Guide Dog Users, Inc. Welcomes Alaska Airlines’ Unchanged Policies Regarding Guide and Service Dogs and Urges Other Airlines to Follow Suit
On Wednesday, April 18, 2018, Alaska Airlines announced policy changes that will affect passengers who wish to fly with emotional and psychological support animals https://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/accessible-services/specialservices-support-animals.
Beginning on May 1, these passengers must alert Alaska Airlines 48 hours in advance of a flight that they are traveling with emotional support animals, and they will need to provide health and behavioral documents for their animals, as well as documentation from a licensed medical doctor or mental health professional. Alaska Airlines will make no changes in requirements for guide or service dogs, whose owners are covered by the civil rights protections outlined in the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI), the largest membership organization of blind and visually impaired people who depend on guide dogs for independent and safe travel, applauds Alaska Airlines’ steadfast commitment to honoring the civil rights of guide and service dog owners to access their planes and their services without additional undue burdens.
GDUI appreciates Alaska Airlines’ decision to make expanded requirements for up-to-date vaccinations and good behavior certification applicable only to animals who often receive limited training at best and for whom there may not be a licensed authority to guarantee good health or up-to-date vaccinations. We have no way of predicting whether or not requiring certification of training for emotional support animals will reduce the number of misbehaving dogs on flights. Certainly, the reliability of the certifying authority will make a difference. We are hopeful that the additional requirement for training certification will convince pet owners whose dogs may be unfamiliar with conditions like noisy airports and crowded planes to leave their pets at home or to contain them inside appropriate carriers to prevent their roaming through aircraft and threatening the safety of other passengers and crew.
GDUI is gratified to know that Alaska Airlines understands that the rigorous training our guide and service dogs receive, as well as their daily exposure to community environments and public venues, makes it unlikely for our dogs’ behavioral or health status to pose risks to the safety of passengers or crew members onboard Alaska Airlines’
planes. Further, our reliance on guide and service dogs for independence and personal safety makes maintaining our dogs’ good health, appropriate behavior, and proper grooming essential obligations for every guide and service animal user.
GDUI urges all U. S. air carriers to work in coalition with one another, with membership organizations like ours who can speak on behalf of people who rely on guide and service animals, and with the U. S. Department of Transportation, which will release a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) for the ACAA in early summer, to harmonize the policies and procedures which serve to deter passengers from bringing animals which they cannot control and whose appropriate behavior they cannot assure onboard planes. GDUI is eager to assist in this process. We urge all domestic air carriers to follow the excellent examples set by Alaska Airlines, as well as United and Delta Airlines whose recently announced policies recognize the reliably excellent training, appropriate behavior, and well-maintained health of guide dogs which we and members of the general public have depended upon for decades, while developing requirements for less well-trained dogs and comfort animals that can assure onboard safety for all of us.
Guide Dog Users Inc., (GDUI), is the leading membership-driven organization of guide dog handlers in the world. Members, most of whom are blind or visually impaired, rely on guide dogs for independence and safety. GDUI strives to promote civil rights and enhance the quality of life for working guide dog teams. Drawing on the experiences and varied knowledge of its members, GDUI provides peer support, advocacy and information to guide dog users. In addition, GDUI works with public entities, private businesses and individuals to ensure that guide dog users enjoy the same rights to travel, employment, housing, and participation in all aspects of daily life that people without disabilities enjoy. The collective knowledge and experience of GDUI’s members drives constructive dialogue, breaking down barriers, and opening doors for men and women who live and work proudly and independently partnered with well-trained guide dogs. GDUI is an affiliate of the American Council of the Blind (ACB).