Since January, airlines are no longer required to transport emotional support animals – a change in policy that will likely reduce the overall number of potential allergic reactions on aircrafts. The number of passengers traveling with emotional support animals has increased significantly in recent years. These animals may expose passengers to animal allergens, which may trigger an allergic reaction for passengers with animal allergies.
In response to concerns raised by airlines, disability rights organizations, individuals with allergies, and provider organizations including the College, the Department of Transportation (DOT) changed its regulations regarding the transportation of emotional support animals.
While airlines must continue to accommodate passengers with a disability seeking to travel with a service animal in the cabin, the new rule limits service animals to dogs, regardless of breed or type, that are 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.
All other animals (e.g., cats, rabbits, miniature horses, monkeys, etc.) are not considered service animals and may be treated by the airlines as pets. To clarify, the DOT’s new rule does not prohibit the transportation of pets; they just are not allowed in the aircraft cabin. The rule grants airlines the option to transport emotional support animals for free pursuant to the airline’s policy.
The DOT permits airlines to require that a service animal be placed on the passenger’s lap or fit within their foot space on the aircraft. The DOT also permits airlines to restrict the number of service animals that one passenger can bring in the cabin of the aircraft to two. Airlines may also require a service animal to be harnessed, leashed, or otherwise tethered at all times.
The new policies help address cases of abuse by passengers attempting to circumvent carrier rules regarding transportation of pets. They will also likely reduce the type and amount of animal allergens aboard flights. The Advocacy Council will continue to follow this issue and report any changes – we have you covered.