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Travelling with assistance animals
If you travel with an assistance dog familiarise yourself with:
- regulations and obtaining approval from the airline
- training requirements for assistance dogs
- what will happen at the airport and when travelling in the cabin.
Assistance dogs – general information for travellers
Assistance dogs are trained and accredited by an approved organisation to assist a person to alleviate the effects of a disability (including that the dog has passed the public access test (PAT)). Assistance dogs fall into three categories:
- guide dogs – dogs that assist a person to alleviate the effects of a vision impairment
- hearing dogs – dogs that assist a person to alleviate the effects of a hearing impairment
- other assistance dogs – dogs that assist a person to overcome the effects of a diagnosed disability (including physical, sensory or psychological disabilities), other than a vision or hearing impairment.
- The carriage of animals on aircraft is covered under regulation 256A of theCivil Aviation Regulations 1988 (CAR).
- Only assistance dogs that are accompanying a visually impaired or hearing impaired person as a guide or an assistant are covered under CAR 256A.
- Carriage of assistance dogs other than guide dogs and hearing dogs are not specifically mentioned in CAR 256A. The carriage is regulated through permissions issued to some airlines enabling them to accept assistance dogs in the cabin of an aircraft. Fr information CASA provides to the operators (airlines) view the example of permission document.
How to obtain approval to travel with an assistance dog
- Notify the airline as soon as possible of your intention to travel with an assistance dog. Each airline will have different notice periods.
- You must contact the airline directly for approval as they make an assessment based on the identified risks in their operation. If the airline you are travelling with does not have permission to accept assistance dogs, they can apply directly to CASA for approval.
- Approval from one airline does not guarantee approval from other airlines.
- If you are travelling internationally on a foreign airline, contact the airline to establish what their regulations and procedures require. The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources provides information on quarantine regulations.
- Travel in the aircraft cabin is always subject to final approval of the operating captain of your flight, regardless of approval from the airline.
If you believe you have not been dealt with fairly in relation to the carriage of your assistance animal you may seek further advice from the Australian Human Rights Commission.
Training requirements for assistance dogs
You must be able to demonstrate that your assistance dog has been trained or is being trained as an assistance dog by an approved organisation. An approved organisation is an assistance dog training organisation which is accepted by the airline and:
- is accredited by an animal training organisation prescribed by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 – Section 9, or
- meets or exceeds the minimum standards set by:
You will also need to provide evidence that your assistance dog has completed a public access test (PAT) showing it is suitable for travel on public transport or for an assistance dog being trained.
Documentary evidence must be provided from an approved organisation showing that your assistance dog is suitable for travel on public transport. If your dog has been trained overseas and you can demonstrate that the dog has been trained and accredited to a standard as set out by Assistance Dogs International, your assistance dog will generally be accepted for travel.
If you have trained your assistance dog (owner trained), you will still need to comply with these conditions, as well as an independent assessment of the suitability of the training. Speak to your airline to discuss what options are available.
At the airport and travelling in the cabin
If the assistance dog is trained and accompanying its handler, the person accompanying the assistance dog must produce to the airline a proof of identity document issued by an approved organisation, showing that the dog has passed the PAT.
If the assistance dog is accompanying its trainer, the operator must be provided with a proof of identity document issued by an approved organisation, identifying the person as an approved trainer. The assistance dog must be accompanying its handler or its trainer from an approved organisation throughout the airport terminal and in the cabin.
Your airline will determine the most appropriate seat for you and your assistance dog based on a number of factors including the particular aircraft and configuration you will be flying on. Your assistance dog will be placed as close to you as possible, on a moisture absorbent mat on the floor of the aircraft supplied by the airline. Your assistance dog must be restrained in a way that will prevent the dog from moving from the mat. Your dog needs to be tethered to the seat or seatbelt, or other suitable means determined by the airline, whenever passengers are required to wear seatbelts. Simply holding onto the leash or sitting on the leash at these times does not constitute a suitable means of restraint.