry onto a plane and they are even allowed to remain with their handler in the cabin. If your dog isn’t registered, you might want to think about doing so before a big trip. Luckily, even regular pets can travel on airlines. Unfortunately, they usually need to travel in the cargo area of the plane, in a pre-approved crate, and with an additional fee for transport. The details of these rules, like with hotels, can vary from airline to airline. Make sure you learn as much as you can ahead of time and coordinate closely with someone from the airport and airline.
With all of the logistics taken care of, it’s important to take additional steps to make sure that your pet not only arrives with you, but that they do so safely, comfortably, and stress free. You don’t want to spend all that extra time and money getting to your dream destination, just to worry about a service dog that has been traumatized. Preparing your friend for his/her trip is just as important as preparing yourself.
First, you’ll want to talk to your vet to make sure your service dog is healthy enough to travel. If he/she is older or suffering from an illness, it might not be the best time to put them through the experience. Second, it’s important to remember that dogs are creatures of habit and don’t handle sudden changes well. If your dog is going to be spending several hours inside a crate, don’t buy the crate the day before you leave and put your dog in for the first time the day you board the plan. Make sure you’ve purchased a crate several weeks in advance and let your dog get accustomed to the crate by having him/her sleep in it and spend time in it. Some people will also play airport sounds on a speaker to accustom their pet to the new sounds they’ll experience.
When the day arrives, you want your service dog to be as comfortable and safe as possible. Putting some familiar toys or an article of clothing with your scent on it can help him/her feel more at ease. Many airports these days also have pet zones where you can walk your service dog before getting on a long flight. Be sure to spend some special time with your pet, give them time to walk around and relieve themselves, and get fully hydrated before sending them off.
If all goes well, you should arrive at your destination with a happy and healthy friend who’s just as ready as you are for the adventure ahead!