International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners

British Pet Travel Scheme


Until recently, those of us partnered with assistance dogs wanting to visit or live in the United Kingdom had to place our dogs in quarantine at a British kennel for six months. In 2003 a major shift in policy took place allowing the importation of pets from North America without a prolonged quarantine. Unfortunately, the rules developed made no distinction between pets and assistance dogs.

What appeared to be a major breakthrough for those of us partnered with guide, hearing and service dogs living outside Europe, quickly became recognized as a set of policies that discriminated against assistance dog partners wanting to travel to the UK accompanied by their guide, hearing and service dogs in the cabin of an airplane. The rules specifically stated that on long haul flights, those lasting more than five hours, the assistance dog, like any other animal, would have to be transported in the cargo hold in a sealed crate. In effect, this eliminated all North and South Americans, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans and residents of Asia from traveling to the UK with their assistance dogs in the cabin. Since few of us are willing to place our dogs in cargo, that eliminated the vast majority of non-Europeans with disabilities wishing to visit the UK.

In mid-2003, Mike Osborn contacted IAADP seeking our support in an effort to change British policy and eliminate the five hour restriction on in cabin flights for assistance dogs. Ed Eames, IAADP President and Toni Eames, Treasurer, took on major responsibility for working with Mike on this initiative. Mike was provided with contacts in the international airline industry, veterinarians, assistance dog training programs, etc.

Mike is partnered with guide dog Hastings and his effort is both individually and collectively motivated. He wants to visit the UK with Hastings and also wants all of us with guide, hearing and service dogs to have the same opportunity.

Mike put together a 200 page document supporting the effort to change current British regulations. He accumulated testimonials from disabled people who had traveled with their assistance dogs on flights lasting up to 15 hours, veterinarians and humane society officials who pointed out how much more inhumane and dangerous it would be to transport assistance dogs in cargo, international and North American airline spokespersons who had experience transporting assistance dogs on flights lasting more than five hours, assistance dog training program administrators whose graduates had traveled on very long flights without incident or problem, etc. This document was transmitted to the responsible British officials.

Although Mike's activities seemed to be having an impact, he felt the initiative needed more of a presence in the UK. Therefore, he traveled, white cane in hand, to the UK in early March 2004. In addition to visiting with officials responsible for policy making, he debated the policy with Tom Pey, representative of the British guide dog training program, Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (GDBA) on both radio and television.

Basis for Restrictive Policy

At the time policy was being developed, two major sources were used by the British government. In addition to Tom Pey of GDBA, the then head veterinarian of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) supported the notion that travel by any animal in an aircraft cabin for more than five hours without the ability to relieve was cruel and inhumane treatment. Since that early input, a new director of veterinary services for the RSPCa has reversed this view and taken the position that it is cruel and inhumane treatment for both assistance dog and disabled traveler to have the dog separated from the human partner and transported in the cargo hold. However, Mr. Pey has persisted in his view that guide dogs cannot be comfortably and humanely transported in the aircraft cabin on flights of more than five hours.

Mr. Pey claims his position is based on two factors. The first is that it is unreasonable to expect a guide dog to lie in the cabin of an aircraft for more than five hours without relieving. Since he and most British guide dog owners have had little experience with long haul and long distance air travel, the view is based on belief rather than experience. Statements by Australians, New Zealanders, Canadians and United States residents seem to have no impact on his view. This dogmatic persistence of a non-experiential based belief system seems embedded in a defensive position not open to reason or rational debate. Statements by experts about the greater danger of transporting animals in the cargo hold have made no impact on Mr. Pey.

A recent argument brought up by Mr. Pey is that there is greater risk of transmission of zoonotic diseases when an assistance dog is transported for more than five hours in the cabin. This issue is addressed in some of the subsequent material contained in this section.

IAADP will continue working with Mike Osborn and other individuals and organizations toward ending the current British policy that in effect discriminates against assistance dog partners, particularly those living at a distance of 2,500 miles or more from the United Kingdom.

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