The end of emotional support animals: U.S. air carriers to restrict cabin access to documented service dogs
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced its final revisions of a rule under the Air Carrier Access Act which had previously required air carriers to treat emotional support animals as service dogs. The revisions give airlines significantly more discretion.
The final rule on emotional support animals from the Department of Transportation:
- 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 new rules take effect next month. Whether and when the airlines will be developing new documentation forms for psychiatric service dogs remains unclear. Also unclear is how this impacts passengers who have already booked reservations with an emotional support animal in 2021 that would now be ineligible for travel. TCR has reached out to the Department of Transportation and individual carriers for details. We will continue to report and follow up.