Photography & travel tips from an award-winning photographer, educator & wanderlust

Traveling with a Service Animal

I’ve recently read a quote:

A good company in a journey, makes the way seem shorter” by Izaak Walton


Can’t say that I agree, especially when your company consists of a service animal, in a size of a small yappy dog. It appears that no matter how many times we fly with our Yorkie Slonik, there is always a new airline rule, required paperwork/items or another type of obstacle to prevent us from having a peaceful arrival at our chosen destination. It doesn’t help that our destination of choice is typically on the other side of the planet, requiring at least 24 hours of door to door travel.

So, when leaving Korea and entering the States, your dog will require:

  • A health certificate
  • All of his annual shots completed and documented
  • An up to date Rabies Vaccination
  • A Rabies Test and certificate stating that your pet is Rabies Free.

As a Service Animal, don’t forget:

  • A recent (from the past year) letter from your doctor. It should explain your condition, your necessity for a service animal, as well as the doctor’s credentials (medical certificate number, date of graduation, address, stamps, etc). It wouldn’t hurt to get a copy of your doctor’s medical certification just in case.
  • Your dog’s tags stating that he/she indeed your pet of service

Once all the documents are gathered, don’t forget to call the airline 1-2 weeks in advance to notify them that you’ll be traveling with a Service Companion (they may ask you to email them your documents, so have them scanned and on the Cloud just in case).

Upon entering the Airport, you won’t be able to get your tickets until you visit the Quarantine Office (behind the “F”counters at the Incheon Airport). Be sure to give yourself enough time for this – an extra hour would suffice, especially if there is a paperwork malfunction.

Keep in mind that there are Post Office services at the airport, in case you pet can’t come along, just kidding! But it is a convenient way to send home some bulky coats/boots when you’re traveling to a tropical destination in the winter time.

Back to traveling with your furry buddy.

Over the years, I’ve come to love and loathe certain airlines, based on their ability to give or withhold giving me hard time when flying with a Service Pet.

Best airline companies (so far):

Delta – they don’t always check all of the paperwork required, making me feel like less of a criminal, trying to prove my credentials. At times, the crew even allows me to hold my dog in my lap, making us both anxiety-free in each other’s arms (my dog is a total cuddler, on my lap or in my arms is his favorite spot). Sometimes the attendants even offer some water, understanding that he is possibly thirsty, as humans on the airplanes are.

Singapore Air – from what I understand, there is a ginormous list of prohibited breeds inside their cabin (Yorkies being one of them). Service Animals, on the other hand, are special and according to the laws and regulations are not subject to the standard guidelines of this airline. They were very thorough in their paperwork checks, requiring them emailed and presented at the Check In counters. They also require that you have a muzzle and a pee pad available in addition to the carrier your pet is in. During the flight, they were very accommodating and even allowed us to board the aircraft first.

United – similar to Delta airlines, United has never given us any hard time. Most of the time they didn’t even know that our dog was on board (they told us that later, due to Slonik’s quiet nature). Maybe the fact that these attendants are used to having other American passengers fly with their pets, I would chose this airline over an airline like Singapore Air, which seemed to a bit overdo it (called my phone number, then paged us on a loud speaker in order to board us first, while the other passengers waited; gave us special seats, checked up on us throughout the flight – making us feel special, but very unnecessarily so).

Our experience with Singapore Air was not a negative one, in fact it was outstanding, compared to the worst airline on my list of flying with a Service Pet:

Korean Air – since Korea doesn’t recognize pets as being service animals, this airline’s professionalism was unacceptable. After calling and notifying the airport that I would be flying with Slonik, there was no issue with him before or during the flight. After the flight, a Korean Air representative found us at the airport expecting that we would retroactively pay the Travelling Pet fee. After a long discussion with him, showing our documents and trying to prove our point, he had no choice but let us to continue our journey without paying any fees.

*Note – Service Animals are providing a medical service to their owner and are under no requirement to pay a fee for flying/traveling.


  1. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips, Alla. Taylor and I are thinking of getting a pet too but we haven’t really decided what to get yet. I fell in love with Slonik when I saw him — he’s so adorable <3

  2. Oh, I kept on asking what’s a service animal all throughout my reading. Thanks for letting us know at the end. Why do you need a service animal with you? Personal question, it’s ok if you don’t need to answer.

    My sons had been bugging my husband and I for a pet dog but we still haven’t given in. It’s going to be another baby, right?

    • Service animals are helpful even for people with Anxiety when flying or traveling, hence him serving as my Service Animal during flights. And it really helps out that he gets to do it for free.

  3. Oh wow, it’s really complicated to travel with a pet internationally! I had to fly with my cat from state to state in the US and it took a small amount of research and a trip to the vet and he was able to sit right at my feet, which comforted me greatly that he didn’t have to go under with the baggage. That’s nice that they don’t charge you for a service dog either, but the paperwork sounds horrendous. So many people in your situation will find this helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This is a great guide for those seeking this information! I know it can be difficult to travel with a pet, so I’m sure those interested in knowing more about it will love this as it’s so detailed. I do wish you’d posted a picture of your fur baby, though!

  5. I too was wondering what exactly a service animal was, so thank you for clarifying at the end! This is a great post for those looking to fly with their furry friends. Thank you for sharing!

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