US Department Of Transportation (DOT) Service Animals New Regulations

Mar 26,2021

Service dogs become an integral part of many people’s lives who need to fight daily challenges because of a disability. Traveling with a pet as well as traveling with a service dog is a subject of government and company policies, that need to be considered. When deciding to have a service dog, people should be familiar with their rights, but also with their responsibilities when traveling with service animals.

Service Animals are a subject of the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and are determined dogs of any breed who are trained to perform specific tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Disability types may vary and include physical as well as sensory, mental, psychiatric, or intellectual impairments. The tasks that a service dog performs need to be directly related to their handler’s disability.

An important clarification has been made so that people can be familiar with the species that are qualified as service animals.

Only dogs are accepted as service animals. Other species, as well as emotional support animals (ESA), companionship, or comforting animals, do not fit in the term “service animal”.

If you are interested in the latest changes in regard to service animals, enforced by DOT, you might want to keep reading.

What Do You Need To Consider If You Want To Travel With An Animal Of Different Species?

As already mentioned above dogs will be recognized by airlines as service animals, and they will be granted access to domestic flights and also to flights from and to the US. If you would like to take an animal from different species, you need to know the airline's regulations in this matter. Airlines are allowed to transport different animals, but this is not mandatory.

Can A Service Dog Transportation Be Denied By Airlines?

Yes, it can, and we will mention some circumstances where a service dog may not be allowed to fly.

A service dog needs to meet the safety requirements of the airlines. With that in mind, he/she can be denied access to a flight if he/she can not be accommodated in the cabin because of his/her size or weight.  The health and safety of other passengers, crew members, and airline employees must be granted that is why a service dog needs to be well-behaved. If he/she threatens the safety or heath of others, his/her presence will be prohibited. A disturbing behavior at airport gates or in the cabin will be considered a violation of the flight regulations and the presence of the animal may not be allowed.

Another reason why the presence of your service dog may be prohibited does not refer to his/her size or behavior but to all documentation, you are requested to provide when traveling. If you do not hand the properly completed DOT forms over to the airline employees, your dog may not be allowed to accompany you.

Is An Animal A Service Animal Or Just A Pet?

In order to ensure that an animal is on duty, and it is not just a pet, airlines staff is allowed to ask you: 

Is your dog accompanying you due to a disability, and what is the specif task he/she has been trained to perform?

If an animal wears a vest, harness, or a tag and is on a leash, it is likely to be determined as a service animal by the airline's employees.

The dog’s behavior will be evaluated- a trained service animal is expected to behave properly in public spaces, not be distracted by other people or objects, not pull on a leash or try to sniff around. Good obedience and socializing skills are an indicator of proper training.

Service Animals During Domestic Flights- What Do You Need To Consider

When onboard your service animal is allowed to sit under the seat in front of you. If you want to keep your dog on your lap, you need to remember that only some smaller animals are allowed to this. Of course, this position of the dog must not pose a threat to the safety or health of others. Spaces important due to safety reasons, like an aisle or an emergency exit, should stay open to use. The access to these spaces must be unimpeded.

Your service dog should behave properly and not engage in activities like barking, running around, or invading the personal space of other passengers.

It is important to mention that some animals are trained to bark to alert their handlers as part of their service work.

If an animal is misbehaving, he/she will not be accepted as a service dog. You can not expect or request a better service class because of the accommodation needs of your service animal.

However, you need to keep in mind that despite these requirements, your dog can not be denied access only because a passenger or a crew member feels uncomfortable in his/her presence.

International Flights Regulations

If you have decided to travel with your service animal internationally, you need to be familiar with the requirements and regulations of the foreign country you are going to travel to.

We want to note that not all countries allow service animals from foreign countries. You always should review the regulations of the destination/transit country first, as additional requirements may be enforced or the presence of a service animal may be prohibited.

Rights Violation

As your accommodation rights are granted under the Air Carrier Access Act, you can contact a Complaints Resolution Official (CRO) directly, in case that these have been violated. Airlines must provide an expert on accommodation issues for people with a disability at the airport, or by telephone. This service should be provided for the individual free of charge during the airline’s operation time.

The Latest Updates Of The Rules For Flying With Service Animals

As we already stated at the beginning of this article, only dogs will be accepted as service animals. They need to perform specif tasks that help a person with a disability.

Emotional Support Animals (ESA) are no longer considered service animals

Psychiatric Service Animals must be treated by airlines the same way as other service animals

Airlines are allowed to request completed DOT forms in regard to the animal’s health, training or behavior. In addition, a dog handler must ensure that the dog he/she is accompanied by will not urinate/defecate during the flight, or it will make it properly.

If a flight is booked more than 48 hours prior to travel, airlines are permitted to request completed DOT forms not later than 48 hours before departure. Airlines may not require you to check-in physically at the airport when traveling with a service animal.

People with a disability accompanied by a service dog are allowed to check-in online. At the travel date, you may be asked to provide the necessary DOT forms for service animals at the departure gate.

Up to two animals may be the maximum number of service dogs allowed to accompany one passenger. Airlines may require your service dog to be able to fit in the foot space of his/her handler during the flight. Carriers are permitted to request restraint devices at the airport as well as during the flight, like a harness or leash in order to ensure that the animal will be tied up at all times. As we already explained animals with disturbing/not proper/aggressive behavior may not be allowed to accompany you. 

It is important to note that carriers may not prohibit the presence of an animal only because of his/her breed.

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