January 23, 2020
Airlines would no longer be required to accommodate emotional support animals under new federal rules proposed January 22 that seek to rein in passengers who try to bring their pets on-board, The Chicago Tribune reports.
The U.S. Department of Transportation says it “wants to ensure that individuals with disabilities can continue using their service animals while also reducing the likelihood that passengers wishing to travel with their pets on aircraft will be able to falsely claim their pets are service animals.”
According to the Tribune, federal laws currently require airlines to permit passengers with disabilities to travel with service and emotional support animals in the cabin, although support animals don’t have to have the specialized training service animals receive. Unlike pets, service and support animals fly at no added fee.
U.S. airlines already have started tightening rules for emotional support animals over the past couple of years, citing an increase in problems with animals such as miniature horses, peacocks, and tarantulas in the cabin.
Transportation officials said last year they were working on new rules for service animals. Under the proposal, which must undergo a public comment phase before being finalized, airlines wouldn’t be required to treat emotional support animals differently than a household pet. They also wouldn’t be required to transport service animals other than dogs.
The proposal would define a service animal as a dog “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, “ the Tribune reports. Psychiatric service animals would have the same requirements as other service animals.
The carriers also would be able to limit passengers to two service animals that fit within the traveler’s foot space on the aircraft.
In addition, the news outlet notes, airlines would be allowed to require passengers to submit forms developed by the transportation department—attesting to the animal’s good behavior, health, and ability to either not relieve itself or do so in a sanitary way on long flights.
Finally, carriers could require travelers with service animals to check in an hour before other passengers to allow time to process the animal’s documents, DOT said.
Research contact: @chicagotribune