Department of Transportation Air Carrier Access Act As It Relates to Service Dogs

I’d planned to talk about something else this week, but I got some great questions about the Air Carrier Access Act from someone in an e-mail a few days ago, in particular the discussion about IDs and those commercial service dog registries and how I’m no fan of them.

That caused me to wade through the ACAA service animal sections in their entirety, focusing on the parts that deal with verifying a dog is a service dog. While I have talked about the ACAA before and am familiar with the regulation, I’d never done the in-depth look at the guidance and section-by-section analysis, just like I’ve done with the ADA.

I was shocked to find that the ACAA is completely backwards from the ADA, my head is still spinning, and my reaction is the classic McEnroe “You cannot be serious!” (

No wonder we have problems.

No way I could address the entire ACAA – it’s 136 pages, the service animal portions are roughly 18 (pages 34-37, 66-67, 71-81, and 119-120) – and keep this to around 15 minutes, but I would strongly recommend you read through the entire regulation because that’s what it will take for you to be knowledgeable in this area.

I do talk about a number of very specific things and why I feel the way I do.

Some things that I did not say in the podcast, but that are givens, at least to me:

  • I still think a standardized national ID is the way to go, and this is one more area where that would help.
  • The standard should be to use the ADA as the baseline, only deviate where necessary, and work up (add things), not to start with the current ACAA and work down (remove things), which is what I will bet is actually happening in the ongoing ACAA negotiated regulation process.
  • As someone who spent 8 of my 20 years in the Air Force on flying status as an aircrew member, I take flight safety very seriously and understand that a more restrictive standard in this area may be appropriate.
  • There will be exceptions, no doubt, as with anything, and we need to determine where it’s appropriate to make adjustments for them.
  • The whole “unusual service animals” area I discuss… I’m not clear how animals that no longer qualify as service animals under the ADA (and haven’t for over five years now) can even be considered as service animals under the ACAA. What standard are you making that comparison against?

Much more that could be said here.