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What I Would Tell the Airline That Refused to Let Me Travel With My Service Dog

Per the recommendation of my treating providers, I fundraised and paid thousands of dollars to a canine behaviorist named Gary so he could task-train a dog specific to my disability to assist me with being able to live and function independently. Having an emotional support animal (ESA) can help other people — but it was not going to be beneficial to me.

Having a service dog comes with all kinds of challenges. While I wouldn’t change it for the absolute world because my service dog, Leo, is the best thing to ever bless both this planet and my life, you may often find yourself in some pretty shitty situations because people sometimes don’t know how to treat people with service animals. They also may not know how to follow laws and regulations about service animals.

In early 2021, the Department of Transportation (DOT) made changes to the federal regulation known as the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). These changes were supposed to benefit people like me — they were supposed to make things easier and less discriminatory for those with disabilities while also cracking down on the issue of bringing ESAs and fake service dogs on flights. So far, though, this change has only hurt me and many other service dog handlers.

In October 2021, Leo and I were scheduled to fly to Iowa with my partner. I have flown many times with Leo on many different airlines with no issues. I have always provided the required documentation and information and remained compliant with federal regulations regarding Leo’s behavior. This flight was the first flight Leo and I took since the regulation had changed and a new form was introduced.

On this form, it asks who trained the dog. Contrary to popular belief, federal regulation allows individuals to

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