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Are Service Dogs Allowed On Southwest Airlines?

Are Service Dogs Allowed On Southwest Airlines?

Southwest Airlines is known for its excellent customer service. It is one of the most liked airlines in the United States of America. So, are service dogs allowed on Southwest Airlines?

You might have come across a dog at the airline. You could be asking yourself whether or not it is possible to travel with your furry friend on Southwest Airlines.

Yes, Southwest Airlines allows service dogs. Customers with a service pet, you will find that they accommodate service dog owners well.

They will allow your service pet in the cabin as long as you comply with their rules and regulations.

Traveling with dogs

Southwest Airlines- Service Animal, Psychiatric Service Dog, And Emotional Support Animals Policies

As mentioned earlier, Southwest Airlines allows service dogs on board. However, they no longer accept emotional support animals (ESAs) on board. Should you want to travel with an emotional support dog. They will treat it as a normal pet subject to their fees and restrictions for pets.

It is not just Southwest Airlines. The United States of America airlines no longer accommodate emotional support animals. Because of the new rules and regulations released by the US

Department of Transportation. However, there is some good news for those traveling with their service animals and Psychiatric service dogs.

The Department of Transportation maintains the legal protection of service animals. Also, as psychiatric service dogs, and their owners. They can board Southwest Airlines cabin flights at no charge.

Southwest Airlines Requirements For Service Animals

traveling with dogs

Southwest Airlines allows service dogs such as psychiatric service dogs to board the cabin of their flights free of charge.

According to the Department of Transportation (DOT) rules, only dogs can qualify as service animals.

As a passenger, you should note that you are traveling with a service dog. Do this when booking your reservation with Southwest Airlines.

Should you plan to board with a psychiatric service dog. You will have to present a completed Department of Transportation (DOT) Service Animal Air Transportation form. Present this at the gate or ticket counter on the day of departure.


The form will require you to confirm that your furry friend is a trained service dog. You must guarantee that your pet’s conduct is subdued and is vaccinated.

The dog should also be under your control all the time. Service dog equipment such as harnesses, registrations, ID cards, and vests. They are not enough to prove that your dog is a service animal or a psychiatric service dog.

Although service dog handlers use these items to show that their canine friends are on duty, they are optional. You will have to complete the Department of Transportation form in order to board the cabin.

Control Your Animal

Your dog must be under your control all the time. You can achieve this by ensuring that it is on a short leash.

The dog should also behave appropriately while on the plane and at the gate. Your service dog is free from unpleasant odors and well-groomed.

Southwest Airlines and other airlines have the right to deny boarding for your pet. They may think it is threatening the safety or health of other passengers.

They will also not allow your furry friend if it engages in disruptive behaviors such as:

  • Excessive whining, scratching or barking
  • Lunging, growling, or biting
  • Relieving itself in unwanted areas

Service dog handlers should also understand that special rules may apply to and from Hawaii, Guam, and international destinations.

Their staff can confirm your service dog by asking two questions:

  1. Is the dog required for a disability?
  2. What work or task is your service dog trained to perform?

Under federal law, the staff at Southwest Airlines have the right to ask the above questions. However, they should not ask any other questions about your disability, including personal details regarding your medical condition.

They should also not demand the owner to show that their service dog can perform its duties or task.

Therapy Dogs On Southwest Airlines?

Therapy dogs comfort other individuals suffering from distress. Especially in group settings such as nursing homes, campuses, and hospitals.

They are not psychiatric service dogs. Mainly because they lack the training to perform any tasks relating to the disability of their handlers.

Therefore, all therapy dogs at Southwest Airlines are subject to the same rules and regulations as normal pets or emotional support dogs.

How Do You Qualify For A Psychiatric Service Dog?

A psychiatric service dog is similar to an emotional support animal. This is because it can also help with an emotional or mental health condition but with a different key.

A trained psychiatric service dog performs a job or task relating to the disability of its handler. 

Most people think of service dogs performing tasks or jobs for individuals with readily apparent physical disabilities.

Psychiatric service dogs perform several tasks for individuals with hidden disabilities as well.

Psychiatric service dogs are trained to offer comfort through touch during difficult moments and interrupt psychotic episodes and dissociative spells. They remind their owners or handlers to take medications. 

In theory, an emotional support animal can become a psychiatric service animal. Only if it is trained to perform a specific task that the handler wants.

Emotional Support Animals

However, not all emotional support animals can be psychiatric animals. A service dog must also navigate stressful public environments like plane cabins and crowded airports.

You can train your psychiatric service dog yourself or with the help of a professional dog trainer. 

If you travel with a Psychiatric service dog, you will have to fill out the Department of Transportation (DOT) form. A federal form requiring you to make certifications about your disability-related need for a service animal.

If you are thinking of owning a Psychiatric service dog or you already have one. You want backup documentation for peace of mind, you see an emotional support animal doctor for more assistance.

They work with licensed healthcare professionals who have specialized in assisting animals.

They will evaluate your emotional and mental health and then write a letter if they think you qualify.

The letter is a signed document from a licensed practitioner. Stating whether they believe you have a given disability qualifying for a service animal. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Rules For Service Dogs On Southwest Airlines Flights

Once you board a Southwest Airlines flight with a service dog, you will have to follow the following onboard rules:

  • Service dogs should not sit in an emergency row.
  • The service dog can be on the passenger’s lap or aircraft floor. Only if it is not larger than a two-year-old kid or should be kept in a pet carrier. 
  • Service dogs are not permitted to sit on the seats.
  • The service dog should not encroach into the space of a neighboring passenger or the aisle.

The aircraft crew is legally allowed to remove any service dog. Any dog that misbehaves while onboard or compromises the safety and health of other travelers.

A well-trained service dog should be calm and relaxed while inside a busy plane or airport.

Rules For Pets On Southwest Airlines

traveling with dogs

If a person has a small pet that is not a service dog. They may still be able to board the cabin with their pet if they meet the requirements of Southwest Airlines.

The airline allows small cats and dogs that can be carried in the pet carrier or kennel in the cabin. The carrier can have a maximum measurement of 18.5” long x 8.5” high x 13.5” wide.

Hard and soft-sided carriers are allowed as long as they are well-ventilated and leak-proof. In addition, the pet carrier should fit under the seat in front of you.

Pets onboard are subject to a $95 fee for each carrier one way. You should book a reservation to travel with your pet early because they only allow six pets per flight.

The spots are usually accepted on a first-come-first-served basis. Southwest Airlines does not transport any pets to/from Hawaii. 

Other additional rules that you should keep in mind include:

  • A pet carrier can have two cats or two dogs
  • Only one carrier is allowed per ticketed passenger
  • The pet should be able to move around the pet carrier or stand with ease.
  • Pets are not permitted to occupy the exit row
  • Both dogs and cats must be at least two months old
  • Your pet should be in the pet carrier at all times during the flight and at the gate.
  • Pet carriers can be considered carry-on or personal items.

The staff at Southwest Airlines may decide to ban your dog from a flight. Especially if it disturbs other passengers or engages in disruptive behaviors.

If you are new to flying with your furry friend, you can train him slowly, starting with a shorter flight. 


Traveling with your service dog can be a breeze if you and your dog are prepared. Southwest Airlines will allow you to travel with your service dog. As long as you observe the rules and regulations while onboard. You should make sure that your canine friend is well-behaved.

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