The U.S. DOT (U.S. Department of Transportation Air Transportation), after receiving over 15,000 comments, changed the rules governing service animals on planes. The Department’s service animal final rule makes a number of significant changes to its current Air Carrier Access Act service animal rule. The rule was published in the Federal Register a few weeks later, which clears the way for it to go into effect on Monday, January 11, 2021.
1. Define a service animal as a dog (not another species) who has been individually trained to work or perform tasks to benefit a person with a disability.
This means only dogs can be accepted as service animals and can travel in a cabin. Miniature horses are considered Service Animals under ADA. However, considering their size and travel safety, miniature horses cannot travel in the cabin.
2. No longer consider an emotional support animal to be a service animal.
Airlines would no longer be required to accept emotional support animals. So far, United, American, and Delta Join Alaska have already been banning Emotional Support Animals. Now, when traveling with a support dog or a therapy animal, standard pet-related regulations and restrictions will apply.
3. Require that psychiatric service animals be treated the same as other service animals.
A Psychiatric Service Dog (PSD) is a dog trained to help its handler with a mental health issue such as PTSD, anxiety, panic disorders, depression, or schizophrenia. A Psychiatric Service Dog can provide a sense of calm and anticipate anxiety attacks.
Because psychiatric service animals are individually trained to do work or perform tasks to benefit an individual with a disability, they are subject to the same regulations as other service animals. Airlines would no longer be permitted to require psychiatric service animal users to provide a letter from a licensed mental health professional of the passenger’s need for the animal.
4. Allow carriers to require forms to attest to service animal’s health, training and behavior.
All service dogs should be trained. This rule protects the traveling public and airline crew members from untrained animals in the cabin. It improves air travel accessibility for passengers with disabilities that travel with trained service dogs.
5. Allow carriers to require that those forms be submitted 48 hours before the flight.
We recommend that you contact the airline in advance of your travel date for further information. Additional destination-specific documentation may be required by different airlines for a service animal traveling to certain destinations.
6. Reiterate that carriers cannot prohibit a service animal based on breed (a previous rule that will not change).
7. 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.
This rule is viewed as an additional burden imposed on guide dog handlers.
8. Allows airlines to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals.
Some individuals might require two service animals to assist their daily life.
9. Allows airlines to require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft.
The animal is required to be seated in the floor space directly in front of your seat. This could be problematic for larger service animals.
10. Allows airlines to require that service animals be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times in the airport and on the aircraft.
For ensuring safe and accessible travel experiences for all of our customers.
11. 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; continues to prohibit airlines from refusing to transport a service animal solely based on breed.
DOT Forms Required
U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Relief Attestation Form (Relief Form) (for flights scheduled to take 8 hours or more)
The final rule on Traveling by Air with Service Animals can be found HERE.
For ESA Owners
Here are the dates that some airlines announced they will stop allowing ESAs:
• Delta Airlines - Jan 11th, 2021
• American Airlines - Feb 1st, 2021
• Alaska Airlines - Feb 28th, 2021
• JetBlue Airlines - March 1st, 2021
• Southwest Airlines - March 1st, 2021
This doesn't necessarily mean your ESA will not be able to fly but that they will only be recognized as a pet and will have to follow the airline's pet policy.
Why ESAs got banned?
The Department decided to exclude emotional support animals for various reasons.
Reason 1 This approach reduces confusion among airlines, passengers, airports, and other stakeholders by more closely aligning the Department’s definition of a service animal under the Air Carrier Access Act with DOT’s definition of a service animal under the ADA.
Reason 2 Task-trained service animals are generally provided enhanced training in how to behave in public, while emotional support animals may not have received this degree of training. The Department also found persuasive the information provided by airlines and other stakeholders indicating that emotional support animals, or animals being presented to the airline as emotional support animals, are responsible for a significant percentage of the incidents of animal misbehavior onboard aircraft.
Reason 3 Department predicts that its exclusion of emotional support animals will result in an overall reduction in the number of uncrated animals onboard aircraft, thereby reducing the overall number of animal misbehavior incidents (and the overall number of potential allergic reactions) onboard aircraft.
Can you make an Emotional Support Dog be a Service dog?
Is there any documentation a person would need to provide to prove their emotional support animal meets the requirements to be considered a psychiatric service animal?
The Department does not classify emotional support animals as service animals because providing emotional support, comfort, or companionship does not constitute work or tasks. An airline may treat an emotional support animal as a pet. With respect to documentation, airlines are permitted to require passengers traveling with service animals to provide (1) a DOT form attesting to the animal’s health, behavior, and training, and (2) a DOT form attesting that the animal can either not relieve itself or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner if the animal will be on a flight that is 8 or more hours.
To make your emotional support dog become a qualified Psychiatric Service Dog, you can consider our certified online service dog training course. It's easy to learn and follow; you can learn anytime anywhere with the support of qualified individual service dog trainers throughout the course. For more details, please visit Certified Intensive Psychiatric Service Dog Training Course - Training Your Own Service Dog for PTSD, Anxiety Disorders, and Depression.