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Airlines have already added restrictions on emotional support animals
Over the past couple of years we’ve seen airlines crack down on emotional support animals, as people have increasingly been certifying their pets as such. This is easy enough to do, as for a small cost you can even find a doctor who will certify your pet as an emotional support animal online.
Up until now this has been possible because the US Department of Transportation regulations didn’t really differentiate between service animals and emotional support animals when it came to the law.
That could finally be changing.
DOT proposes emotional support animal changes
The DOT has now opened a period for public comment regarding a new proposal that would lay the framework for airlines to ban emotional support animals.
The US Department of Transportation has issued a Notice of Proposed Lawmaking, and they’re seeking public comment over the next 60 days.
This is in regards to proposed amendments to the Department’s Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), which impacts regulations on the transportation of service animals.
As they’re described, the proposed amendments are intended to ensure that the US air transportation system is safe for the traveling public and accessible to individuals with disabilities.
With this, the DOT is proposing:
- To define a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability
- To allow airlines to recognize emotional support animals as pets rather than service animals
- To allow airlines to require all passengers with a disability traveling with a service animal to complete and submit to the airline forms developed by DOT attesting to the animal’s training and good behavior, certifying the animal’s good health, and attesting that the animal has the ability either not to relieve itself on a long flight or to relieve itself in a sanitary manner
- To clarify existing prohibitions on airlines’ imposing breed restrictions on service animals and allow airlines to set policies to limit the number of service animals that one passenger can bring onboard an aircraft
- To require service animals to be harnessed, leashed, or otherwise tethered
- To add specifics about how to safely transport large service animals in aircraft cabins
- To allow airlines to charge for damage caused by service animals
The most significant amendments here are that:
- Emotional support animals would be limited to dogs
- Airlines could recognize emotional support animals as pets rather than service animals (meaning that if they’re a certain size they might not be allowed in the cabin)
My take on all of this…
There are a countless number of emotional support animal stories that have gone viral, involving everything from pigs to hamsters to snakes.
Has this all gotten a bit out of control? Absolutely.
At the same time, to me this fundamentally brings to light a major topic that no airline has really addressed. Tens of millions of American households have pets and love them. They consider them to be part of the family.
At the same time, most people are scared to check their pets into a cargo hold. If you ask me, it’s even cruel. Airlines have a terrible track record when it comes to transporting pets safely in the cargo hold, and I couldn’t imagine doing that to my dog.
Can any airline acknowledge the fact that people often need to travel with their pet (or at a minimum have a strong preference to do so)?
There has to be a happy medium between putting your animal in the cargo hold and having them fake certified as an emotional support animal, no?
Obviously putting a 100 pound dog underneath an economy seat isn’t ideal. But what if you want to travel with your 25 pound dog? What if you’re willing to buy an extra seat for that dog?
Surely this presents the opportunity for some airline to be at least a little innovative…
What do you make of the DOT’s new proposed regulations?