Ever feel like the world’s far from perfect—but then you realize you can make a big difference with a little help? Joining us in a service dog advocacy campaign is an empowering and surprisingly effective way to make that difference!
This page contains a record of PSDP’s service dog advocacy work, including current campaigns to improve the world—or to stop it from being made worse. This is where *you* can have a real impact as an individual!
Details about PSDP’s coalition-based advocacy actions for organizations are in our USAUSA section. You can read about our community taking the initiative in our Community Member Spotlight. You can learn to use your particular talents and interests to be a better advocate—select from a menu of options in our Easy advocacy how-to.
We try to make it clear how to help with each issue. For some service dog advocacy issues, you can click on the underlined title to see more. Some titles may link to a video—the way to help with video advocacy is simply to share them!
Flying law update (ACAA NPRM)
January 22–April 6, 2020
Quick version—Support PSDP’s fight to fix the flying laws by commenting through the link below:
After years of struggle against the biggest law-based discrimination toward service animal users in the US, we have our best chance to push for reasonable and just flying laws. Since before PSDP formed in 2012, our volunteers have dreamed of the changes we could see from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that’s out now from the US Department of Transportation (DOT).
PSDP toiled to develop and distill the expertise in our NPRM comment. We try to represent the best of positions—and we hope you think we’re successful.
Our comment and documents related to this Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation update are linked below. After these, we let you know how you can help. We can’t urge you strongly enough to get involved!
How to help…
A quick comment to DOT is better than no comment if you can’t handle more. Click below, then “Comment Now!” by April 6, 2020.
It is so important that DOT officials understand why they should update the flying laws in the ways they should—whether you agree with PSDP’s positions or not. You may not have the time to read our arguments or look at our extensive data, but we sincerely hope you can take the time to read our comment’s section headings below so you at least have an overview.
Let DOT know how you think things should be, why, and what you think of our arguments. If you can, personalize your comment with info about why flying access matters to you, but include some version of this message:
DOT must prioritize access for people with disabilities. I support the expertise, data, and reasoning in PSDP’s comment.
Our comment’s section headings:
§1. Service animals include dogs, but miniature horses should have exceptional access
§2. Breed or type restrictions would unduly harm disabled people
§3. It’s appropriate to take practical measures for emotional support animal users
§4. Psychiatric service animal users should never face special discrimination
§5. Large service animals—a smaller problem than you think
§6. Number of service animals per passenger is approximately correct
§7. Control of service animals
§7.a. The tethering and related language should be tightened
§7.b. Alternate handlers needn’t be a “safety assistant”
§7.c. ESAs should be in pet carriers, if given access
§8. Uniform first-party documentation can educate, third-party is a pointless burden
§8.a. Documentation uniformity and submission, transferability, storage, security and privacy, and linked assistance
§8.a.i. Documentation must be uniform and variously submittable
§8.a.ii. Documentation must be transferable among airlines to reduce burdens
§8.a.iii. Documentation storage should be an option to reduce burdens
§8.a.iv. Disabled people deserve documentation security and privacy
§8.a.v. Documentation-linked assistance must be optional
§8.b. An enhanced behavior attestation can educate
§8.c. No good reason to violate rights with third-party (veterinarian) documentation
§8.c.i. If we restrict disability rights with health and safety precautions, they must be effective, meet real needs, and not overburden
§8.c.ii. The vet form is an ineffective and inappropriate way to reduce service dog aggression
§8.c.iii. No need for the vet form to reduce the spread of ill health
§8.c.iv. DOT’s cost analysis in a vacuum ignores our actual survey data showing extreme burdens
§8.c.v. We must not pretend IDs would help or that fraud could ever reach zero
§8.c.vi. The ineffective, unnecessary, and burden-based approach must change
§8.d. If early and lobby check-in were allowed, the language needs much more caution to reduce harassment
§9. Disabled passengers booking codeshare flights deserve accommodation clarity
March 3–July 14, 2020
Service dog teams sometimes need platform relief areas to ride the rails. The US Access Board is revising train-related accessibility guidelines, so now is the time to press for this.
How to help…
Read our page on rail relief areas to learn more. Then submit your comment by July 14, 2020. The deadline was extended two months from May 14.
Don’t play service dog police and harass disabled people
February 2, 2020: It’s common to have misunderstandings about disability and service dogs—and news stories rarely help! Unfortunately, some of us deputize ourselves as the “service dog police”, attacking others because we don’t believe they have a disability or that their dog is a service dog. This can be a dangerous form of ableism that harms access for all.
Businesses should follow the law and have disruptive or threatening dogs removed. But we should not rely on a narrow view of what a service dog team looks or acts like to harass people who could already be struggling just to get out in the world.
PSDP’s Dr. Veronica Morris explains more about this, and about the harms of the “fraud is everywhere” narrative, in her personal blog post, “Fake” service dog focus.
How to help…
Below you can download our graphic. Share it on social media and possibly link to Dr. V’s article, email it to your friends and family, and talk with people about how harmful this sort of thing is. If you have a personal story about how the suspicion of the “service dog police” affects you, that’s even more powerful. This is meant to get people thinking and talking, not to cover everything on the topic!
When you share, you can mention the talking points on the graphic. An image description is below to make it easier to include blind and low-vision folks using screenreaders:
Yellow graphic with woman and small service dog in background, PSDP logo and “Behavior, not belongings psych.dog”. Text: Don’t play service dog police and harass disabled people • You can’t see an invisible disability • Service dogs come in all sizes and breeds • No special labels, vests, or IDs are required for service dogs • Encouraging suspicion makes outings harder for all service dog teams • Needing help with training or etiquette doesn’t deserve bullying • Service dogs have to behave—but not like robots • A service dog team can have a bad day or need help • Harmful or very disruptive behavior deserves removal, whether it’s a service dog or not
December 22, 2019: The graphic above sums up why—somewhat surprisingly—service dog IDs/registries/certifications are actually bad for people with disabilities. The American Kennel Club (AKC) knows about pet dogs and doesn’t seem to be aware of disability rights concerns, in spite of our previous efforts. AKC is now pushing forward with a “Service Dog Pass”.
How to help…
On our AKC Service Dog Pass page, you can download our graphic to spread the word about the pitfalls of using IDs. You can also find more targeted ways you can apply pressure against the use of AKC’s forthcoming registry/certification program.
December 2, 2019: These are exciting times for service dog advocates. Read the latest updates from our November 25th meeting with DOT.
November 25, 2019–present: PSDP’s Brad Morris helps readers step back and consider our values when we think about what restrictions there should be against service dog documentation sites. Do you agree?
How to help…
PSDP is currently working with officials at federal agencies to get a handle on their planned approach in this legal area. When we’re able to create an opportunity for community input, we’ll put the details on this page. If you read Brad’s article linked in the title above and have input you really want to share now, please contact us!
June 21–July 1, 2019: Many states apply to use federal dollars in different ways to economize their spending or improve outcomes for people on Medicaid. More than one state has done this by applying to use funds toward service dogs—but only from programs. Wisconsin plans to continue this trend and is inviting comments.
We think owner-trainers at least deserve a shot at those same funds, if their plan stands up to the same fair scrutiny as those getting dogs from programs. We need to get our foot in the door to convince more states, and our comment from when this was up for public review five years ago didn’t do the job. We could use your support this time!
How to help…
By July 1st:
• Email firstname.lastname@example.org
• Subject (required): Family Care 1915(c) Waiver Renewal
• Possible message (personal details welcome):
I support the fair and reasoned treatment of service dog users, whether the dog is owner-trained or from a program. Please listen to PSDP when it comes to equal funding consideration for the Medicaid waiver benefit.
June 6–July 10, 2019: PSDP and our allies through the USAUSA coalition have been invited by FAA officials to give a presentation to airport operators. We plan to represent community sentiments related to airport accessibility, so we’d like your feedback to make sure we’re aware of any current issues, positive or negative.
How to help…
Please take the survey on the USAUSA page before July 10th and share the link so we can be confident we’re accurately capturing any trends.
Update, July 15, 2019: USAUSA has now published the “Assistance animal airport accessibility survey report” and will preview it to airport operators at a July conference in the DC area.
Video: Service animal advocacy update/speech to USDOT (June 3, 2019)
Video: Service dog info for veterans and first responders (May 27, 2019)
April 29–May 26, 2019: PSDP and our allies through the USAUSA coalition have been invited to a meeting with US Department of Transportation (DOT) officials. We plan to represent community concerns related to air travel, so we’d like your feedback to make sure we’re up to date with the issues arising from airlines making up their own rules in recent years.
How to help…
Please take the survey on the USAUSA page before May 7th and share the link so we can show DOT our concerns are serious and widespread.
Update, May 13, 2019: Survey responses are available as chapter 6 in USAUSA’s new 358-page compilation handbook, “The path to responsible air travel governance: A recent history of service animal recommendations“. Thank you to everyone who responded.
March 20–April 8, 2019: In 2017, our USAUSA coalition commented on the preliminary Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) plan to update their transportation regulations, which directly affect service dog users who live in or may visit Canada. Then in 2019, CTA issued a new proposal for what the law will be. It has serious deficiencies. When we submitted our CTA transportation law comment as an email attachment, our email included the following words. click to reveal
We have particular, serious concerns about the proposals regarding service dogs, such as the complete disempowerment of people with disabilities from training their own service dogs. We also have a couple of general concerns we want to highlight through this email, rather than in our attached comment.
First, please consider that when it comes to safeguarding human rights, the wise approach may not lie in simply “balancing” the needs of those who are supposed to have those rights with the desires of those concerned with maximizing profit. We do not believe your mandate is to halve the proverbial baby, but to create just regulations that duly respect the concerns in play. If you study our comment, you will see there are creative, practical alternatives that honor human rights while giving others’ concerns the esteem they also deserve.
Second, we are quite worried about the proposal in §30 to codify and replicate the recent disastrous situation that has developed among US air carriers. These carriers have lately been allowed to freewheelingly develop idiosyncratic documentation requirements for service dog users. Our attached comment elaborates on the research results pertaining to the burdens of any given documentation requirement. Beyond this, it has been quite a further burden in the US for service dog users to attempt to navigate a confusing web of unpredictable requirements the airlines have independently (and without sufficient justification) deemed “reasonable”. Our volunteers have been even busier trying to enable people with disabilities to travel when there may be hidden documentation costs and time burdens behind the cost of every ticket.
Thank you so much for giving this area the attention it deserves. We’re truly counting on you to take us forward—and certainly not to worsen the lives of our community members by burden-stacking their attempts to travel. Regardless of intent, aspects of the proposed regulations really would needlessly isolate and set back the lives of people with disabilities.
How to help…
Please express your support for our comment (or whatever you think of CTA’s proposals) by April 8th. You don’t have to be a Canadian to support fair laws in North America—bad laws elsewhere reinforce people thinking we should have them where you are. Here’s how to make a comment (follow 1–3 exactly since they’re from the formal instructions):
1. Email “Sonia Gangopadhyay” <email@example.com>
2. Include “Canada Gazette, Part I, March 9, 2019” (can be subject of email or part of it)
3. Include this address (can be at top of email)
Centre of Expertise for Accessible Transportation
Canadian Transportation Agency
15 Eddy Street
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0N9
4. Tell CTA what you think. Here’s a sample message you can copy and paste or modify:
I support PSDP’s comment about service dogs in the proposed transportation regulations. Owner-trainers are not less deserving of human rights and airlines should not be free to require whatever documentation they think is okay. The rights of people with disabilities deserve higher priority.
Video: Service dog solidarity conference panel (February 12, 2019)
Video: Service dog group keeps fighting for civil rights (January 27, 2019)
September 11–November 2, 2018: In the 2014 second review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), we told the reviewer what was needed to get the service dog regulations up to snuff. Nothing changed. The third review is underway with a different reviewer, so we are pushing for the same needed improvements.
How to help…
Please express your support for our comment (or whatever you think of it) by November 2nd. You don’t have to be an Ontarian to support fair laws in North America. Here’s the link to make a quick comment:
Help us encourage laws that make sense. Sample message:
I support PSDP’s suggestions about service dogs. Please clarify conditions under which a misbehaving service dog may and may not be excluded, define “service dog” without confusion about paperwork/gear in the definition, and specify that businesses can’t charge service dog users extra without damage to property.
August 1, 2018: In late July, a member of a federal interagency Disability Policy Group reached out to us about a July 31 meeting at the US Access Board. The meeting was a first go at gathering stakeholder feedback for the group’s new Service and Emotional Support Animal (SESA) Workgroup. The workgroup’s purpose is not necessarily to alter regulations or even regulatory guidance, but to consider other ways to provide beneficial products or services to federal agencies and the general public. Such products might include an informational website or posters, and services might include trainings.
In addition to rushing up to Washington, DC to take advantage of the meeting’s opportunities for collaboration, afterward we provided our stakeholder feedback to members of the workgroup. Our advice may help any policymaker thinking about tilling the disability rights landscape where service dogs are concerned; examining this advice would likewise be rewarding for our fellow advocates.
July 28, 2018–present: The American Kennel Club (AKC) didn’t listen to us when we warned their program change would be bad for service dog handlers (and others). Click above to learn more and take a few seconds to sign the petition so AKC realizes what their responsibility is to the public.
June 26, 2018–July 9, 2018: The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is planning to update the service animal flight regulations under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The current step is an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM). DOT asks a lot of questions in the ANPRM, so we gave a lot of answers in PSDP’s ANPRM submission.
How to help…
Please express your support for our comment (or whatever you think of it) by 11:59 p.m. ET on July 9th. This is one of the most important series of advocacy actions this decade, so get involved if you can! Here’s the link:
Sample starter message you could copy & paste:
I support regulations that come from good reasoning, value data over anecdotes, and respect human rights. PSDP’s comment is a great example.
It’s always best if you can personalize a message, but copying and pasting our starter message is way better than doing nothing.
June 26, 2018: Delta announced a ban on pit bull-type dogs as service animals on its flights. The United States Department of Transportation says that’s not okay.
May 23, 2018–June 7, 2018: The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is planning to update the service animal flight regulations. Before then, DOT is figuring out how to enforce the current regulations by putting out a Statement of Interim Enforcement Priorities for comment. It looks like DOT wants to allow more burdens on psychiatric service dog users without any evidence that this is needed or would be helpful.
How to help…
After we submitted our USAUSA Flight Access Survey Report to DOT to provide evidence of how the travel barriers hurt people with disabilities, we submitted our Enforcement Priorities Comment in the docket. Please express your support of our submission (or whatever you think of it) by Thursday, June 7th here:
Sample message you could copy & paste:
PSDP has the experience, data, and fair-minded approach to find practical solutions. Please listen to PSDP and don’t allow airlines to add more burdens to people with disabilities when they can’t justify the discrimination.
It’s always great if you can personalize a message, but copying and pasting is way better than doing nothing.
April 23rd, 2018–May 22, 2018: PSDP and our allies through the USAUSA coalition have been in contact with US Department of Transportation (DOT) officials about the human rights violations inherent in the current Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) service animal regulations and even worse, the additions to these violations in 2018 through policy updates by airlines such as Delta, United, and Alaska. DOT expressed the need for data in order to update the regulations or guidance in a way we believe justice demands.
To meet this need, USAUSA is running a survey for everyone with a disability who uses a service animal of any kind or an emotional support animal (ESA). The survey covers a breadth of issues of interest to DOT and the service animal community, with an emphasis on understanding how the community may be impacted by recent developments DOT is letting play out.
How to help…
We need you to help the community by taking this flight access survey and/or by sharing the link. Tuesday, May 8th, 2018 is the closing date for the survey.
This survey is for you if you use an animal to assist with your disability and you may fly into, out of, or within the United States. This includes service animal users (including guide dog users, psychiatric service dog users, etc.) and emotional support animal (ESA) users.
Update, May 22, 2018: USAUSA has now published its 2018 Flight Access Survey Report in PDF and submitted it to DOT under two relevant open dockets. Our comment in the first docket and our comment in the second docket each contain both a PDF version and a docx version of our report to increase accessibility for screenreaders.
These dockets are accepting comments for approximately the next 15 and 45 days, respectively. They contain DOT’s Interim Statement of Enforcement Priorities Regarding Service Animals and Traveling by Air with Service Animals Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM).
Our advocacy will continue with comments targeted to DOT’s documents, taking into consideration the survey results.
Video: Airline disability discrimination: Is this legal? (February 27, 2018)
January 19, 2018–present: PSDP issued a press release on Delta Air Lines’ planned service animal policies, which need to better include human rights concerns in the balance with safety concerns.
How to help…
We welcome and encourage individuals to read our press release and write in to Delta. Our USAUSA coalition is soliciting organizational support for the sentiments expressed by PSDP in its press release. Visit the press release page for more information on this.
Update, February 1, 2018: United Airlines announced a plan to change United’s current policy to increase the restrictions on emotional support animal (ESA) users. Unfortunately, it turns out they meant to include psychiatric service animal users, too. Please take a minute to write a brief note to United to let them know what you think.
Update, February 22, 2018: Delta updated its planned policies to remain legal. This update does not display progress, but instead further entrenches stigma. Read our new press release on this, which also includes the article by Brad Morris titled, “Flying with a disability: More barriers for the marginalized?” Tell Delta if you’re as upset about this ordeal as we are.
Update, February 28, 2018: In “Potential PR nightmare: how airlines choose to discriminate“, our Director of Government Relations explains how in 2018 airlines are still choosing to violate civil rights by systematically discriminating against people with mental health disabilities. Airlines risk a PR nightmare with this choice.
February 1, 2018: With the help of Jenine Stanley, a longtime guide dog user and service dog advocate, PSDP aims to dissolve prejudice and build bridges within the service dog community. PSDP’s Brad Morris interviews Jenine in the video embedded just below.
How to help…
Share this video and learn its lessons. We’re convinced most people in the community just need to leave their echo chambers to have a better understanding and appreciation of their service dog community peers. Old, divisive narratives may serve someone’s interests, but it’s usually not the people with disabilities’. Of course, the same narratives exist outside the community, so share this interview far and wide and be willing to politely educate if you can!
June, 2017–July 14, 2017: North American rules affect all of us. PSDP & USAUSA strive to protect Canadians and prospective visitors from invasive government overreach in the form of a detailed national standard. This standard would violate individuals’ disability rights and harm programs and trainers.
How to help…
Follow the linked title above to see details about the situation and to read our response. We are soliciting organization sign-ons through June 21st, and then we will need the supportive comments of individuals to make our voices heard. Let’s stand up for each other!
Update, June 22nd, 2017: Some groups needed more time to approve a sign-on, so we’ve extended the group sign-on deadline to Friday, June 23rd.
Update, June 26th–July 14th, 2017: With the sign-on support of 14 other organizations, we submitted our comment. Now is the time for individuals to help! To do your part, you can use the comment form linked just below to simply refer to USAUSA’s comment and let them know you support it. It can take less than a minute, even if you personalize your message (recommended). Whether you’re a Canadian, a prospective tourist, or simply a world citizen concerned with disability rights, they need to hear your voice!
Update, March 27th, 2018: Success! At least for now, the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) has dropped its standard development process.
July 2016–February 28th, 2017: Currently, Canadian access laws are quite a patchwork on a lot of issues—legal rights vary from province to province. Canada is gathering input to inform prospective nationwide accessibility laws of limited scope.
How to help…
There were two ways to help before the February 28th, 2017 deadline. (1) Email the Office for Disability Issues. Let them know your concerns, and feel free to let them know you support PSDP’s letter. (2) Take the survey. It is not specific to service dogs and it’s lengthy, but you might learn something and help shape the accessibility landscape in Canada. Our Director of Government Relations’ personal survey responses are available through Google, which may help (these answers are not made on PSDP’s behalf).
August 29th, 2016: PSDP is doing its part to educate the highest court in the land about service dogs in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools. Other service dog groups have joined us in a “friend of the court” brief, submitted on our behalf by one of our advisors, attorney John Ensminger.
The school system in this case is doubly in the wrong. First, they think a service dog should be treated like a lesson plan they can expertly modify, rather than like a wheelchair they can’t. Second, they think it’s okay to give a free pass to guide dog users, but to put up barriers for any other type of service dog user. These things are not okay, and they are worth fighting against.
Our hope is that at least one Justice will positively reference our brief in a ruling for the Frys. This could make it so future case law developments would clarify that the term “guide dog” in legacy laws and policies should be interpreted simply as “service dog”. Success for our arguments would also mean that school systems will have a harder time putting up years-wasting administrative obstacles when a child reasonably needs the assistance of a service dog today.
How to help…
Update, November 4th, 2016: The case was argued on October 31st and we’re waiting for a ruling. The transcript is now available.
Update, February 23rd, 2017: The court vacated and remanded the case. What’s really important for us is that the justices provided clear criteria for future cases in the syllabus of their decision:
One clue to the gravamen of a complaint can come from asking a pair of hypothetical questions. First, could the plaintiff have brought essentially the same claim if the alleged conduct had occurred at a public facility that was not a school? Second, could an adult at the school have pressed essentially the same grievance? When the answer to those questions is yes, a complaint that does not expressly allege the denial of a FAPE [free appropriate public education] is also unlikely to be truly about that subject. But when the answer is no, then the complaint probably does concern a FAPE.
If attorneys in future cases involving service dogs in schools are careful to avoid seeking relief under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), gaining access with a service dog should be a more straightforward matter of access under the ADA and §504. This means those attempting to gain access should not have to wade through an administrivial swamp of IDEA remedies, which can be (and have been) used to stymie access for years for some individuals.
PSDP is proud to be a part of this historic Supreme Court decision. We are sincerely grateful to John Ensminger for putting together our amicus brief.
December 23rd, 2015–February 23, 2017: The Department of Transportation is deciding how best to update the airline access laws for people with disabilities. The Air Carrier Access Act/ACAA regulations currently discriminate against people with psychiatric disabilities in a blatant way. We’re looking to represent a fair-minded, well-reasoned approach in the coming rulemaking.
How to help…
Update, January 22nd, 2016: Thanks to community members who participated in saying we can represent your interest in equal rights among the service dog community. We’re in touch with the convenor, and we’ll have more opportunities in the future for your involvement! Details will be available through the page linked to from the underlined title above.
Update, February 5th, 2016: We’re using our community’s excellent feedback and overwhelming support and working to get other stakeholder groups on board with our cooperative proposal. We’ll let you know when you can make another difference in the process!
Update, February 22nd, 2016: The convener issued his report, and he said the service animal issues are among the most promising for a Reg Neg.
Update, March 7th, 2016: We now have an article that explains the thinking and justifications that led to our proposal:
Update, March 21st, 2016: After meeting with several national disability advocacy groups in Washington, DC, we added an addendum to the article linked above (the latest version is available through that link). This addendum lays to rest concerns prospective supporters may have about our proposal. Thanks to all the groups that gave us valuable feedback!
Update, April 28th, 2016: Our Director of Government Relations will be on the ACAA ACCESS Advisory Committee. Success!
Update, November 29th, 2016: The Reg Neg meetings are over, with no consensus report on service animals. However, there was a lot that many parties could agree on, so under the heading of “United Service Animal Users, Supporters, and Advocates” (USAUSA), Brad Morris and Jenine Stanley informed DOT of that support for detailed compromise positions. This public comment is expected to guide the rulemaking process, and community members are welcome to write in with support or wait for our NPRM comment.
Update, December 13th, 2016: Between December 7th and 10th, we held a survey at DOT’s request. DOT’s consultant, Econometrica, sought information regarding the burdens associated with the current regulations’ medical documentation requirement. The results are presented in our report to DOT, which is posted as a public comment in the Reg Neg docket.
May 2nd, 2016–present: Service dog IDs and service dog registries harm our community. Our open letter to ActiveDogs.com explains why, asking them to at least take down the recently installed registry.
How to help…
We’re giving ActiveDogs time to respond to our open letter. We are hopeful for a positive reply, but if they need to hear from their prospective customers to understand the impact of our community’s dissatisfaction, we will update you here and ask for your help!
Update, May 6th, 2016: ActiveDogs has not been active in replying to us. Please click on the underlined headline above to see what you can do!
For older/inactive advocacy actions, see our advocacy archive.