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DOT Proposes Limiting Service Animals on Airplanes to Just Dogs

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The U.S. Department of Transportation this morning says it will seek to re-define regulations on what is – and isn’t – a service animal to be used on airplanes.

Specifically, the agency is proposing only trained dogs be considered as a service animal and that it will no longer consider an emotional support animal to be a service animal.

There will be a 60-day public comment period on the proposal before a decision is rendered.

In addition, the DOT will ask for new forms to be filled out before allowing an animal to be considered a service animal, and that any false documentation is subject to a federal crime. It is well known that certification for having an emotional support animal can be purchased online.

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The service animal/emotional support animal aspect of flight has been debated back and forth for years, as some people have taken miniature horses, ducks, even a pig on board as an emotional support animal.

“Under the existing structure we have a very broad definition of what a service animal is,” a DOT official said on a morning conference call. “Under the proposal we are changing the definition.”

Specifically, the DOT is proposing the following:

– Defined 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 consider an emotional support animal to be a service animal;

– Consider a psychiatric service animal to be a service animal and require the same training and treatment of psychiatric service animals as other service animals;

– Allow airlines to require forms developed by DOT attesting to a service animal’s good behavior, certifying the service animal’s good health, and if taking a long flight (more than eight hours) attesting that the service animal has the ability to either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner;

– Allow airlines to require passengers with a disability who are traveling with a service animal to check-in at the airport one hour prior to the travel time required for the general public to ensure sufficient time to process the service animal documentation and observe the animal;

– Require airlines to promptly check-in passengers with service animals who are subject to an advanced check-in process;

– Allow airlines to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals;

– Allow airlines to require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft.

Asked specifically about that, the DOT official said: “We do address miniature horses and talk about the fact that the air environment is different. Unlike dogs, they are not flexible and have more difficulty fitting in a space on an aircraft. Dogs are the most commonly used animal but, again, it is a proposal and we are soliciting comments.

The proposal will allow airlines to continue to require that service animals be harnessed, leashed, tethered, or otherwise under the control of its handler, and to refuse transportation to service animals that exhibit aggressive behavior and pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others

It will, however, continue to prohibit airlines from refusing to transport a service animal solely on the basis of breed.

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