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Federal Department of Transportation Looks to Change Definition of Service Animal

by Erich Martin

Jan 28, 2020
eFlyer Lead

Taking to the skies with Fido might get tougher thanks to newly proposed rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The new rules function as an amendment to the existing Air Carrier Access Act. In short, the new regulations impose much stronger restrictions on which animals can fly. As it currently stands, airlines must allow support dogs, cats and miniature horses on flights, provided passengers supply the necessary documentation.

The new rules are designed to ensure travelers with a genuine need for service animals are able to travel with them. At the same time, the rules aim to lessen the likelihood of passengers falsely identifying pets as service animals.

The new rules are wide-ranging to increase airlines’ ability to restrict certain animals. Some of the specific rules include allowing airlines to limit the size and number of service animals and requiring passengers with service animals to check-in earlier. Airlines will no longer consider emotional support animals service animals and animals themselves will be held to much higher standards, such as requiring specific individual training and documentation.

The definition of service animals is also set to change to a dog that has been individually trained to work and complete tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. Under these rules, cats and miniature horses are no longer allowed.

The entire Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is available to read online. The notice gives the public 60 days to review potential changes and submit comments or concerns to the DOT.

“The days of Noah’s Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end. Passengers can still travel with animals under their preferred carrier’s pet program,” explained Sara Nelson, president, Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. “Today’s proposed rule by the Department of Transportation for service animals in the passenger cabin is welcome news. It sets clear definitions and guidance to ensure people with disabilities and our veterans have necessary service animal assistance while maintaining the safety, health and security of all passengers and crew onboard our planes.”

You can leave a comment regarding the proposed rules online.

What do you think of the new potential rules? Do you support further restrictions on animals in aircraft? Tell us. Email us at [email protected]. Please include your full name and location.

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