People who travel with service animals—for example, guide dogs for the visually impaired, or assistance dogs for those who are mobility impaired—do not have the choice of leaving their pet at home. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act guarantees reasonable accommodations for the mobility of individuals using service dogs. Canada has similar laws in place that ensure the rights of its citizens with disabilities. However, even with service animals, advance planning for travel within the US is wise and sometimes essential. For example, travel to Hawaii with a service dog requires documentation of the animal's status and training, proof of current rabies vaccination, microchipping, testing for immunity to rabies, and other documentation. Although these requirements are less stringent than those for non-service animals (described later), they still require advance planning to ensure that the animal is not delayed upon arrival.
Individuals with disabilities should remember that beyond the borders of their home countries, accommodation needs should be approached creatively. If you anticipate foreign travel with a service animal, you should provide the destination country with as much advance notice as possible (at least 30 days) to avoid having to enter the country without these vital helpers. Sometimes it is necessary to be flexible about trying another nation's disability-related supports and services. When traveling internationally with an assistance dog, individuals with disabilities should contact organizations for the visually impaired and/or guide or service dog schools in the destination country to determine how practical international travel might be. It is important for disabled travelers to understand the laws and cultural norms of their destination.
Last full review/revision July 2011 by Charles M. Hendrix, DVM, PhD