• The Department published the new Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) service animal regulation in the Federal Register on December 10, 2020.
• This regulation became effective on January 11, 2021.
DEFINITION OF SERVICE ANIMAL
WHAT IS A SERVICE ANIMAL?
A dog, regardless of breed or type, is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.
WHAT ABOUT EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS?
Treatment: Airlines can now treat emotional support animals as pets.
Airline Pet Policy: Check the airline's pet policy. Some airlines may not transport pets, allow pets to travel in the cabin for a fee, and/or may only transport pets in the cargo hold.
DOES MINIATURE HORSES QUALIFY AS SERVICE ANIMALS UNDER THE ACAA?
No, dogs are the only animal species that qualify as service animals.
Airlines are not required to accommodate miniature horses, rabbits, cats, birds, or other animal species.
HOW CAN AN AIRLINE DETERMINE IF A DOG IS A SERVICE ANIMAL?
Airline can ask the following two questions:
1) Is the animal required to accompany the service animal user because of a disability?
2) What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?
Airlines can observe the animal's behavior.
Service Animals must be trained to behave properly and must be under their handler's control.
They should not be running around freely, barking, growling, urinating, biting or otherwise misbehaving.
Airlines can note of physical indicators such as harnesses, leashes or vests.
Service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times on the aircraft and in carrier-controlled spaces at the airport.
HOW MANY SERVICE ANIMALS CAN A HANDLER BRING ON THE AIRCRAFT?
Airlines are not required to accept more than two service animals per passenger with a disability.
WHERE CAN SERVICE ANIMALS SIT ON THE AIRCRAFT?
Airlines can require that a service animal fit on the passenger's foot space without encroaching onto another passenger's space.
If a passenger travels with two service animals, both must fit on the passenger's lap and/or in the passenger's foot space on the floor.
WHAT CAN THE AIRLINE DO IF A SERVICE ANIMAL ENCROACHES INTO ANOTHER PASSENGERS'S SPACE?
Before refusing to transport a large service animal or two service animals that encroach onto another passenger's space, an airline must first:
Offer the passenger the opportunity to move to a seat in the same class of service where the animal can be accommodated, if available.
Offer the passenger the opportunity to transport the animal in the cargo hold, free of charge.
Offer the passenger the opportunity to fly on a later flight with more space.
WHAT FORMS CAN AN AIRLINE REQUIRE FROM A PASSENGER WITH A SERVICE ANIMAL?
The only forms that airlines are permitted to require from passengers as a condition of traveling with service animals are:
2. A U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Relief Attestation Form—applies to flights eight or more hours.
3. Exception: Forms that are required to comply with requirements from a Federal agency, U.S. territory, or a foreign jurisdiction, e.g. Hawaii animal permit requirements.
• The Department DOT has posted sample accessible PDF versions of the forms on its OACP website: https://www.transportation.gov/individuals/aviation-consumerprotection/service-animals.
• While the DOT form is a fillable PDF, the form should be submitted directly to the airline.
SERVICE ANIMAL AIR TRANSPORTATION FORM
Service Animal users are asked to:
• Attest that their animal’s vaccinations are current.
• Veterinarian attestations are not required.
• Attest to the fact that the animal has been trained and provide the name and contact information of the trainer.
• Acknowledge that they understand that they may be charged for any damage caused by their service animal, so long as airlines charge passengers without disabilities to repair similar kinds of damage.
SERVICE ANIMAL RELIEF ATTESTATION
• Airline can only require this form for flights that are 8 or more hours.
• Service animal users are asked to:
• Describe how their animal will refrain from relieving itself or how it will relieve itself in a sanitary manner.
• Acknowledge that they may be responsible for any damage caused by their service animal, so long as airlines charge passengers without disabilities to repair similar kinds of damage.
CAN AIRLINES REQUIRE DOT FORMS ON EACH LEG OF THE PASSENGER’S TRIP?
No! Airlines cannot require DOT forms each time the passenger flies. Airlines can require DOT forms on a per-trip basis (the first flight on the passenger’s reservation).
CAN AIRLINES REQUIRE PASSENGERS TO SUBMIT DOT FORMS IN ADVANCE?
Reservation made more than 48 hours before the flight: Airlines can require forms in advance or at the passenger’s gate. If a passenger doesn’t provide the forms in advance, the airline must still try to accommodate the passenger by making reasonable efforts without delaying the flight.
Reservation made less than 48 hours before the light: Airlines cannot require DOT forms in advance. Airlines can require the forms at the passenger’s gate.
CAN AN AIRLINE REQUIRE A PASSENGER TO PHYSICALLY CHECK IN AT THE AIRPORT TO CHECK DOT FORMS RATHER THAN USING THE ONLINE CHECK-IN AVAILABLE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC?
No! Airlines may not require passengers to physically check in at the airport to review service animal forms.
Airlines are also not permitted to require a service animal user to show up at the gate before the time that other passengers on the flight are required to be at the gate in order to check DOT forms.
WHEN CAN AN AIRLINE REFUSE TO TRANSPORT A SERVICE ANIMAL?
• The animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others;
• The animal is disruptive in the cabin or at the gate;
• The animal’s carriage would violate a U.S. or foreign law;
• Current DOT forms weren’t provided as required
DO AIRLINES HAVE TO CONDUCT AN INDIVIDUALIZED ASSESSMENT BEFORE DENYING A SERVICE ANIMAL?
An airline must always conduct an individualized assessment when deciding whether to deny a service animal on the basis that the animal poses a direct threat or is misbehaving.
Before denying transport to a service animal, the airline should see if there are means available short of refusal that would mitigate the problem.
WHAT MUST AN AIRLINE DO IF IT DENIES TRANSPORT TO A SERVICE ANIMAL?
Airlines must provide a service animal user with a statement explaining why it refused to transport the service animal within 10 calendar days of the refusal.