Ultimate Guide to Service Dogs at Walt Disney World
If you or someone you know has been to Walt Disney World in the past few years, chances are there will be a recollection of seeing Service Dogs at the theme parks.
First, it is important to know the difference between a Service Animal and an Emotional Support Animal. Emotional Support Dogs are different from Service Dogs in that they do not perform a physical service to assist an individual. Emotional Support Animals do not have the same public access rights that a Service Dog has.
When you enter the Disney Theme Parks you may be asked two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
The Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts recognize that some guests require service animals to fully enjoy the whole experience. A service dog is one that helps a person manage a disability; the assistance needed can include both cognitive and physical challenges. Service Dogs are covered by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and welcome in most public places; these are considered working animals, not pets.
But let’s face it, Service Dogs are considered another member of the family, and even though they are working, I truly believe that Service Dogs have fun at Disney too.
Traveling with a Service Dog
When you are traveling with a Service Dog there are many things you have to think about BEFORE you leave for Disney.
- First: Packing! You will probably have to dedicate a whole carry on suitcase to supplies for your Service Dog.
- You will need to measure out all the meals and any medications that your Service Dog will need while on vacation
- Food & Water Dishes
- Vest (although not necessary, it is an easy way to show people that your dog is working and should not be pet unless asked or not at all depending on your preference)
- Cooling Vest for hot weather
- Shoes like MuttLuks to protect their paw pads
- A brush to help with shedding
- Toys and Treats to keep them busy while in the kennel or as a reward at the end of the day
- Paperwork showing proof of vaccinations
- Backup leash, portable water dish
- Flying with a Service Dog
- Do your research ahead of time. Know where the Service Dog relief areas are located at the Airports you are flying out of and into.
- You and your service dog/animal will be screened by a walk-through metal detector. You may walk through together or you may lead the animal through separately on a leash. You will undergo a pat-down if you are not screened by the walk-through metal detector. If the metal detector alarms, you and your service dog/animal will undergo additional screening, including a pat-down.
- You can sit anywhere on the airplane with a Service Dog. Most Service Dogs can fit under the seat in front of you. However, if you have a larger Service Dog, I find sitting behind the bulkhead is more comfortable for the both of you.
- Bring something for your Service Dog to chew on during take off and landing. Sometimes the pressure change can bother their ears just like humans!
- If your destination is greater than a 6 hour flight away, maybe think about a flight that has 1 or 2 stops.
- At the Resort
- You are not limited to just the dog friendly Disney Resorts. You can stay at ANY of the Walt Disney World Resorts.
- Once you arrive at your Walt Disney World Resort, the Cast Members at the front desk will show you areas on a map that they will suggest for good relief areas.
- You will not be charged an extra fee when traveling with a Service Dog. However, if your Service Dog becomes destructive during your stay, there could be a charge associated with the damage.
- Request an extra sheet to place on top of the bed to protect the bedding from possible dirty paws.
- Place a request to have Mouse Keeping Vacuum daily. This is a necessity if your Service Dog sheds. Do not spend precious vacation time picking up “tumble weeds” around your room.
- Your Service Dog is allowed to go everywhere with you, including the pool area, except no swimming for your Service Dog.
- When checking for a dining reservation request a table that will accommodate space for your Service Dog.
Disney’s DAS Pass
The new Disability Access Service (DAS) will allow Guests with disabilities at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort to receive a return time for attractions based on the current wait time.
Guests Relations at the front of each park will continue to assist Guests and provide assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances.
Frequently Asked Questions on DAS
What is DAS and how does it work?
- The DAS Card is designed to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities). DAS will be issued at Guest Relations main entrance locations and will offer guests a return time for attractions based on the current wait time. As soon as the Guest finishes one attraction, they can receive a return time for another. This service can be used in addition to Disney’s FASTPASS Service and Disney FastPass+ service.
What will Disney Parks do if a Guest is concerned DAS doesn’t meet their needs?
- Disney Parks have long recognized and accommodated guests with varying needs and will continue to work individually with guests with disabilities to provide assistance that is responsive to their unique circumstances. Guests should visit Guest Relations to discuss their individual needs.
Who will be eligible for DAS?
- Disney Parks’ goal is to accommodate guests who aren’t able to wait in a conventional queue environment due to a disability (including non-apparent disabilities). Guests should visit Guest Relations to discuss their assistance needs.
How will guests get DAS?
- DAS will be issued at Guest Relations main entrance locations. Guests will participate in a registration process, which also includes having their photo taken.
Does the guest utilizing DAS have to be present to obtain a return time at an attraction?
- Another member of the DAS Cardholder’s travel party may obtain a return time but the DAS Cardholder must board the attraction with his or her party.
Where do guests utilizing DAS go to receive return times?
- At Walt Disney World Resort, guests will go to the attraction to receive a return time.
Does a guest utilizing DAS have to ride the attraction at the exact return time listed?
- Return times are valid until redeemed by the guest utilizing DAS.
How long is DAS valid?
- DAS card is valid for up to 14 days depending on a guest’s ticket entitlement.
Is DAS issued at one Disney theme park valid at other Disney theme parks?
- Yes, DAS will be valid throughout the resort at which it was issued.
Why doesn’t Disney Parks ask for proof of disability, such as a doctor’s note?
- Disney Parks takes Guests at their word and there are legal restrictions around asking for proof.
Is this the only service available to Guests with disabilities?
- Disney Parks offer a variety of services to guests with disabilities, such as Disney’s Handheld Device that offers assistive listening, captioning and audio description. Additionally, Disney Parks has developed a “Guide for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities.” This serves as a tool on how best to experience its theme parks and is expected to be available online by mid-October.
Disney Parks will continue to provide excellent guest service and accessible experiences. Guests should visit Guest Relations at any park should they feel they need assistance due to a disability.
Does a Guest whose disability is based on the necessity to use a wheelchair or scooter need DAS?
- No, a Guest whose disability is based on the necessity to use a wheelchair or scooter does not need DAS. Depending on the attraction, the Guest will either wait in the standard queue or receive a return time at the attraction based on the current wait time. For some attractions at Disneyland Resort, these guests will go directly to an alternate entrance. Guests with additional needs should discuss them with Guest Relations.
Riding Attractions with your Service Dog
It may come as a surprise that you can take your Service Dog on many of the attractions at Walt Disney World.
But before you embark on your first trip to a major theme park with your Service Dog, I strongly suggest introducing them to a smaller theme park close to home to get them used to the sounds and crowds they will experience on a much larger scale at Walt Disney World.
Attractions Service Dogs CANNOT ride:
- Magic Kingdom
- Splash Mountain
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Space Mountain
- Mission Space
- Test Track
- Hollywood Studios
- Rock n’ Roller Coaster
- Tower of Terror
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Star Tours – The Adventures Cont.
- Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
- Rise of the Resistance (2nd Half)
- Animal Kingdom
- Affection Section at Rafiki’s Planet Watch
- Expedition Everest
- Kali River Rapids
- Maharajah Jungle Trek: Aviary Area
- Primeval Whirl
- Flight of Passage
- Be sure to bring lots of treats with you to the theme parks. Treats and constant praise will go a long way in helping your Service Dog over come any fears when getting on an attraction with you.
- For Attractions that your Service Dog cannot ride, a Cast Member will direct you to an area that has a large dog crate set up. Here you will be able to leave your Service Dog in a crate with Cast Member supervision for the duration of the attraction. In most cases this is about 10 minutes or less. You are allowed to leave a toy with your Service Dog in the crate to keep them busy while you are gone.
Cast Members are always reassuring that even the best Service Dogs may bark while in the crate.
- All of the kennels are either in an air-conditioned area or located in the shade.
Service Dog Relief Areas
Not all Service Dog Relief Areas are created equal! Some relief areas we found to be quite small and not well hidden. You will quickly learn which ones your dog prefers in the parks. Also note that relief areas do NOT provide baggies so pack plenty for your trip!
- Magic Kingdom
- Adventureland: adjacent to the Pirates of the Caribbean
- Frontierland: near the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Liberty Square: behind the Liberty Tree Tavern
- Fantasyland: near the Walt Disney World Railroad
- Tomorrowland: By Space Mountain Restrooms
- Future World East: next to the restrooms behind MouseGear
- Future World West: next to the Imagination! restrooms
- United Kingdom: right of restrooms
- The space between the Outpost and Germany Pavilion
- Hollywood Studios
- In the courtyard of First Aid
- Across from Baseline Tap House
- Toy Story Land: near Alien Swirling Saucers
- At the entrance to Toy Story Land
- Animal Kingdom
- Discovery Island: near First Aid
- DinoLand U.S.A.: next to the planter at the Restaurantosarus restrooms
- Asia: right of the planter at Maharajah Jungle Trek restrooms
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch: right of the planter at Conservation Station entrance
- Pandora: on path near the Satuʻli Canteen
Preparing for Florida Weather
Florida’s weather can be unpredictable at best, and you never know if you will have 50°F weather during the winter months or 80°F so it is best to prepare for all occasions!
- Heat Protection
- Cooling Vests like the ones made by Coats Made By De will help keep your Service Dog cool on those hot days. These vests can be re-wet throughout the day for continuous cooling.
- You can always ask any Cast Member at a Quick Service Dining Location for water and ice for your Service Dog.
- Paw Protection
- Protection for your Service Dog’s Paws are important too! We love MuttLuks because of the precise measurement and durability. Make sure you pick up some Pet Flex wrap from a pet store to help keep the dewclaw from moving too much.
- Eye Protection
- Some Service Dog owners also add RexSpecs to protect their dog’s eyes from the sun, from any debris that may get into their eyes, items that stick out from strollers, little kid fingers etc.
Famous Service Dogs at Disney
When I started researching for our first trip to Walt Disney World with a Service Dog, I found help on Instagram. These are handlers and their amazing Service Dogs who have been going to Walt Disney World for a long time.
They share videos that show how they get on and off rides, how they have trained their Service Dogs for Walt Disney World, how to put on MuttLuks, and more. These videos became invaluable! Make sure you are following them:
Special thanks to Nikki Minnis for writing this amazing article about service dogs at Walt Disney World. Nikki is a travel agent with MickeyTravels and plans vacations for clients all over the country. If you liked this article, send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!