Henry Kisor and Christine Goodier, authors of Traveling with Service Animals: By Air, Road, Rail, and Ship Across North America, share their top tips for traveling with service animals just in time for the busy holiday season!
1 ) Train your partner to travel
As newly-minted service dog partners, we marvel at our dogs’ skills. How well they obey commands! How consistently they perform their tasks! Life is good. But when the dog refuses to use an airport relief box or lunges toward a cruise ship pastry cart, it’s tempting to abandon future travel plans. Instead, try scheduling short practice sessions close to home to introduce new experiences and pave the way for more ambitious trips.
2 ) Research your plan
Scrutinize your itinerary and ask a lot of questions before booking anything. Consider your dog’s maturity, peak season crowds, weather, quarantine laws, export permits, and more. Service dogs usually must meet the same entry requirements as family pets for foreign countries and rabies-free Hawaii, so begin your research early.
A good starting point is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel.
3 ) Call ahead
Provide advance notice that you are traveling with a service dog to smooth your way with hotels, restaurants, and tour operators. Request your preferred location, such as a ground floor room, first row bus seat, or corner table away from foot traffic. Notify an airline that your dog will accompany you and ask for a bulkhead seat by a window (or book early to confirm one from the start). Contact a cruise line at least a month ahead to arrange for a relief station onboard. Reconfirm everything.
4 ) Find a USDA-accredited veterinarian
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the paperwork required for an international trip with a service dog, but if your veterinarian is accredited by the USDA, you’re ahead of the game. Vets with that credential are expected to be knowledgeable about documentation, vaccinations, parasite treatments, or blood tests your dog might need before travel. And a vet must be USDA-accredited to issue all international health certificates that require APHIS endorsement from a regional service center veterinarian.
Locate an accredited vet near you through the APHIS website: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/nvap/ct_locate_av
5 ) Pace Yourself
Picture yourself at the Grand Canyon in July, standing in line to squeeze your panting service dog onto a packed shuttle bus, and you’ll realize the need for strategic travel. Start sightseeing early before crowds are out, schedule rest periods, and don’t cram too much into one day. Avoid peak season. Fly nonstop or allow a generous connection time between flights. Arrive the day before your cruise or tour departs to adjust to time changes. Tactics like these can help you – and your dog – enjoy the trip and look forward to your next journey together.
-Henry Kisor and Christine Goodier, authors of Traveling with Service Animals: By Air, Road, Rail, and Ship Across North America