When it comes to air travel, the government decided that only dogs can be service animals, whereas animals used for emotional support would not count.
Emotional-support animals may no longer be allowed on flights
On Wednesday, the Department of Transportation issued a new rule that aims to settle the tension between airlines and passengers who bring their companions on board for free.
The Department asked airlines to let animals with passengers who had a doctor’s note proving that they need emotional support. According to the airlines, passengers did not respect the rule and brought a variety of animals on board for free, including pigs, cats, turtles, and a peacock.
The Department of Transportation said that the complaints by passengers with disabilities, animal misbehavior, and dishonest representation caused the change of the policy.
DOT guidelines on species limitations and documentation required
The agency is rewriting its rules because passengers, who carry animals as emotional support on board, ruined the trust in legitimate service animals. It also added that the numbers of passengers, who represent their animals as service animals on board, has significantly increased.
According to the new rule, passengers will have to check their emotional-support animal into the cargo hold. Moreover, they will have to pay a pet fee. The agency estimates that airlines will get more than $59.6 million a year. This rule will come into effect in 30 days.
A service animal was defined as a dog trained to help people with psychiatric or physical disabilities. Emotional-support animals and service animals have a therapeutic function.
Airlines can require owners to vouch for their dog’s training, behavior, and health. Moreover, they can request owners to turn in paperwork up to 48 hours before a flight. However, they cannot ban travelers to check-in online like other passengers.
Also, airlines can ban dogs with aggressive behavior because there were cases of emotional-support animals biting passengers.
In other words, airlines can deny service dogs if the animal represents a direct threat to people’s health and safety, the animal causes derangement at the airport or on board, and when the owner of the emotional-support animal cannot provide the required paperwork.