If it is your first time traveling with your psychiatric service dog or PSD, you might feel anxious or unsure of how to plan and what you should know to make the trip go smoothly. That’s completely okay!
In this particular guide, we have addressed every query you might have regarding traveling with your PSD.
Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes PSDs as service animals and grants your psychiatric service dog all the rights and privileges covered by federal law.
According to the ACAA, no one can discriminate against those who require a psychiatric service dog to deal with their disability while traveling. As per the ACAA, your PSD can accompany you on the flight at no additional fee and is provided with a cabin where you and your PSD can sit comfortably. As a result, you do not need to be concerned that your pet will be at risk when traveling.
However, there are a few things to be aware of that will make the experience simpler for you when traveling with a psychiatric service dog.
Pre-Flight Preparations With a Psychiatric Service Dog
You must submit a U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form when making a reservation in advance (usually 48 hours or more). You have to fill out the form by mentioning your basic details, like your name, name of your service animal and a short description of your PSD. There is a particular section in the form that will ask about your dog’s health along with their training. If you have trained your dog yourself, you can simply add your name in that column, and if not, you can mention the trainer’s details.
After completing the form, you must submit this document for validation. Usually, the airline has a specific section on its website dedicated to this purpose. Contact the airline’s customer support staff for assistance or further details on how to submit your document if you have any problems finding the portal.
What To Expect During the Airport Check-In Process?
At the time of check-in, the airport staff may inquire about your assistance animal. However, under the ACAA guidelines, no one has the right to ask about your mental health disabilities or inquire about your assistance animal. But airport staff are legally allowed to ask you the following questions about your PSD:
Is the dog needed as a service animal due to a disability?
What job or duty has the dog been trained to carry out?
You’re not allowed to answer any other questions besides those listed above—only these questions are acceptable under the ACAA.
Try to answer these questions as quickly as possible because if you’re not able to answer these questions, you can be refused entry at the time of boarding.
How Can I Make Sure My PSD Is Prepared To Travel?
Understanding “Relief Areas” in an airport is the best way to prepare your PSD for travel. There must be a specific place for animal relief at every airport in the U.S. Typically, airports will provide further details about these zones on their websites, sometimes with airport maps that prominently identify the locations of each relief area. Once you get to the airport, an airline employee can help you identify a relief area.
Bring your psychiatric service dog to this area before taking a flight to give them one more chance to go potty. A full stomach could cause your PSD to feel uncomfortable during flying, so you should feed them no earlier than four to six hours before takeoff. The best way to keep your dog hydrated while traveling is with water. If you think your PSD could be anxious during the flight, you must think of strategies for keeping them calm. Dog treats that promote calmness are pretty beneficial in these circumstances.
How Can I Keep My PSD Calm During a Flight?
Some dogs may experience anxiety during a flight, especially if it’s their first flight. You can discuss possible alternatives for calming your psychiatric service animal with your veterinarian. These solutions can consist of CBD-infused dog treats, thunder shirt anxiety wraps or pheromone-infused relaxing collars in order to keep your PSD calm during a flight.
Can My PSD Accompany Me to the Airport?
Your PSD can accompany you to any place you go. The psychiatric service dog, like service animals, is protected by federal law, which is why they are allowed to travel in public areas with you. Your PSD is able to follow you anywhere you go in the airport, including the food courts and restaurants. However, certain exemptions, such as aggressive behavior and an untrained dog, can result in the cancellation of your flight. Therefore, it’s essential that your psychiatric service dog is adequately trained to avoid these awkward situations at the airport.
Flying With a Psychiatric Service Dog
There are many travel guidelines for psychiatric service dogs that turn out to be confusing. However, the easiest way to fly with your PSD is by making sure that your dog meets all the legal requirements to become a service dog. By having qualifying mental or emotional health disabilities, you can ensure that your dog satisfies the needs of being a service dog.
If you’re not sure whether you have a qualifying mental or emotional health condition to get a PSD, you can consult a licensed mental health professional who can evaluate your mental health condition and provide you with a valid PSD letter. In case you don’t know any licensed mental healthcare experts, you can find one online. If your mental health condition significantly restricts at least one of the living functions, such as sleeping, working, socializing or attending school, you may easily qualify for a PSD letter. This is especially helpful if you need to self-certify on a U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form that you have a disability.