Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Air Carrier Access Act Regs Simultaneously Improve and Potentially Limit Travel

The Air Carrier Access Act for those unfamiliar is the airline/air travel, it can best be explained as the ADA for airlines. Recently, I was surfing a new website for people with disabilities, Disaboom.com, and I came across this article Air Carrier Access Act Amended. I was reading the article and generally happy with with the new rules which come into affect May 2009; that is until I read
"On flights over eight hours, airlines can require passengers with service animals to provide documentation that the animal won’t have to relieve itself, or that it can relieve itself in a way that won’t create a health or sanitation issue on the flight. "

I, for one, would like to know what that documentation has to be and just who has to provide it. For most vets the life of a traveling service dogs is little understood. My vet was astonished when my service dog and I went to Spain in 2005 and I told him my boy went 18 hours without relieving himself. My good friend and owner training mentor, Don Alfera, taught me you always fly you service dog high and dry. Meaning you didn't feed them the meal before you fly and you pick up the water bowl two hours before you fly.
I planned our flight carefully to go through San Fransisco International with plenty of time to visit the dog potty area. I got off the plan and immediately began telling airline staff that I needed to take my dog out. They said to ask the staff at my next gate. I kept insisting but to no avail. So I get to my gate in the international terminal and the staff their tell me that this is a secured area and no one can leave. Okay, plan B. I had packed puppy pee pads just in case. I took my service dog into the stall and put down the pad telling him to go. He had none of it. Had I been able to take him out as I had planned it would have only been about nine hours for him. I knew nine hours on a night flight would be no problem for my boy. Since it was not terribly unusual for him to go the workday between outings.
There are also huge rule changes and additional requirements for those who will be flying with Emotional Support animals as well as for those with Psychiatric Service Dogs. According to the document this is due to a large number of people claiming their animals were Emotional Support or Psychiatric SDs when in fact they were not! Every traveler with disabilities should read and know the new regulations especially section 382.117.

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