New Rules Regarding Emotional Support Animals on Flights

The U.S. Department of Transportation has revised its regulations on service animal travel and who qualifies.

Emotional support animals of any kind no longer qualify as service animals. These new rules are part of a revision to the Air Carrier Access Act.

The final rule will be effective in early 2021 and includes:

  • Defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability;
  • No longer considers an emotional support animal to be a service animal;
  • Requires airlines to treat psychiatric service animals the same as other service animals;
  • Allows airlines to require forms developed by DOT attesting to a service animal’s health, behavior and training, and if taking a long flight attesting that the service animal can either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner;
  • Allows airlines to require individuals traveling with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) up to 48 hours in advance of the date of travel if the passenger’s reservation was made prior to that time;
  • Prohibits airlines from requiring passengers with a disability who are traveling with a service animal to physically check-in at the airport instead of using the online check-in process;
  • Allows airlines to require a person with a disability seeking to travel with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) at the passenger’s departure gate on the date of travel;
  • Allows airlines to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals;
  • Allows airlines to require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft;
  • Allows airlines to require that service animals be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times in the airport and on the aircraft;
  • Continues to allow airlines to refuse transportation to service animals that exhibit aggressive behavior and that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others; and
  • Continues to prohibit airlines from refusing to transport a service animal solely based on breed.

The changes are a departure from the previous DOT guidance, which said that airlines could not restrict passengers from traveling with emotional support animals, nor could they ban a specific breed or species of a support animal.

In summary, passengers with service animals will now need to fill out forms prior to travel. Passengers with emotional support animals will now have to fly them as pets and follow the airline’s applicable rules, including paying a pet transportation fee.

Regardless of how you get your furbaby there, remember to schedule a bath, brush, and groom before you travel!

Consider an Aromatherapy treatment to lessen the anxiety of your pup pre-travel, or around the holiday bustle.


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