With careful planning and consideration, holidaying with an assistance dog in distant locations is an enjoyable adventure. Fortunately, many airline carriers accommodate accredited teams in the aircraft cabin during flight, maximising the comfort of recipient and dog alike.
Qantas and V Australia allow service dogs from a limited number of organisations to travel free of charge in the aircraft cabin on all domestic and single-sector international flights. Recipients are required to show their current Public Access Card at the time of boarding, and must have their dog tethered and seated on an absorbent mat for the duration of the flight. Assistance dogs in training from approved organisations are also permitted on board when accompanied by an accredited trainer.
It is possible to travel with an assistance dog on an international flight, however quarantine regulations still apply. When any dog or cat is exported from Australia they immediately relinquish their Australian health status and, depending on the country visited, may not meet Australian import requirements upon return. International carriers have varying rules regarding the onboard carriage of assistance dogs, however a large number do accept trained dogs from accredited organisations.
A more appropriate choice?
Whilst the ASDOG Management Committee encourages the active lifestyle of partnered teams, it does require its recipients to give careful consideration to their dog’s welfare when determining the appropriateness of all airline travel. Additional considerations include:
- Flight duration and the discomfort of the mobility and toileting restrictions this may impose.
- The stress of unfamiliar, noisy or overwhelming environments, particularly on a recently partnered or aging assistance dog.
- Rules regarding assistance dogs in foreign countries and potential negative cultural reactions.
- Quarantine regulations when returning to Australia.
A Personal Perspective
My assistance dog, Jade, is a perfect candidate for airline travel: she has frequent exposure to busy places and public transport, remains calm in every situation and settles readily in any location. We have shared 12 domestic flights together and, typically, Jade has afforded herself the opportunity of sleeping through them all! She has breezed through all airport procedures and apparently only once looked suspicious. Fortunately the security guard who ‘pat down’ her orange jacket found no concealments!
Taking up temporary residence in a hotel room without our usual ‘doggie door’ has only the added challenge of providing Jade with late night and early morning toilet breaks. Fortunately she is no stranger to elevators! Whether at home or away, Jade’s daily exercise and free play needs must be met, so locating suitable parks is always a priority.
Though our experiences have all been overwhelmingly positive, and airport and flight staff accommodating without exception, I would only ever have Jade accompany me on flights of up to two hours duration. Being a wheelchair user I am required to board the plane first and disembark last, a procedure which potentially doubles the time Jade is not permitted to drink, toilet or freely move about. When I am occasionally required to take a long flight Jade enjoys a well deserved holiday of her own with my parents.
Sheree and assistance dog Jade