Is This The End Of Emotional Support Animals On Planes?

Filed Under: Misc.

The US Department of Transportation has just issued a final ruling that will greatly change how emotional support animals (ESAs) can travel on flights. This is major, and has the potential to end the concept as we know it.

What are emotional support animals?

An emotional support animal is any animal companion that offers some type of benefit to an individual with some form of disability. This is different than a service animal, which is specially trained and might assist someone who is blind or deaf, for example.

The ESA concept is only a thing in the US, and it has been controversial, as we’ve seen people bring ESAs that range from turkeys to pigs to miniature horses onto planes. The reality is that getting an ESA certification has been quite easy, as there are doctors online who can provide it (just Google and you’ll see all the options).

The number of ESAs traveling on planes has skyrocketed in recent years for a couple of reasons:

  • Airlines haven’t been able to charge for ESAs, so it’s a way to take a small pet in the cabin without having to pay a fee
  • On most airlines, only pets up to 20 pounds are allowed in the cabin, and many people haven’t wanted to put their pets in the cargo hold (for good reason); having an ESA is a way to get around that, since you can bring a larger animal into the cabin

DOT cracks down on emotional support animals

The US DOT has issued a final ruling on emotional support animals, which gives airlines the discretion to end the ESA concept as we know it, should they so choose.

Here are the key changes from this ruling:

Emotional support animals are no longer service animals

The DOT is no longer categorizing emotional support animals as service animals. Service animals are being redefined, and have new restrictions:

  • Airlines may limit service animals to dogs, may limit each traveler to two service animals, and may require service animals to fit on their handler’s lap or within their handler’s foot space on the aircraft
  • Service animals have to be “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”
  • Airlines can require passengers to remit a completed hardcopy or electronic version of the DOT’s “Service Animal Air Transportation Form” as a condition of transport

Again, these new restrictions apply to service animals, and emotional support animals are no longer categorized as such.

Airlines can start charging for emotional support animals, and restrict them

The biggest implication of this policy change is that emotional support animals are now going to be categorized as pets, rather than service animals. What does this mean?

  • Airlines will be able to charge travelers for their ESAs, rather than having to allow them on for free
  • Not just that, but airlines can apply their weight and size limits to ESAs going forward; for example, most US airlines only allow in-cabin pets weighing up to 20 pounds, so airlines could apply those restrictions

As the ruling explains:

“Treating ESAs as service animals amounts to a price restriction that sets the price of accommodating passengers who travel with ESAs at zero dollars, despite the fact that airlines face non-zero resource costs to accommodate those passengers.”

The DOT claims that this could lead to $54-60 million in increased fees for airlines. I’m not sure that would actually be the case, assuming airlines have the same restrictions on ESAs as they have on pets. Many ESAs are above the current weight and size limits for pets, and therefore people potentially won’t even pay to allow these animals on planes.

This is an opportunity for airlines to innovate

I absolutely think the emotional support animal concept has been abused, and people bring all kinds of poorly behaved pets on planes, and take up other peoples’ space. But I also think the reason this has been abused so much is because of the lack of options airlines have provided for traveling with pets.

The way I view it, this is a great revenue opportunity for airlines, and also an opportunity for airlines to differentiate themselves (just as we see some hotel groups that are totally dog friendly, while others aren’t).

Everyone knows their own pet best, but in my opinion it’s cruel and even somewhat dangerous to put many pets in a cargo hold. Now, in fairness there’s a difference between someone who wants to take their miniature horse with them on every vacation for free, and someone who is moving across the world and just wants their pet to be as safe and comfortable as possible.

I understand this is a slippery slope, but if someone has a 25 pound senior dog and is moving across the world, I personally find it a bit heartless to say “too bad, just put ’em in the cargo hold.” In fairness, I love dogs, though…

The way I view it, there are a couple of directions airlines could go without completely restricting in-cabin pets to 20 pounds:

  • Airlines could continue to allow ESAs but charge the standard pet fees for them, which would likely greatly reduce the number of people traveling with them, and would be a revenue opportunity for airlines
  • Airlines could actually get innovative with in-cabin pet travel; how about allowing one or two pets per flight, under the condition that a full row of seats (or something) is purchased for the person traveling with the animal

Now I’m sure some people will say “well I’m allergic to dogs, get over your pet.” Fair enough, and I get that’s not easy, but at the same time dogs are already allowed on planes as pets.

Presumably people are also allergic to dogs under 20 pounds, and those are currently allowed in the cabin. There shouldn’t be a difference there, as I’m all for keeping a cap on how many pets can travel in a cabin (which already exists).

Bottom line

The Department of Transportation has cracked down on emotional support animals. Airlines no longer have to categorize emotional support animals as service animals, but rather can categorize them as pets.

This means that airlines can start charging for these types of animals, and can also apply the weight restrictions on in-cabin pets (which is typically 20 pounds) to these animals.

While I’m not opposed to the spirit of this change, I do hope some airlines use this opportunity to innovate how we can travel with our pets. For animals over 20 pounds, there should be an option other than the cargo hold, in my opinion. This could be a good revenue opportunity for airlines, and also a point of differentiation.

  1. “Is This The End Of Emotional Support Animals On Planes?”

    Sure hope so.

    Anyone who has a need for an “Emotional Support Animal” has deep psychological issues that makes them a danger to others on the plane. They should stay home or take the dog bus.

  2. I am horribly allergic to cat dander. A few minutes around a feline, and my eyes will turn red and watery and eventually swell shut. And once one of those allergy attacks hits me, it can be 24-48 hours before whatever it is gets out of my system – no matter how many hot showers I take and no matter how many changes of wardrobe.

    There should be no such thing as an emotional support cat since we all know that cats do not have owners; they have staff.

    We do need to crack down on ESA abuse. Every LA drama queen with “issues” thinks that he/she/they should be entitled to bring their pets everywhere under the guise of a bogus ESA certification. The truly disabled – folks who legitimately need a service animal for their well-being and safety – are harmed by this ESA abuse as most people just assume that their legit service animals are just pets.

  3. I’ve never flown with my dog before, but would like the option for flights three hours or less. She’s well behaved, quiet, and hypoallergenic. Just not willing to do the fake song and dance about ESAs…

    I wish there was a third-party certification for dog behaviour and shedding. It’s not fair for a quiet, non-shedding dog who sleeps in a crate to incur the same hotel pet fee as a loud, short-haired dog who sleeps in the bed.

  4. Agree 100% with this. The whole idea of emotional support animals was always completely ridiculous. Anyone who has ever flown with a pet would know that they cause stress on planes rather than relieving them. My BF and I used to joke that we needed an emotional support animal to help relieve all the stress caused by flying with our emotional support animal.

    That said, my dog is too large to fit under the seat in front, and I am terrified of the idea of sticking him in the cargo hold. I would happily buy two seats and pay extra $$$ to be able to bring him in the cabin with me. I would go out of my way to book onto an airline that offered something like that. Or what about a doggy pen in the cabin (like how some airlines have baby basinets that hook onto the wall.) They could take out one row of seats and make that the dog area…

  5. If airlines didn’t gouge passengers with over the top fees for bringing a pet in the cabin none of this would be necessary. United charges $125 each way to bring a small animal IN A CARRIER on a flight. Frontier and Southwest are among the “cheapest” at $75 and $95. The animal must remain in the carrier the entire flight and must also fit under your seat in front of you. The pet carrier counts as your “carry-on” bag as well. There is a limit of 1 or 2 animals per flight depending upon plane size.

    Now that’s just a rip-off. Why does this cost the airline any additional money?? Spoiler: IT DOESN’T. There’s no additional weight or luggage onboard (since your pet counts as your carry-on) and no inconvenience to other passengers since the animalmust remain zipped inside and under the seat in front of you. So why don’t they reduce the fee to $50 or even $75, if they feel like they’ve got to cheat their passengers at least a little bit? Because they take advantage of the fact the people are not going to put their precious family member in a crate in the cargo hold …so they jack up the fees for something that literally COSTS THEM NOTHING.

    Online, it’s nearly $200 for a phony set of “doctor” credentials. If the airlines were reasonable in their onboard pet charges people would just pay them and not go through all that hassle and expense. But corporate greed takes over.

    I’m glad people won’t be able to abuse the system anymore. But I hope the abuse now doesn’t come at us from the airlines.

  6. This was always a scam. I fully support genuine service dogs being on planes. Those dogs undergo intensive training (few candidates actually make it all the way through). They are essential to the handicapped and know how to behave in all situation. So called “emotional support” animals are simply people’s pets and many of them are viscous animals that should never to be allowed on planes, even if the owner is willing to buy an extra seat. Besides, my son is allergic to cats and dogs. He was once asked to take another flight because someone had one of these “emotional support” dogs on his flight. This was just someone’s pet and poorly trained at that.

  7. As a dog owner and frequent traveler (well, before COVID) — I would still love to pay for my doggo. It’s a small dog but over 15 pounds. I don’t understand why airlines won’t sell seats for whatever you want.

    – are you too tall or too big and rich? Buy two seats, travel comfortably.
    – do you simply not want anyone next to you? buy two seats!
    – do you want your dog, cat or cello next to you? buy two seats!

    I don’t get it. The money is the same for the airline, and they’d save in costs (one less passenger means less bags, less weight, etc.)

  8. Bit of an overreach from Trumps DOT, which is run by a Chinese shipping company magnate who got the job because of who she sleeps with.

    Currently, ADA doesn’t cover air travel, which is why this happened. I look forward to the next admin cracking down on this by fixing that loophole. Maybe we can get wider aisles on planes as well.

  9. Damn right. Get rid of the support animal practice. Its a joke and a rort and gross. Sooner the better.

  10. I hope it is the end of emotional support animals on planes! My daughter has a true medical service animal and it always bugged me that people who actually had (and needed) service animals get largely grouped in w people having emotional support animals. 2 totally different things and she will continue to be able to travel w her dog (BTW cost about $10,000 with all the training). She has that right under Federal law.

  11. Finally, a prudent governmental decision regarding ESA. This new directive ensures passenger comfort and safety. In my view, all animals should be ban from passenger cabins. If you wish to travel with a pet, it should be transported as cargo!

  12. I would be totally onboard (sorry!) with allowing passengers to book with a dog “package” – e.g., require purchase of all seats in a row in any cabin, charge a pet fee, require vet certification of appropriate vaccines, limit number of pets per flight, etc. I would LOVE to take my large dog on so many of my trips and would happily agree to whatever arrangements were required. The first airline that does this has my business for life!

  13. @Neal Z Agree
    @Esquiar There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. It is a misnomer. Some dogs might be less likely to cause an allergic reaction in some people.

    Frankly, dogs, including, service animals, should only be seated in certain areas of the plane and most important there should be plastic or other protection on the floors (and seats if the animal will be on a lap) that can be disposed of after the flight. Even a service animal can trigger an allergic reaction and the hair and dander that is left behind could cause an allergic reaction days or even weeks later.

    At least

  14. @James s….ESA’s are not covered under the ADA. Only service animals. So many people misquote this.

  15. Hooray!
    I was at the airport today (reticketing an itinerary in a non-US currency, so had to go to the ticket counter) and while I was waiting I got to watch a bulldog in a T-shirt behave aggressively towards a small terrier type dog who barked and growled in response. Neither owners had carriers with them, so I assume both animals were ESAs, and both were clearly not well trained. Not to mention that bulldogs have issues on airplanes as a brachycephalic breed.

  16. I too wish the airlines would come up with something for bigger dogs. I have a second home would love to travel there more often with my two golden retrievers . They could change me some crazy rate to take my dogs on the plane and I would pay …I would buy out the rows plus some if I had too:) .Better then driving 18 hours in the car. The NY to South Florida route is already filled with small dogs, what is the difference if I take my bigger dog as long as someone does not have sit next to them. Even if the designate one flight a week you can take bigger dogs.. make a note when booking so other people know and can choose a different flight.

  17. People with physical disabilities by all means and those animals are thoroughly trained. People that aren’t adults and somehow need their doggie or little kitty with them at all times just stay home. Really I think about my parents and what they went through, particularly growing up but yet never seemed to need an emotional support animal with them 24/7.

    Let the animals ride in the cargo hold where they belong. Again, for the exception of people with real disabilities. Today flying MIA/DFW there must have been 50 people preboarding, some that look fine to me. Really I’m age 61 and can’t imagine needing a wheelchair to make it to the aircraft. This entire thing is getting out of hand.

  18. Either your animal should fit under the seat in front of you in a cage (where it should stay), or you buy a row of 3 seats in Coach. No exceptions… It is an either or rule that is easy to enforce…

  19. @Todd – I suggest your response is more like what you said about @Dick than his original response which was both spot on and humorous.

    to all others

    I have never experienced an acceptable encounter with an “emotional support animal”. They have been universally spoiled brats just like their ‘parents’.

    People try to bring 80 – 100 pound huskies onboard and pretend they can fit into a 30″ basic economy seat without inconveniencing other. Utter rubbish. When people complain about sharing their space with the bloody dog the owners try to get a free upgrade to J so that the dog can fit under the seat.

    Hopefully the airlines take full advantage of this new ruling and cancel pets in the passenger (note passenger) compartments of airplanes.

    When we took our cats overseas they travelled in perfect comfort in a good cage in the hold where they belonged. They were quite fine even after 20 hours in transit. They definitely travelled better than us.

    So if you cannot emotionally live without fluffy in your arms you should probably stay home.

  20. If someone is not emotionally stable to travel alone, STAY HOME!!!! Or travel by car, bus, bicycle. You don’t want an emotionally unstable person locked inside a metal tube at 30k ft for many hours.

  21. So do people that dont like ESA dogs hate dogs in general? I think ESA dogs and cats less than 20 pounds should be allowed. Legit ESA dogs do help.
    If someone is allergic, maybe airlines should figure out a way to mark the seats so others can pick based on that. For many years peanuts were served, people smoked, etc.
    Also, i think I could be allergic to people smelling like crap on a plane, wearing flip flops and taking them off and put their feet on the seats, etc.

  22. If you are so emotionally disabled that you can’t be a few hours or less without an ESA, I’m praying I don’t have to sit next to you.

  23. For the sake of people with allergies there needs to be some certainty. One should not have to show up and find out that Hell awaits. Perhaps there could be one row on the plane which is pet-accessible–possibly the last row on the plane. It would be marked as such on seating charts and would only be available to someone travelling with a pet up until a certain number of days before check-in. It absolutely must be booked a certain number of days in advance. After that date the row would be available for anyone to book. Also, someone with allergies should be able to register with the airline. If a dog, etc., is booked on the flight then the person with allergies should be alerted. And, it only seems fair at that point that the person with allergies may switch to any other flight on that day to the same destination. There are probably a thousand reasons this isn’t practicable. But it is a start. And it would allow the person with allergies, at least, to book a seat as far away from the pet row as possible.

  24. If you are not emotionally stable, you should probably be at your mental institution getting treatment, not galavanting around in an airplane. People need to get their priorities right.

  25. My daughter’s service animal (legit – raised that way since birth – very well trained and cost around $10,000 all in) is a 60 pound golden retriever. I always book her a bulk head seat to ensure space for her dog in front of her without bothering other people. For those claiming allergies, while I understand true service animals are allowed on board. We do indicate that on the reservation and follow up with the airline’s special services department so there are no surprises.

  26. These types of posts sure do bring out the “dOgS aRe TrAsH aNd ShOuLdN’t bE aLlOwEd aNyWhErE nEaR mE” crowd!

    Anyway, this would never have been a problem if airlines didn’t charge $125 each way for pets. If you buy a $49 one way ticket for yourself, you’d have to pay 2.5x the price of your ticket to take a 12-lb dog with you. Absurd!

  27. We flew YUL-CUN this past Saturday.
    A woman with a small dog refused to give up “her” row of seats to passengers who paid for their seats.

    An A321 Neo LR. Single aisle six abreast, 3 a side.

    This woman felt she and her dog deserved 3 seats to themselves and screw the other two who paid for seats.

    Long story short, 15 minutes later, after an FA talked to half a dozen passengers, the woman and her dog got two seats together in a different row.

    And this flight was pretty full.

    Only in Canada, Quebec, Montreal, whatever.

  28. In other news, I’m announcing that I’m starting a new airline, ESA Airways, wet leasing an A-380 for running JFK-PBI December through February.

    Emotional support animals are welcome, free of charge

  29. The DOT order addressed a multitude of issues including animal behavior, human allergies, and sanitary issues as well as objections to and support for ESAs including the economic justification.

    They took a comprehensive approach to looking at the problem and the cost to each segment based on their potential decisions.

    The decision limits ESAs precisely because the number of people that needed ESAs were a small part of the traveling public but created a disproportionate impact on the rest of air travelers.

    As hard as it is for some to accept, the decision resets in-flight cabin norms because there isn’t enough benefit relative to the negative impact at a societal level.

    The DOT got this right and there will be far more people who benefit from the restrictions than are harmed by them.

  30. The ESA policy has been abused, so this is a move in the right direction. I do feel people should be allowed to buy extra space so they can have a smallish do with them. We recently moved back to the US from Tokyo with our 17-year-old miniature dachshund, who weighs less than 7 pounds. We were grateful United allows animals on board as he would never have survived in the hold. We had bought an extra seat to ensure we had a group of 3. As it turns out due to Covid, we had the whole section of the plane, but we had booked in January. It worked beautifully. Previously when I move to Asia my chocolate lab had to go in the hold, first Newark to Tokyo and 4 years lasted at age 13 Tokyo to HK. Both trip traumatized her for several days, but it was the only option.

    FYI, you can only travel in economy with a dog not at the front of the plane, so those of you who don’t want a canine near you can pony up for Forster business class.

  31. I’m predicting this is the end of the road for ESAs in the cabin unless they weigh under 20 pounds and are in a cage under the seat. I had a Return to Gate a few years ago on a flight with an aggressive ESA which resulted in a missed connection and a 24 hour delay and costs for hotel and meals not reimbursed. I now cringe every time I see an ESA waiting to board wondering if someone’s animal is going to ruin my day.

    Don’t flight attendants have enough to do without being Animal Control Officers? This ruling is long overdue.

  32. @Janet. I do not mind traveling with a dog in the cabin at all.

    My problem is with a self entitled woman screaming in French (Quebecois, so not real French) at everyone until she gets what she wants.

  33. I’ve never flown with a dog, but considering getting one soon, and want to get one that can fly in-cabin. How did it used to work with ESA? Was any size dog allowed in the cabin as long as it could fit in a kennel bag below the seat? Without any charge?

  34. About time. Llamas, miniature horses, swamp rats, small hippopotamus, where was it going to end? I wanted my support animal to be a velociraptor but I was having difficulty sourcing one that did not eat the other passengers. But under the old rules if I put a muzzle on him it was fine. Who knows.

  35. If you have had a poor experience on board with an emotional support (pet) seated next to you as I have on multiple occasions flying from NY to south Florida then you would not fly on an airline that continues to accommodate pets in the cabin.

  36. @Nate nate – you can still fly with animals, you just have to pay a fee for the right to do so and register with the airline as they typically only allow a certain number of cabin pets on board. The ESA loophole let people not only avoid the fee but there was also no limit on number of pets on board.

    As I stated before, my daughter has a true service animal. They will continue to be allowed to travel free and there is no limit on the number of such animals. However, these are specially trained animals that are not aggressive and also are trained to not use the bathroom unless commanded to do so (seriously). My daughter’s Golden cost around $10,000 all in and we still have to register it when a reservation is made and show training documentation (along with having vaccination records just in case they are needed). True service animals are a small percentage of the animals on planes.

    You can still travel with an animal, you just need to contact the airline regarding their policy and pay any applicable fees.

  37. I like the idea of requiring those with larger dogs to buy extra seat(s). However, I’d like to see an airline come up with a dog crate that is specially designed for airplane seats…a smaller one for one seat, and a larger one for two seats. This way other passengers are not put at risk of a poorly behaved dog, the dog won’t be soiling the seat for the next unfortunate person who sits there, and more of the dander will be contained. The crates could be included in the dog service, including the +1 or +2 seats depending on dog size. This could be a big differentiator for an airline.

  38. @Rob – please make sure you differentiate “pets” from service animals. Trained service animals are working when they are in public and are trained to do so. There is nothing in this ruling that limits service animals so you likely will still fly with one from time to time. Also, airlines are prohibited by Federal law from blocking travel with true service animals so that isn’t about to change.

  39. As someone who gets requests to write ESA documentation, I welcome this change.

    As a clinician, I do think veterans with PTSD should be allowed their ESA dogs. The sarcasm about mental illness is not helpful.

    The proposals about reserving a whole row, limiting sections of the plane and numbers allowed per flight, charging reasonable fees for pet passengers, all make a lot of sense.

  40. The new rule , which updates the definition of a service animal to “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability,” was issued following a litany of complaints from airlines and flight attendants alike about people bringing unusual animals — including pigs, gerbils, turtles and birds, among others — on board that they said were for emotional support.

    Yes, pigs, gerbils, turtles and birds. Enough said.

  41. I avoid airline travel because it has become a zoo. If an airline will ban ’emotional support’ animals I will be more likely to fly that airline. Put your pet in cargo hold or send him on a chartered flight. Sorry if that inconveniences you.

  42. 10% of humans are allergic to cats- a much higher number than allergic to peanuts. I am fine with service DOGS on flights but please ban ALL in cabin CATS.

  43. Then there are military dogs. I was on a flight with one. 70 lb Mallinois. Bulkhead with handler, boarded early. Never knew s/he was there once on board. Give me a dozen compared to one or two yappers in a cabin.

  44. Hehhehehhehehe

    Atlast, I don’t have to stuff my packet with free pepper sachets from McD and other places.

    Going to Miss the trauma of ESA owners who give a hoot about other passengers discomfort when facing their own crap.

    Pepper does wonders….. Don’t leave home without it

    I wrote here long time ago….

    Airline should keep a separate flight for these ESA morons and like minded FA’s (oooohhhhhh….i love your enchilada sister also has one and of course… She is single and 46…..and I’ll be joining her soon) Imbeciles!!!

  45. Good. Planes were beginning to feel like a cattle car with all the animals. Here is a novel idea. Leave the pets at home or with friends or at a kennel. Other than real service animals they don’t belong in the cabin. There should be rules and regulations making cargo areas safe for pets but its clear people can’t be trusted not to abuse a policy.

  46. I travel with my ESA from time to time and not because I need it but because I refuse to put him in the cargo hold. He doesn’t bark. Is a perfect prince. And is never aggressive. He’s about 19 lbs and sits on my lap. Sleeps the whole flight. Granted, I always fly first so there’s a bit more space. Sure I might be abusing this loophole but not causing one ounce of harm. It’s the irresponsible pet owners with ill trained dogs or the people bringing peacocks to the airport that ruined it for the rest of us. Sometimes you need to travel and bring your dog. There should be a third party assessment of dog behavior and a certification which allows those responsible pet owners to bring dogs on flights at no charge. And if they’re going to punish well behaved dogs in this way then they absolutely need to ban all children under 10 on all flights as well. They’re certainly more of a nuisance!

  47. ESAs are a sign of poor parenting. People affected need to seek professional help to sort out their issues and anxieties before bringing their miniature horse onboard.

  48. Long overdue ruling thanks to entitled people ruining it for the small number of people that might have a legitimate need, such as PTSD. One issue that I have not seen discussed is safety. In the event an emergency requiring evacuation of the aircraft, can you imagine the chaos caused by multiple untrained ESA dogs running around biting and barking while passengers are trying to evacuate? Add to that owners running amok trying to catch them. True service dogs are extensively trained to remain calm so they are not a safety issue unlike untrained ESAs.

  49. @donald. While it is true that pets cost nothing to the airlines, they are transporting the pet with you, and it is incredibly entitle to feel like it should be free or cheap. Yes, those fees offset how Rock bottom cheap fares are today, compared to years ago. While everything else have gone up in price with Inflation.

  50. Tighten the whole thing up. Humans and stuffed animals only, no carry on, book or laptop only no beverage or meal service, no talking, just board, sit down, buckle up / shut up. Cabin Crew will be armed with cattle prod and will have the power of the soup nazi – can basically keep you off the flight for any or no reason. Finally all Cabin Crew members will be named Tabitha (regardless of gender) to further recognize Tabitha the Crew Member that threw that passenger off the plane after passenger told Tabitha “you may not have a job tomorrow” and added she worked for NY Governor (on You Tube look it up – hilarious) passenger was soon fired from her Art Council position – just a disgusting affected slob. Hopefully airlines will adopt my suggestions immediately.

  51. They never let me bring my emotional service hooker on board even when I know she will be quiet and sit on my lap the whole time.

    This charade and the self centered slobs that can’t travel without Fido are a joke. This coming from a dog lover and owner. A legit service animal? That’s fine. Those animals a trained and honestly behave better than the “emotional support” humans do. I’d rather travel in a plane full of real trained service dogs than a plane full of “emotional support” clowns without their animals.

    Perhaps have designated flights where this is permitted and made clear upfront to anyone buying a ticket. Or maybe like the old days of smoking sections – have a “random animal” section in the back of the plane.

  52. @ Ben

    Very interesting article.

    Here in Europe few animals travel by aircraft as it is just as easy and quick to travel by train / car.

    I may have missed the article but I cannot recall seeing the review of your trip from the US to Germany some months ago. How did you lovely dog Winston cope with it all (no jet lag I hope…)?

  53. The ESA cheaters have made it terrible even for those of us who *pay the fees and follow the rules* to transport our small dogs! I’ve flown with my little dog 3 or 4 times (of course not this year), paid the exorbitant fee, kept him calm in his carrier at my feet, and I STILL got glares and comments from people accusing me of being a cheater. “No way that’s a service animal” said a flight attendant once… my response: “Correct, he’s not, he’s a paid and tagged passenger, learn your own airline’s policy!”

    Yes, there’s an untapped market here for better pet transport. I’d gladly buy a window seat, and sit in the middle (or even buy the whole row), to take my dog on a flight and have room to keep him out of people’s way. Or sit in a particular section, or take “dog friendly” designated flights. Being in PHX, there’s often no option at all for transporting animals in cargo, due to temperature restrictions and AA Airbus planes that don’t have ventilated cargo holds. And Southwest doesn’t do pet cargo at all.

    It’s like the early days of music piracy, when people wanted to download music but record companies didn’t give them any legal option to buy digital songs… so they did it illegally. Once the market provided an easy, legal option (iTunes) – most people were happy to pay! Give people a workable market-based option for what is clearly an in-demand service and people won’t try to abuse a system.

  54. What are the problems with cargo holds? Are some aircraft or companies better than others? Could a clever airline create and sell safer/more attractive hold environments for animals? I have flown my larger dogs in holds, no choice but I would have paid for a better/safer environment for them.

  55. Just charge animals for a seat, just like you charge people for a seat. Problem solved, as a practical matter.

  56. @Paul

    If I were allergic to pet dander, and many people are, then I would be sorely angered by the surprise of a dog or other ESA in the seat next to me. Some people are so sensitive to this it triggers breathing problems, panic attacks and other real health issues. Selling the seat just kicks the can of no animals down the road.

  57. I used to have a bit of sympathy for people with ‘needs’, but damn it! When I saw that pax with an emotional support peacock(!) that was the last straw. No to animals on board except guide dogs.

  58. While there are lots of comments here applauding the moves by the feds I doubt they’ll be so congratulatory when they learn that § 382 was amended to include a new definition of psychiatric service animal. So what was once an emotional support animal (dogs) will simply become that. All you have to do is claim some mental disability; anyone who has visited a therapist qualifies, attest to some form of training, fill out the form and, voila, newly minted service dogs.

    The DOT specifically excluded any formal qualification process for training dogs and simply relies on the attestation of the handler.

    There are definitely new limits on dog size but they are vagueish enough to only cause issues. DOT will need to revisit that in time.

    The animal relief and cleaning provisions are interesting. I don’t know how the cleaning provision will be uniformly enforced so I suspect there will be issues with it.

    Overall, the effect of this DOT rule change will be that only dogs will find there way onto planes now as service animals. I don’t foresee a huge reduction in the number of ESA dogs as the motivated owner will simply get themselves designated as needing a psychiatric service animal.

  59. For obvious reasons, I shall be boycotting all domestic airlines until my Emotional Support Tortuga is allowed back onboard. He is NOT a nuisance, as he only requires a 100-gallon saltwater tank and a volunteer herpetologist.

  60. Dogs are clean, they don’t get drunk and they are as stupid as most people who left non-sense comments.

  61. I do believe there should be some restrictions and no I don’t believe every kind of animal should be a emotional support animal with that said emotional issues that people cannot help are a disability and should be covered under the American Disability Act emotional support animals I believe should be dogs or horses just like the other guidelines set up for the other disabilities and therefore allowed on the plane same rules should apply to both and of course all animals should be well behaved

  62. I’m a dog lover, but as a retired flight attendant who has witnessed the fraudulent misuse of the “emotional” support animal ADA policy, I applaud a banning of all dogs unless they are fully qualified Service types. The sense of entitlement displayed by animal owners in the past grated on those of us responsible for maintaining a proper cabin environment. Birds, ponys, snakes, pigs…you name it….it was ridiculous. I’m allergic to cats….and that created a problem for me, even if they were a distance away. There will be those of you that would love to take your dog on a flight….I get that, but a solid policy that restricts dogs to only those that are necessary is the way to go.

  63. My husband and I have traveled for many years with our small dog and cat. We have paid. People sitting near have never known there was a pet under the seat. Almost every time, we have heard surprise from the people near us when we take their carriers out to leave the plane. Both animals fall asleep as soon as they are under the seat and don’t wake up until we reach our destination, usually Europe. On Air France, only two to four animals are allowed per flight and arrangements need to be made in advance. Anyone with allergies can ask at the time of booking if pets will be on the flight, and they will be seated at a distance. Whoever it was who wrote that cats can not be loving animals has fallen for a stereotype and never lived with a real cat. My cat and I love each each other as much as the dog and I do. In regard to allergies, I have medically managed asthma. the two allergists I have seen have told me that those who are so sensitive to cat dander that they can’t be on the same plane as a cat should not be traveling on the plane. A human cat owner would have enough dander on his or her clothes to trigger an allergic response in such a sensitive person. – – – Now that brings me to babies. I have had to tolerate crying for nearly 11 hours of a flight because the parents either could not control the child, didn’t care to do so, or have a baby who is not well, often with painful ear problems from the change in altitude. And for those who want plastic on the seat for animals, it is much more likely to be needed after a baby (who never pays). I have seen parents change foul smelling diapers with passengers in the next seat. I would vomit from that. Recently, I saw a question from the parents of a 2 year old whom they planned to take on his first coast to coast flight to see his grandparents. They didn’t think the child would wear a mask. I don’t either. That is too much to hope for in a 2 year old. The flight crew was expected to help with that. How are passengers in the area protected from potentially life-threatening virus? Though this isn’t related to the flight, I wondered if the family planned to quarantine before visiting the grandparents or if the grandparents’ lives were going to put in danger also.

  64. Wow so many judgemental horrible comments on here regarding mental health. It’s disgusting.

    I am a woman who is autistic as well as who has CPTSD. My dog Nora is a registered ESA and she is the BEST dog to travel with. She’s quiet, comforting, and I have had multiple people on planes tell me after what a great peaceful dog she was, and that she actually even helped THEM with some of their anxiety. I rode with her on an 11-hour flight and she slept at my feet the whole time. That’s more than I can say for actual humans on some flights.

    TRUE ESAs are absolutely vital and necessary, and it’s a shame people have lied and abused the system just so they can bring their pets on for free. People like me, NEED Nora and she provides tremendous comfort and I really hope the airlines take more regulations into processing in the future to weed out the people who just want to travel with their pets for free.

  65. Jennifer and others,
    I totally agree. I am beside myself. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to be able to see my family and grandchildren. My emotional support animal has been with me through all of my travels fir years and to my final destination where I go. I need her also at my destination She has been my true legally documented emotional support animal for 13 years. I have never traveled without her. She is so perfectly behaved in obedien that everyone thinks she’s a service dog because she does respond that way with me and people and animals around her.
    Now I cannot fly with her. She is 24 pounds so just too big to be in a little carrier under the seat so that’s not an option. I would not have a problem paying for my emotional support animal ever. I will not lie and say that she is a service dog because I don’t want to be one of those people that have destroyed it for us.
    I am so sad that some people have ruined it for the rest of us who tremendously need our support animals and obey every rule and are extremely respectful.
    If she were very young, then I could have her trained for tasks and she could become a regular service dog but at her age, I cannot do that to her. If anyone knows of anywhere that I can reach out to try to help your lines understand some of our situations, I would do so.
    Thank you for your input and take care. Let me know if anyone has any ideas. 🙂

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