International Association of
Assistance Dog Partners

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International Association of Assistance Dog Partners

Advocacy Campaign USA - Please Help!

I'm Relieved That You Can Now Relieve!

By Toni and Ed Eames

During a long layover in Salt Lake City airport, we met the perfect escort! He listened and responded to our needs, described the surroundings as we trudged through the airport, and, best of all, knew a good grassy spot near the parking garage where our guide dogs, Keebler and Latrell, were able to have a relief break! Fortunately, the security agents were familiar with screening disabled people accompanied by assistance dogs and the whole process took less than half an hour. We made our connecting flight without a problem. Wouldn't it be wonderful if every transfer at an airport could be as stress free as this? That dream can become a reality if the new rules developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) are implemented. One requirement is that airlines create service animal relief areas at all U.S. airports by May 13, 2009. In addition, escort service, known as meet-and-assist personnel, will be requiredto show us to these areas and escort us to our next gate or destination, if this service is requested.

To convert these rules set forth in 2008 into actuality requires a cooperative effort on the part of assistance dog training programs and those of us partnered with assistance dogs. The Coalition of Assistance Dog Organizations, which includes IAADP, has taken on this advocacy outreach effort for the 50 most traveled airports in the United States.

With only a short time to go before the May 13 deadline, if you want to get involved, we recommend contacting your local airport operators and airline representatives to make sure the relief areas are adequate and accessible. In addition, it is important to make a case for installing relief areas within the secured perimeter to avoid the need to go through security after providing a relief break for your dog. If you contact the airline or airport operator, keep copies of all correspondence and make notes on all conversations.

IAADP recommends:

  1. Contact your closest airport and ask whether the mandated relief areas have been installed. If the answer is no, then find out when that will be done and who is responsible for the installation.

  2. The probability is nothing has been done and it is important for you to inform the airlines and airport management they have a very short time to be in compliance with DOT's New Rule. Offer your expertise in developing an accessible and convenient facility. Also, stress the point that escort providers and other staff need to know where the relief areas are located.

  3. Make a case for placing the relief area within the secured perimeter. Reasons for this are:

    1. It will be more convenient for travelers with disabilities accompanied by assistance dogs not to have to go through security after taking their dogs to the relief area. The disabled community constitutes a significant segment of those who travel by air and airlines should be providing greater service to us. The need to take your canine assistant to a relief area outside the terminal can result in missed flights and major inconvenience and discomfort for you.

    2. Having to go through security not only places a burden on the disabled passenger but on the security check operation, as well. Many partners accompanied by assistance dogs must go through an intensive search because the assistance dog equipment sets off the alarm system requiring a time consuming hands on search. This not only delays us, but also causes delays to other passengers and takes the time of TSA staff. By providing the relief area within the secured perimeter, this unnecessary use of security checking time and personnel can be avoided.

    3. Since the escort service is required to accompany the disabled person/assistance dog team to and from the relief area, their time commitment would be significantly decreased If the relief area were within the secured perimeter. This would decrease the cost to airlines.

    4. It is Important to emphasize the need for you to be involved in the actual design and placement of the relief area to make it fully accessible and convenient for disabled passengers. For specific suggestions, see the model letter below.

When we landed at Canada's Prince Edward Island airport several years ago, Toni's partner Escort pointed to a patch of grass on the tarmac adjacent to the terminal door. Established to enhance the decor of the airport, the grass patch conveniently served as a unique relief area! It would be wonderful if all airports had a similar approach. We have the opportunity to make this happen! Although the law may be on our side, it is important to engage airlines and airport representatives in a positive way. Airports have not been designed for us and our assistance dogs, so it is important to move toward a mutually satisfactory way of complying with this new mandate.

Included in this article are photos of model relief areas installed at the San Diego International Airport and Phoenix Airport in consultation with assistance dog partners and training programs. You might want to share these with those responsible for relief area installation, if you have the ability to copy them from our newsletter. Please note that these facilities are outside the secured perimeter.

On first approaching airline staff or airport operators, we suggest the following letter be sent, with updates to items in square brackets such as [DATE]:


Dear Airline Station Manager:

The Department of Transportation has set forth new rules requiring the installation of service animal relief areas at all U.S. airports (See the relevant paragraph from the Final Rule below my signature)

As one who frequently travels through your airport accompanied by my assistance dog [INSERT DOG'S NAME HERE], and as an IAADP member, I would like to work with you on implementing this mandate. The Coalition of Assistance Dog Organizations, representing the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), Guide Dog Users Inc. (GDUI), Assistance Dogs International North America (ADI NA) and the Council of U.S. Dog Guide Schools (CUSDGS), has shared the following Guidelines with the U.S. Department of Transportation

Guidelines for Service Animal Relief Areas at Airports

  1. Service animal relief areas should be established within the secured perimeter.

  2. The location of service animal relief areas should be negotiated between airlines, airport operators, assistance dog training programs and assistance dog partners. Representatives of TSA should be asked to participate in these discussions.

  3. A minimum area of 10 feet by 10 feet should be set aside for each relief area. If space permits a larger area should be designated.

  4. Grass or other natural surfaces are preferred. Additional surfaces may be wood chips or gravel.

  5. Every service animal relief area must be accessible for physically disabled individuals using wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

  6. The service animal relief area must be maintained by airlines and/or airport operators.

  7. All service animal relief areas should have bags for pick up, pooper scoopers and trash receptacles.

  8. Service animal relief areas should be fenced in with gates wide enough to provide wheelchair access.

  9. Escort service staff must be trained about these requirements and notified of the mandate to provide escort service to and from the service animal relief area for disabled passengers accompanied by assistance dogs.

  10. Other airline staff, such as Complaint Resolution Officials, must be trained about these requirements and know the location of designated service animal relief areas.

I would like to assist you in any way possible. Please contact me at: [INSERT YOUR NAME, PHONE NUMBER, ADDRESS AND/OR EMAIL ADDRESS HERE]

Sincerely yours,


Below is the language used in the Final Rule published in the Federal Register,

Part II, Department of Transportation,
14 CFR Part 382
Nondiscrimination on the Basis of
Disability in Air Travel; Final Rule,
Page 39

Paragraph only:
One new requirement at U.S. airports is to provide, in cooperation with the airport operator, animal relief areas for service animals that accompany passengers who are departing, arriving, or connecting at the facility.

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