Flying Dogs, Redux — Comment Now on Proposed Rule Change

Department of Transportation logoWell, it’s the topic that never dies. In a post just over a year ago, I shared the “final” rules that the Department of Transportation issued on traveling service and emotional support animals. My skepticism of the “final” part was well-placed. The DoT is proposing a new set of “final” rules.

These changes would bring the rules for air travel more in line with ADA laws governing public access, including recognizing psychiatric service animals.

The new rule would define 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,” echoing language from the ADA.

The most dramatic changes are limiting travel access to service animals — specifically, service dogs — and no longer requiring airlines to accept emotional support animals in the cabin or treat them differently from pets.

The proposed rules would also allow the DoT to create forms “attesting to a service animal’s good behavior, certifying the service animal’s good health, and if taking a long flight attesting that the service animal has the ability to either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner” — and allow airlines to require that passengers traveling with service animals complete these forms.

Other provisions include allowing airlines to:

  • Require that passengers traveling with service animals check in earlier than other passengers
  • Limit the number of service animals to two per passenger
  • Require that the service dog(s) fit within the passenger’s foot space in the cabin
  • Deny travel to animals showing aggression

Notably, airlines could not, as Delta has tried to do, deny access to dogs based on their breed.

The 60-day public comment period opened on January 22, 2020. To comment, go to the docket page, where you can also read the full proposal and other comments.

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