Bringing Your Dog on An Airplane

Dog on stairs at airport

If you want to bring your dog on an airplane, there are 3 options. Your dog can be a pet in the cabin, a pet in cargo, or a Service Dog in the cabin.

Option 1: Your dog is a pet and flies in the cabin with you

If you want to bring your dog on board the plane as a pet, they must meet the weight and hight requirements of the airline. Unfortunately, the airline has the final say as to whether your dog can board or not. The airline may also have requirements as to the size of the carrier you are allowed to travel with.

Dogs as pets must be in their carrier at all times, and they are required to be able to stand up and turn around in their carrier. If an airline representative determines that your dog and carrier do not meet the requirements, you can be denied boarding.

If you want to fly with your dog in the cabin, only your airline can give you the information needed to determine the requirements. Each agent may respond differently.

If you are confident that your dog is ready to fly with you in the cabin, check out our tips for flying.

Option 2: Your dog is a pet and flies in cargo

If you have a large dog that cannot fly in the cabin with you, you can pay to send your dog in cargo. You will need to send your dog in a hard kennel with good ventilation.

Your pet will not be with you. You will have to drop them at oversize luggage at the ticket counter. Airlines make efforts to ensure your pet is safe. For example, animals are only permitted if the weather forecast falls within a certain temperature range.

At the end of the day, your pet is in someone else’s hands

Airlines are required by the Department of Transportation to report deaths and injuries of animals during air transport every month. Between 2010-2020, over 250 animal ‘passengers’ died during or immediately after air travel. An additional 170 animals sustained injuries and 20 animals were ‘lost’ by airlines.

According to the Data, United Airlines had the most incidents with 138, followed by Delta with 119. Alaska had 83 incidents, American Airlines reported 55 incidents and Hawaiian had 21 incidents.

Sometimes it may be necessary to send your animal on a flight in cargo. If you simply want to have your pet with you on vacation, we do not recommend going this route. It’s a lot of stress to put an animal through.

Option 3: Your dog is a Service Dog

Many people used to fly with their dog as an ESA, however in January 2021, the Air Carrier Act removed privileges from Emotional Support Animals. Now in order for a dog to fly in the cabin with special privileges, they need to be a Service Dog. Unlike Emotional Support Animals who provide their handler with general support for anxiety or depression, Service Dogs aid with a specific task that they are trained to do to help alleviate a disability.

In order to register your dog as a service dog, most airlines have their own DOT (Department of Transportation) form. As the handler, you fill this out and submit it. This form will ask for information including the dog trainer and phone number. This is a little tricky because service dogs can be trained by an organization, a private trainer, or trained independently by their handler.

Upon filling out this form and submitting it with the airline, the airline will provide you a registration number. This number is specific to the airline. When you want to travel with your dog again in the future, you can use this number and skip all the paperwork.

The airline registration number is different than an online service dog registry.

Online registries or certificates do not make your dog a service dog. They only provide visual identification that your dog is a trained service dog. By registering, you as the handler are representing your dog as a service dog.

Bringing your dog on a plane as a Service Dog is a big deal.

Service Dogs are trained to ignore their surroundings and focus their attention on their handler. Service Dogs do not bark or whine and they keep to themselves. When representing your dog as a Service Dog, please ensure their training is up to date.

If you represent your dog as a Service Dog and they are not properly trained, or you do not have a disability they are supporting you with, you are committing fraud.

If your dog is trained to support you with a task that helps you with a disability, you can register them to get a digital certificate and ID card that you can use to quickly and easily represent them as a service dog.

To voluntarily identify your dog as a Service Dog and obtain your digital certification immediately, register now.


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