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Accessible Disney: Service Dogs

Never let disabilities or health conditions stop you from visiting the most magical and happiest places on earth! Today, we will delve into the world of Service Dogs at Disney Parks. 



Meet Jesper, He is a 5-year-old Long-Haired Chihuahua. He has beautiful chocolate fur, loves Taylor Swift, and his favorite ride at Disney is the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, but most importantly, Jesper is my service dog. 


Jesper has been visiting Disney World with me since 2019, and I can tell you, he loves it just as much as I do. In this article, I will share with you how having a service dog in the Disney Parks works, and I hope to ease any worries you may have about traveling to Disney with a service dog.




Chances are, if you are reading this, you already know what a service dog is, however, here is some clarification on the ADA’s definition of a service dog: https://www.ada.gov/resources/service-animals-2010-requirements/









Disney Rules for Service Dogs

-As service dog handlers, this may seem like common sense, however, please remember that service dogs must be under the control of their handler, and remain on a leash or harness at all times. With this, Cast Members are not able to assist in the handling of any service dog for any reason.


-Service dogs that misbehave or cause disturbances (such as lunging, biting, excessive barking, marking, etc) are subject to their handlers being asked to exit the parks.


-Disney Cast Members are held to the same rules as everyone outside of the Disney Bubble and are only allowed to ask two questions to a handler before allowing or denying entry into the Parks. 

-“Is this a Service Dog?”

  • -“What task is your Service Dog trained to perform?”


-There is no documentation required for service dogs by the ADA, so do not fret, Cast Members will not ask for any sort of documentation.


Can Service Dogs accompany me on rides?

The answer here is yes, and no. It all depends on the ride you are wishing to experience. Rides that have a height requirement will not permit service dogs on the attraction due to safety concerns. As I mentioned earlier, Jesper’s favorite ride is The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. 





For a more in-depth look at what rides, attractions, and experiences service dogs are and are not allowed, Please see the Disney World and Disneyland websites at these links:



Do I have to miss rides and attractions my Service Dog cannot experience?

Absolutely not!! Disney does an AMAZING job of making sure all rides and attractions are accessible to all guests, Service Dog Handlers included. Every attraction that your service dog cannot accompany you to has a kennel that is attended by a Cast Member whenever a service dog is housed.


These kennels are in air-conditioned rooms or have fans next to, or above them so your faithful companions are cool and comfy, I even got to experience a heat light next to the outdoor kennel of Rise of the Resistance in December, so Jesper was not chilly! While this gives you a chance to experience a ride your service dog is not allowed on, it also gives your buddy the chance to rest and relax for a little while. And don’t worry, these kennels are located near the exits of the rides, so your service dog can stay with you through the whole queue. 




Speaking of resting: How do I help my Service Dog in the heat?


Just like us mere humans, and more so even service dogs, need frequent breaks from the Florida and California heat. I have found a few solutions to help Jesper beat the heat:


  • Go back to your resort: Many people take mid-day breaks from the park to go back to their resort rooms (If they are staying on property of course) and take a rest. This is an amazing option for Service Dog Handlers, You will both get out of the sun and heat and can cuddle up and take a power nap together!


  • Take a meal break: Whether it be a sit-down meal or a quick service, most places to eat around the Disney Parks have indoor areas with air conditioning. This is a great way for you and your dog (and phone) to recharge for the rest of your park day.


  • Take in a show: One of the best parts of a Disney Park day is taking in the amazing shows that take place within the parks. From Carousel of Progress (You can see Jesper watching this one below) to Festival of the Lion King, every park has a show that will both entertain them and give them and their service dog a break from the heat while experiencing something spectacular!


  • Indoor character Meet and Greets: What better way to get out of the heat AND experience magic in some air-conditioning at the same time? There are several indoor character meet and greets including Ariel in her Grotto in Magic Kingdom; BB8, Chewbacca, and Darth Vader in Hollywood Studios; Minnie and Mickey in Animal Kingdom; and Anna and Elsa in EPCOT. There are SO many more indoor experiences that give you a great time away from the heat. 


  • Cooling Towels: We discovered this hack on our last trip to WDW. Just like cooling towels can help us, they can also help our service dogs. Simply wet the towel, snap it, and wrap it around their neck, securing it to their collar, or simply place it on their heads or backs.. Since Jesper is on the smaller side, we were able to drape it along his whole body and it worked wonders!


  • Strollers: Again, Jesper is on the smaller side so we get to bring him in his stroller and it does not impede him from carrying out his duties, but don’t fret if you have larger service dogs. Service Dog handlers can get wagons for larger dogs, and get them tagged as medical equipment with Guest Services.



Wait, Did you say Character Meet and Greets?


I did! One way I can GUARANTEE you will experience more magic at Disney is while meeting characters. From my own experience, Characters are usually more excited to meet Jesper than they are to meet me, and that is perfectly okay with me! Characters will always go out of their way to make sure their four-legged visitors feel just as special as their two-legged friends. Jesper has been excited to meet all of the characters he knows from TV and movies at home, He could NOT take his eyes off of Ariel, and Ariel was excited to set up a playdate for Jesper and Max in the future! And do not worry, characters will respect all boundaries. I am always asked if they are allowed to pet Jesper before they attempt to do so. Ariel holding Jesper’s little paw made me and him so happy!  However, be prepared for the characters to not want you to leave, I mean, would YOU want a sweet furry friend to leave you?




What about potty breaks?


One thing I have had service dog handlers worried about when planning a trip with their service dogs is potty breaks. I am very happy to ease these fears, Every park, as well as the resorts, have designated service dog potty areas. Handlers are responsible for picking up after their dogs when using all relief areas.  Do I have favorites? Of course, I do! There is a great secluded service dog area in Animal Kingdom that gives you shade, your dog a quiet place to go potty, and a nice spot to sit and enjoy a quick meal. 



In Magic Kingdom near the Fantasyland Train Station, there is a fenced-in 10-foot-long stretch of turf that is a service dog relief area. This is another great spot to sit, and give your service dog a little bit of playtime.


Please remember to be conscious of other service dog handlers who may need to use these areas as well.










What should I bring to the parks for my service dog?


Packing for a service dog’s trip to Disney is relatively simple, but be prepared to bring some extra supplies. 


Stroller or Wagon: As mentioned earlier, a stroller or wagon is a great tool for your service dog. As we all have experienced, there is a lot of walking in Disney, and a stroller or wagon can help your dog’s legs take a break. Another great reason for a stroller or wagon for your service dog in Disney is due to crowds, navigating heavy crowds, as any service dog handler can tell you, is difficult even with the best-trained service dog, as we cannot control other people’s actions. Please be advised, if bringing a wagon for your pet, they may not be allowed in all areas where strollers are.


Cooling Towel: I know this one was also mentioned above, but I can promise you, it is an amazing hack!


Headphones: Yes, I said headphones. Fireworks and loud stage shows and parades can still bother a dog's ears. I have seen several handlers use headphones on their dogs during these events. 


Booties or Paw Wax: This is not just a Disney tip, but an overall heat tip. Booties and paw wax are an amazing way to save your best friend’s paws from the hot concrete.


Collapsible Bowls: Whether for water or food, collapsible dog bowls are a great tool to have at your disposal, They do not take up much space in your bag and are easily rinsable in any bathroom. 


Pick-up Bags: Disney’s service dog relief areas do not provide pick-up bags when your dogs relieve themselves, so be sure to bring your own, as picking up after your service dogs use these areas is mandatory. Many pick-up bag holders attach to your dog’s leash. 


Anything else I should know?


Yes! Once again, Disney is amazing at accommodating Service Dogs and their handlers. 


  • Firework Areas: There are special “Fireworks viewing areas for people with disabilities”. Having a service dog qualifies you for this area. You have a prime viewing spot for the fireworks, and you’re not packed into the usual crowded areas on Main Street and in front of the castles.


  • No special resort fee: There are Pet-Friendly Disney Resorts where anyone can bring their furry friends, and these resorts will charge a pet fee. Service dogs are allowed at ALL Disney Resorts, and you do not have to pay this fee for your service dog. 


  • PhotoPass Photographers: This has been one of my favorite parts about Disney vacations with Jesper. Almost every PhotoPass photographer has gone out of their way to get photos of not only Jesper and myself, plus my family; but solo shots as well. One amazing PhotoPass photographer even went so far as to lay on the ground to get the perfect photo of Jesper in Animal Kingdom, which can be seen below:


Overall,  Bringing your service dog to Disney is really no different than bringing them anywhere else, it’s just more magical! The moments and photos you will experience with your service dog in Disney will overshadow any fears or anxieties you may have while planning your trip!!


Stevie is an agent with Dreams Travel Consulting. She specializes in all things Disney Travel and would love to help you on your next vacation!

You can learn more about her on her agent page-

READ HERE






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