ASSISTANCE DOG AIRPLANE FAQ
This is a work in progress. (c) 2001 by Grumpy Ol' Fred. It may
forwarded and reposted, but only if this message is included. Additions,
corrections and suggestions would be very welcome.
Since there has been little support for my proposal that planes be
REQUIRED to have dogs on board, here is some discussion of the current
state of airplane access law.
Q: Wouldn't the ADA apply?
A: The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) rules the planes, and to
some extent the airports. They have the
ACAA (Air Carrier Access
in place of the ADA. Similar, but not an exact match.
Q: Will the airline staff know the laws?
A: Not a chance. There are a lot of laws, and little incentive to learn
Q: What will happen when they don't know the laws?
A: As in any other situation, they will try to make it up as they go
along. On anything that they don't agree with you, they will tell you
that it is "safety laws".
Q: What can you do when they don't know the laws?
A: Sometimes an escalation will help. They are required by law to have a
CRO ("Complaint Resolution Officer") on duty at all times.
Q: Will there be a CRO on duty?
A: Not a chance. You are more likely to be able to find Sasquatch or DB
Q: What can you do if there's a problem?
A: Do not yell. Do not demand. In a completely unemotional voice, using
passive verbs, that all English teachers would be grievously offended by,
tell them what needs to be done. They are so used to taking orders that
the right tone of voice will make it possible to simply slide in the
correct instructions of what they are to do. For example, practice
saying, "Seat 1C will need to be reassigned to me."
Q: But how can the airline know whether the dog is a "fake"?
A: Anybody who can not tell whether or not it is really a dog is not
competent to operate an airline!
Q: An airline representative said to be sure to bring my papers. What is
A: Since the sole requirement of "proof" for a service dog is any sort of
harness, collar, or cape markings, OR "credible verbal assurances", then
he surely couldn't have been referring to any sort of "certification".
What he must have meant was a suggestion to bring your newspaper. A
newspaper in one of the waiting lounges can really brighten the day of a
Q: Are there any requirements to be dressed?
A: Airports abide by the same "indecent exposure" laws as the surrounding
Q: Is there a requirement for a special collar?
A: If you are a member of the clergy of certain religions.
Q: What does "credible verbal assurances" mean?
A: NEVER wink while you are telling them that your dog is a service dog!
Q: What about relief for the dog during stopovers, or immediately
before or after a flight?
A: In most cases, you will have to exit the secure area, and head out to
the curb. Frequently airline staff can help, and in relatively informal
airports may even escort you to the tarmac. It never hurts to ask. Well,
almost never. One passenger was quite surprised at the reaction when she
walked up to the nearest airport cop and said, "Where can I find some
grass?" Another passenger caused a bit of a disruption when the pilot,
wearing sunglasses, took his guide dog out to potty for him.
Q: What about relief in flight?
A: If you can, hold it. Airplane restrooms are clean, but VERY cramped.
The door fits loosely enough that a leash WILL usually fit under the
bottom edge of the door, leaving your dog out in the hall staring at the
door. It helps to get an attendant to hold the leash, or at least hold
off the crowds who will see an opportunity to play or even try to feed
peanuts to your dog.
Q: What about for the DOG?
A: The dog will have to try to hold it. If you expect to take
ridiculously long flights, or cruises, or submarine trips, etc, then train
the dog to eliminate onto a small piece of astro-turf, or on a disposable
diaper. The staff are well versed on what to do with used/full diapers. If
the dog does have an "accident", clean up as well as you can. Spreading
used coffee grounds can be a good way to cover up the smell.
Q: How about food and/or water for the dog in flight?
A: Even if your dog finds airline food more appetizing than you do, it's
a bad idea, since the dog won't get a relief opportunity until much
later. A couple of little pieces of ice will help the dog deal with
thirst, without filling the bladder.
Q: What effect will the recent tightening of security have?
A: The airport rent-a-cops who handle security may eventually be replaced
by trained guvmint workers. Until then, there will be enormous variation
from one place or time to another. They are scared, and are NOT trained
how to deal with this, so they will make it up as they go along.
Expect major interrogations. Since the rent-a-cops have no training for
this situation, do not expect them to know what the legal limits are on
And plan to carry as little as possible.
No pinch collars or choke collars, since security is scared of metal
In the paper the other day, they showed a picture of the confiscated
"weapons" from airport security.
There were a lot of corkscrews -- HUH? Doesn't everyone know that
airplane wine has screwcaps?
There was an aerosol can.
There was the expected pile of pocket and keychain knives.
And there was a NUMBER TWO PENCIL! (and some pens)
Ah, yes. The pen is, indeed, mightier than the sword.
So, ... find a short, stubby, plastic, "non-threatening" pen, since
apparently some airport security now are worried about Bic pens being used
When do they start taking away belts and shoelaces? (long recognized as
dangerous in prisons)
Will we ultimately fly naked? Will that bring back some of the fun and
excitement of flying?
Q: Is there any requirement of crating?
A: If you are a corpse, you must be in an appropriate box.
Q: What about petting by employees?
A: The FAA does not approve of staff engaging in sexual activities while
Q: What about sitting on your lap?
A: The FAA does not approve of attendants sitting on the laps of
passengers nor on the pilot's lap during flight.
Q: Does the dog need to ride in cargo?
A: Only if you ride in cargo.
Q: Does the dog need to be under the seat?
A: Only if you are. If you feel the need to curl up under the seat when
flying, perhaps you should reconsider your transportation options.
Q: Do you need to pay for a seat for the dog?
A: Only if the dog sits on the seat.
Q: The airline says that I have to sit in the window seat of the bulkhead
row. Is that true?
A: NO. Although many PWDs prefer that seat, ACAA explicitly lets you sit
anywhere that you want. If you contact the airline 24 hours in advance,
you can reserve the bulkhead seat (or whatever seat you want), If
somebody else has already reserved it, the airline will have to pre-empt
their reservation and let you have it anyway. That will make the folks
that already had it very mad. On airlines that do not reserve seats
("cattlecar seating"), by having a free-for-all in loading, they must give
you a headstart. It is even possible to have them "block" the seat next
to you, so that you will have more room unless the plane is completely
full. However, "blocking" a seat is such an unusual procedure for some of
them, that the process of "unblocking" it if needed could even delay a
Q: Are there any exceptions to where I may sit?
A: Yes. If you might be an obstruction, you may not sit in an emergency
exit row. You must also not block the aisle, or everybody will freak out
if they are delayed for more than a fraction of a second. In addition,
the toilets are not to be used during takeoff and landing, and there are a
couple of seats that are reserved for the pilot and crew.
Q: Where is the best place to sit?
A: As far away from the plane as possible.
This is a work in progress.
copyright 2001 by Grumpy Ol' Fred, all rights reserved.
be forwarded and reposted, but only if this message
Additions, corrections and suggestions would be very
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