Behind the Scenes: When Dogs Train to Fly

See the recent KCCI-TV report here.

Today's air travelers know to anticipate such stresses as cramped conditions, long lines, and weather delays. That's why service-animal trainers work with airline and airport personnel to ensure that working dogs are prepped and ready for take-off.

As specified by the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 (A.C.A.A.) , service animals may accompany their handlers in airports and on flights. As working animals, service dogs are trained to assist individual handlers with specific physical tasks, in order to mitigate physical or mental conditions. Under the access law, handlers are not charged extra for having their service animals travel with them.

Recently, a group of military veterans working with Paws & Effect, a Central Iowa non-profit that trains mobility and other service animals, were featured in a news report on KCCI-TV, Des Moines. In the report, the veterans and their new dogs are shown successfully negotiating an obstacle course of security baggage checks and boarding procedures.

Personnel from the Des Moines International Airport and Frontier Airlines also assisted in the training event.

Just as in other public settings, fellow travelers can help dog-handlers and animals by knowing about access laws, and not distracting handlers and animals while they are working. Dogs are trained to place themselves under seats, in order to keep aisles and exits clear.

Although there is no such thing as a service-animal "license," Paws & Effect also trains handlers to travel with documents regarding the health and safety of their animals. Information on the state of Iowa's "certificate of veterinary inspection," for example, includes identifying information such as microchip number, and vaccination history.