New registry may make traveling with service dogs easier

Jonathan Kaupanger
August 17, 2018 - 3:32 pm



The airlines are cracking down on emotional support animals.  Ducks, pigs, kangaroos, hedgehogs, peacocks and even tarantulas are no longer allowed to fly alongside their owners.  Unfortunately, veterans with service dogs are running into trouble with airlines now too. 

With the goal of improving the social mobility of veterans, two organizations are leading the fight for a national service dog registry: American Humane’s Operation Service Dog Access and the American Service Dog Access Coalition

“The purpose of the registry is to weed out the fraudulent dogs because it’s become epidemic,” says Gina Esoldi, Assistant Training Director with Next Step Service Dogs.  Esoldi has been traveling with her service dog at least once a month for the past five years.  “We treat our pets very well.  But our society is misconstruing what public access truly means.  Or what a service dog is.  They want to take their pets everywhere.  They’re not trained to be in public and not always appropriate.”

The American Service Dog Access Coalition registry is provide by K9s for Warriors.  Rory Diamond, K9s CEO says there are dozens of service dog registries out there, but no legitimate ones right now.  “You can go online and put your name in a registry and someone delivers to your home a little card that says you’re in their registry,” says Diamond.  “Technically it doesn’t mean a thing.  They sell people that and people put on their pet and they lie and say it’s a service dog.”

The Today Show reported that in the past two years, Delta Airline alone has seen an 84 percent increase in incidents involving animals, including biting, urinating and defecating on the plane.  Esoldi says these negative incidents cause bad feelings when people encounter veterans traveling with a service dog.  “They get the stink eye,” she says.  “They’re going into airports and getting on flights with people that are traveling with either an emotional support dog or a companion dog that they are passing off as a service dog and they’re not trained.”

To be included on one of these new registries, the service dogs have to pass standards.  Providers such as airlines, hotels and restaurants will know that when this dog enters their establishment, or boards their plane, it has met standards.  And that’s the key component - standards that are appropriate for public access.

Both service dog registries are expected to be up and running by late this year.  Until then, Esoldi has tips that may help veterans traveling with a service dog:

  • Make the appropriate reservation. Then follow up with a call to customer service and let them know about your reservation.  Often customer service will switch your seat to one that is more comfortable for both you and your dog.
  • Know what to expect.  TSA has guidelines for traveling with a service dog.
  • Toilet your dog.  As with most things in life now, there’s an app for this.  Where to Go can help you and your dog find where to 'go' in airports across the country.
  • Check in at the counter and let them know you have a dog.  Communication is key when traveling with your service animal.
  • Be mindful of somebody who might not be comfortable around a dog.  Let an attendant know and let them handle it.  By law you can be there with your service dog.

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