No More Free Transportation of Emotional Support Animals Via Airplane: Final Rule Issued by the Department of Transportation of the United States

A final rule from the Department of Transportation of the United States to amend the Air Carrier Access Act regulation pertaining to the transportation of service animals via airplane was issued in this official document of 122 pages which was signed by Elaine Chao — who is the current secretary of transportation of the United States — on Monday, November 30, 2020.

No More Free Transportation of Emotional Support Animals Via Airplane: Final Rule Issued by the Department of Transportation of the United States

This final rule is intended to ensure that the air transportation system in the United States is safe for the traveling public — as well as accessible to individuals with disabilities — and it was issued as a result of comments which were requested by the Department of Transportation earlier this year pertaining to the perceived abuse of owners of pets who passed off their dogs, cats, turkeys, and other animals as “emotional support animals” in order to bypass paying expensive fees to transport them.

As per the new updated guidelines, only dogs may be officially designated as service animals; and owners must attest that they are indeed specially trained to provide services to the passenger.

The following is a summary of the major provisions of the document:

Subject
Final Rule
Definition of Service Animal A service animal is as a dog, regardless of breed or type, 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.
Emotional Support Animals Carriers are not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets.
Treatment of Psychiatric Service Animals Psychiatric service animals are treated the same as other service animals that are individually trained to do work or perform a task for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.
Species Carriers are permitted to limit service animals to dogs.
Health, Behavior and Training Form Carriers are permitted to require passengers to remit a completed hardcopy or electronic version of the Department’s “U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form” as a condition of transportation.
Relief Attestation Carriers are permitted to require individuals traveling with a service animal on flights eight hours or longer to remit a completed hardcopy or electronic version the Department’s “U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Relief Attestation” as a condition of transportation.
Number of Service Animals per Passenger Carriers are permitted to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals.
Large Service Animals Carriers are permitted to require a service animal to fit on their handler’s lap or within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft.
Control of Service Animals Carriers are permitted to require a service animal to be harnessed, leashed, or otherwise tethered in areas of the airport that they own, lease, or control,and on the aircraft.
Service Animal Breed or Type Carriers are prohibited from refusing to transport a service animal based solely on breed or generalized physical type, as distinct from an individualized assessment of the animal’s behavior and health.
Check-In Requirements Carriers are not permitted to require a passenger with a disability to physically check-in at the airport, rather than using the online check-in process, on the basis that the individual is traveling with a service animal. Airlines may require a passenger with a disability seeking to travel with a service animal to provide the service animal form(s) at the passenger’s departure gate on the date of travel.
Advance Notice Requirements Carriers may require individuals traveling with a service animal to provide a U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form and, if applicable, a U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Relief Attestation up to 48 hours in advance of the date of travel if the passenger’s reservation was made prior to that time.

The final rule could be expected to generate annual cost savings to airlines of between $15.6 million and $21.6 million — as well as annual net benefits of $3.9 million to $12.7 million.

Summary

I intend to comment more about this final rule issued by the Department of Transportation in a future article, as the purpose of this article is to simply impart general information with regard to the final rule.

Meanwhile, I have written extensively over the years pertaining to service dogs and emotional support animals in the form of articles posted here at The Gate — including:

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

One thought on “No More Free Transportation of Emotional Support Animals Via Airplane: Final Rule Issued by the Department of Transportation of the United States”

  1. NB_ga says:

    Halleluyah! I am a big-time dog lover (and animal lover, in general) and fully agree that pets provide enormous emotional support – but it is insane to expect an airline and/or other passengers to endure pets on a flight. Disallowing free pet transport under the guise of ’emotional need’ should cut down on the senseless decision to inflict personal pets upon other passengers while locked in the air.

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