Guide Dogs and Service Animals While on International Exchange
Traveling internationally with a Guide Dog, Service Dog, or Service Animal? Consider these practical suggestions from experienced travelers. Ask us for information about specific countries.
Frequently Asked Questions:
- How do I take my service animal to another country?
- Does my service animal need a microchip?
- Where can I find out about the PETS Travel Scheme or the EU Pet Passport?
- Are there restrictions on certain breeds or types of animals?
- What will I need to take care of my service animal in another country?
- How do I keep my service animal healthy?
- What are the laws regarding service animals in other countries?
- Should I take my service animal with me?
- Where can I find out more information about traveling with animals?
- Start planning early, since documentation necessary for some countries may take weeks or months to get.
- Contact the embassy or consulate of the country you will be visiting for information on the policies and requirements of that country.
- Inquire with the Department or Ministry of Agriculture in your destination about quarantine policies, and if they have different policies for service animals.
- Contact disability organizations or guide dog/service animal associations in the country you will be visiting for information on cultural attitudes towards service animals, particularly dogs. Search our Disability Organizations Worldwide database.
- Carry an official-looking letter introducing
the service animal to government officials, business operators and
anyone else who might attempt to restrict the animal’s access. Have the
animals papers translated into the language of the destination country
- Obtain health and rabies certificates from your veterinarian. Have these documents notarized and then certified by the
- Obtain a letter from your veterinarian on letterhead stating that your service animal is in good health and up to date on all vaccinations. It may be expensive to get all the vaccinations needed. Some countries require that the veterinarian be on their list of professionals approved to provide such documentation.
- Bring a letter from your health professional stating that you require the animal and for what reason(s). This may be particularly important if you have a non-apparent disability. You may want to get this letter translated.
- Outfit the service animal with recognizable gear. A jacket/ vest or guide dog-type harness with the words HEARING DOG FOR THE DEAF, SERVICE DOG/ANIMAL, or GUIDE DOG on the sides is a good way to let people know that your dog is an official service animal.
When traveling internationally, consider a microchip implant to permanently identify the animal. Also, many countries are now requiring or advising people who want to avoid mandatory quarantine laws to microchip domestic animals that are being imported. The microchip number must be on all documentation related to the animal. The customs officials may want to scan for the microchip to be certain there is one present and record the number.
U.S. microchips do not meet ISO (International Standards Organisation) standard microchips meeting specification 11784 or Annex A to 11785; therefore, you will need to do one of two things:
- Get your service dog implanted with a second microchip and re-vaccinated against rabies after the new microchip is implanted.
- Bring your own microchip reader. In many cases, it is easier and permissible to carry a microchip reader with you that will read your service dog’s microchip. Also, practice using the scanner and/or explaining its use and where they are likely to find the microchip (in some cases the microchip which is implanted in a service dog when a puppy can move to the front of the shoulder blade instead of being between the shoulders where customs officials are told to scan). If your service animal has an AVID microchip, you can rent a scanner by calling 1-800-336-2843. We recommend calling at least 7 business days before your trip.
In the U.S. a service animal is limited to a dog and miniature horses. Wild animals and those used for emotional support or comfort animals are not considered service animals in the United States. Service animal users are required to comply with all animal control regulations.
The rise of breed specific legislation is important for anyone wishing to travel with a service animal. In many cases the designation of an animal as a service animal does not exempt it from legislation banning or restrictions placed on certain breeds or types of animal.
Check with the embassy of the country you plan to visit to make sure
your animal will be allowed in the country once you get there. Also
check for any applicable local laws in cities you plan to visit.
- Make sure that the food is manufacture sealed in its package. Ask your pet food supply store for sample packs for air travel.
- For short trips or animals with food or other allergies, carry what you will need (i.e. food, medication, shampoos) to travel.
- For longer trips, order food and supplies online or direct from the manufacturer and have it shipped to your destination.
- Keep medication in original prescription bottles, sealed, and a note explaining what the drug is and its purpose.
Consider the climate from which you are coming since the animal will have their winter or summer coat.
When traveling from a cold climate to a warm climate, acclimatize your service animal by:
- shaving the coat if possible
- brushing the coat often
- adding pedialyte® to water bowls to prevent dehydration
- putting freezer packs in the pockets of vests to cool down the body
- purchasing a "cooler" collar to wear
- purchasing booties to protect the animal's pads, if applicable
When traveling from a warmer climate to cold climate, consider:
- purchasing vests/coats with insulation
- purchasing booties to protect the animal's pads, if applicable
- brushing the coat frequently.
Some service animals will need to get used to any new gear before being able to work without being distracted by it.
- Carry a
- Take a pet first aid class. Even if you can’t physically perform the needed action you may be able to instruct another person and save your service animal's life.
- Identify veterinarians in the areas you plan to travel. Keep their names and contact info in a handy safe place.
- Set aside money for health certificates, veterinarian visits, and fees related to travel with an animal.
- Ask your veterinarian
for some extra medications and or tranquilizers in case your service
animal ends up having to travel in cargo. You know your animal best, but
this is especially a concern for larger animals.
- Carry a head halter and/or muzzle. Make sure your service animal has been introduced to these items before travel. Some places may require a muzzle or muzzle like tool for dogs in public.
- Take care of yourself. Your service animal depends upon you as much as you do them. Make sure you are in good heath so you can take care of your service animal.
- Have a back up plan to meet the needs in case your service animal is not allowed to accompany you or becomes unable to work.
"I became accustomed to some people not recognizing my guide dog, Cammy, as a service animal. My German host father, whose sister also has a guide dog, argued with a shopkeeper for several minutes before my guide dog was allowed in the store. While Germany has a law for service dog access, it is not well known." Leslie Weilbacher
While the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Act give people with disabilities the right to be accompanied by service animals in the United States; it does not mean that you will have the same right in another country.
To determine if there are laws regarding service animals in a particular country, find out:
- Whether citizens of that country use guide dogs / service animals to mitigate their disabilities
- If there are guide dogs / service animals training schools in that country
- If there are guide dogs / service animals training schools based in another country that place animals with people in the country you plan to visit
Check with the following organizations for more specific information:
Assistance Dogs Europe is dedicated to supporting the work of assistance dog programs across Europe.
Non-profit programs in the assistance dog field which train guide, hearing and/or service dogs have come together in the last decade to develop Standards and Ethics designed to safeguard the welfare of assistance dogs, disabled students and graduates, as well as the community. ADI's quarterly newsletter and annual conference provide educational and networking opportunities for its members.
This umbrella organization is representing guide dog users and service providers across Europe.
IAADP's mission is to (1) provide assistance dog partners with a voice in the assistance dog field; (2) enable those partnered with guide dogs, hearing dogs and service dogs to work together on issues of mutual concern; (3) to foster the disabled person and assistance dog partnership.
This organization provides guide dog schools in many countries the opportunity to share information at an annual conference and participate in its project to improve the health and temperament of future guide dogs.
A web-based Delta Society program, the NSARC provides information and resources for people with disabilities who are considering getting a service dog or who are currently partnered with a service dog. It also provides resources for people with disabilities who have access problems entering the workplace and other public places with their service dogs.
How a person chooses to deal with the challenges presented by their disability is an extremely personal decision that can vary from situation to situation. When trying to decide how best to meet your needs in a new environment, consider:
- How long have you and your current service animal been partnered? Those with a new service animal or a partner getting close to retirement may want to discuss feasibility of upcoming travel with the training organization.
- Does your service animal have experience with all the elements of travel? Traveling presents a lot of situations your service animal may find new, confusing, overwhelming or frightening.
- Will you be permitted to use your service animal in the country you plan to visit?
Service animals, particularly dogs, can evoke strong cultural
reactions. Just because you may be allowed to travel with your service
animal, does not mean you will be allowed to keep him or her in the
place you are planning to stay or take him or her in public with you.
- Are you prepared for the added challenge of traveling with your service animal? Traveling with a service animal is a lot like traveling with a small child. They have off days. They need a lot of extra care and attention to deal with the stress of traveling. They attract attention - and it’s not always good attention.
- How common are feral dogs in the destination country?
- Is your service animal the best way of meeting your needs in a new country? As
capable as you and your service animal may be together, many people
with disabilities find the amount of assistance they need when traveling
goes up simply because some of the things they count on at home do not
exist in this new environment. Consider the architectural and
infrastructure differences of the country you will be visiting and be
realistic about the situations your service animal and you will and
won’t be able to tackle together. You may want to consider a local
person as a guide, revert to using your long white cane, or finding a
personal assistant (see our personal assistant tip sheet) for some overseas journeys and let your service animal have a much deserved vacation or night off.
In a nutshell, the main requirements of the Air Carrier's Access Act, which includes travel to/from the U.S. on foreign carriers, in regards to service animals, say that airlines shall permit dogs and other service animals used by people with disabilities to accompany them on a flight.
Airlines need to:
- Accept as evidence identification cards, other written documentation, presence of harnesses, tags or the credible verbal assurances of a qualified individual with a disability using the animal. They cannot automatically require certified documentation. Read more about: Are there restrictions on certain breeds or types of animals?.
- Permit a service animal to accompany a qualified individual with a disability in any seat in which the person sits, unless the animal obstructs an aisle or other area that must remain unobstructed to comply with FAA regulations.
- Allow the passenger, if needed, to move with the animal to a seat location in the same class of service, if present on the aircraft, where the animal can alternatively be accommodated instead of requiring that the animal travel in the cargo hold. Note that service animals do not need to perform a function for the passenger during the flight in order to fly in the cabin.
The animal can be disallowed access to the cabin if it:
- Poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others (e.g.,
animal displays threatening behaviors by growling, snarling, lunging
at, or attempting to bite other persons on the aircraft), or
- Causes a significant disruption in cabin service (i.e., a ‘‘fundamental alteration’’ to passenger service). Inconvenience of other passengers is not sufficient grounds to deny a service animal carriage in the cabin.
Airline policies for people with disabilities:
- Should a passenger request pre-boarding at the gate?
a passenger request an advance seat assignment (a priority seat such as
a (bulkhead seat or aisle seat) up to 24 hours before departure?
- Should a passenger request an advance seat assignment at the gate on the day of departure?
There may be country regulations that need to be considered. For example, for those traveling to the United Kingdom, read
Also see: Air Travel Tips for People with Disabilities.
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provides information on all types of assistance animals, the services they provide and the laws that affect them. It includes resources about guide animals, hearing animals, service animals, guarding animals, seizure alert animals, and social/therapy animals, and provides links to organizations that train and place assistance animals.
is an international organization of and for people who are blind. A list of members, by country, is available on their website.
has a list of animal-friendly lodgings in U .S., Canada and other countries available on the following website. They also have information about "Important Import Policies" under specific country links in the "U.S. Canada International" section. This includes information about animal quarantines worldwide that travelers with service animals can use.
provides a free online newsletter and travel tips. Information on lodging, veterinarian resources and other services are available for members only (membership is low-cost, US$1.95).
provides additional travel tips to prepare for and in flight travel with a service dog.
The services provided by the National Clearinghouse on Disability & Exchange (NCDE) are free with funding from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State. Our project is managed by Mobility International USA (MIUSA), a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower people with disabilities around the world through international exchange.
Although efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, MIUSA/NCDE cannot be held liable for inaccuracy, misinterpretation or complaints arising from these listings. Mention of an organization, company, service or resource should not be construed as an endorsement by MIUSA/NCDE. Please advise NCDE of any inaccuracies you may find.