The unknown guidance lines of support animals and how to regulate them for flights has popped up sporadically in the media recently, as people have been bitten or injured due to an incident where the animal has lashed out.
Just recently according to Huff Post, “The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Thursday that airlines must allow any breed of dog as a service or support animal on their flights, directly rejecting Delta Air Line’s ban on pit bulls as service animals.”
The announcement was quickly followed by other news outlets such as USA Today, where they stated in an article saying, “The guidance on species limitations, documentation requirements, containment, check-in, and advance notice comes just weeks after an American Airlines flight attendant was bitten by an emotional support dog on a flight from Dallas to North Carolina, which prompted union calls to further tighten rules on in-flight animals.”
Though dogs, in general, are permitted ― as well as other common service animals, including cats and miniature horses ― airlines are allowed to decide if any other species of animal poses a direct risk.
Delta had announced last year that it would no longer allow “pit bull-type dogs” as service or support animals, a policy that went into effect on July 2018.
“We need the (U.S.) Department of Transportation to take action now so events like the one that happened yesterday do not continue to occur on our planes,” the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA said in a July 23 release.
According to federal regulations, passengers are allowed to bring service and emotional support animals on flights longer than eight hours as long as they can provide documentation that the animal can relieve itself without creating a sanitation or health issue during the flight.
The issue in whole has stirred great debates back and forth, especially when an incident occurs and garners media attention. Though in any news article if you have followed, has one common thread, a thread that more guidelines should be in place.
With a number of different airlines that operate both long and short travel times; it would appear that the DOT is moving towards not segregating any breed of animal in particular, though the ultimate decision comes down to the airline in which a passenger travels on.
According to the recent USA Today article on the matter, they posted these guidelines to which seeks clarification of DOT’s service animal rules. The article also stated that the agency intends to open up an additional comment period later in the year to determine if the rules should be further modified.
Highlights from DOT’s clarifying guidance on emotional support animals
- Airlines cannot ban a specific breed or species of support animal, though they have some latitude to deny specific animals if they believe the animal could pose a threat. “Priority will be placed on ensuring that the most commonly recognized service animals (dogs, cats and miniature horses) are accepted for transport.”
- Airlines can require animal owners to provide documentation related to the animal’s vaccination, training or behavior to determine whether an animal poses a threat to the health or safety of others. They can also require documentation for flights over eight hours related to an animal’s bathroom habits but cannot have outright bans on animals on long flights.
- Airlines can require animals within the cabin to be tethered.
- Airlines can’t require advance notice for those traveling with traditional service animals.
- Airlines can require lobby check-in for emotional support animals.
- Airlines can ask questions to determine a passenger’s need for the animal, but must accept a medical form or letter that meets DOT’s criteria as medical documentation of their need.
- Airlines can’t restrict passengers from traveling with more than one emotional support animal and also can’t limit the total number of animals on any flight.
- Airlines can deny animals that are too large or too heavy to be in the cabin and can prohibit animals younger than four months.
Photo: A dog on a plane. Julio Cortez / AP