New Rules for Service Animals on Planes Are Taking Shape

October 13, 2019

The US Department of Transportation announced this summer that it will issue new guidelines on service animals on board. The agency issued a list of enforcement priorities to gain insight into how to make rules based on this growing problem.

This is an increasingly serious problem. American Airlines (A4A) is the trade organization representing most of the country’s largest airlines and is a major supporter of the development of new standards. Recently, the company pointed out that the growth of on-board service animals far exceeds the growth of passengers in the past few years.

A4A said in a statement: “In 2017, the number of emotional support animals (ESA) on American Airlines flights increased by nearly 60%, in stark contrast to the 3.1% increase in passenger numbers.” “In 2018, although growing The rate ‘decreases’ to 14%, but still much higher than the 4.7% increase in passenger numbers.”

According to A4A, “increased passengers using untrained ESA also cause unacceptable animals to have animal events in flight, [including] urinating, biting and other injuries dramatically increasing.”

Service animal rules that are about to appear on the plane
As a “legal enforcement priority,” DOT’s latest actions are primarily to lay the groundwork for a rulemaking process. DOT’s approach is to give airlines discretion to deny service animals based on a wide range of criteria and not to “act for airlines that require users to provide documentation related to vaccination, training or behavior…as long as… The documentation will help airlines determine whether animals pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.”

Some examples of these execution priorities:

Animal type: “Priority will be given to ensuring that the most commonly recognized service animals (dogs, cats and miniature horses) are transported. However, if airlines categorically refuse to transport other species that need to be transported according to current regulations, the airline will still be subject to The constraints of law enforcement actions.”
In-flight containment measures: “The Ministry of Defence Enforcement Office will consider the containment of all service animals on a case-by-case basis, with a focus on rationality. Usually, in the control of animal animals in the cabin, it is permitted in the US Disability Act. The tether and similar methods to control the animal are reasonable.”
Weight: “According to the US Department of Commerce’s disability regulations, airlines may refuse to transport service animals that are too large or too heavy to fit in the cabin. The law enforcement office believes that regardless of the type of aircraft flying, An absolute ban on animals weighing more than a certain weight is inconsistent with the regulations.”
Age: The department’s disability regulations do not specify the minimum age for service animals. However, all service animals (including ESA) should be trained to behave in public. Often, the US Department of Commerce’s law enforcement office does not treat airlines as a service animal that is less than four months old, as some airlines do. This is illegal.

In the case of A4A, it issued a letter in support of priorities, stating that DOT’s position is “a good step to address the damage caused by untrained emotional support animals (ESAs) growing unrestricted on the aircraft,” And called for DOT to take action. “Protect the legal rights of disabled passengers to take service animals and adopt the definition of service animals of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).” Stay tuned for further updates later this year.