The Americans With Disabilities Act defines a service animal as a dog or miniature horse that is individually trained to mitigate the symptoms of a disability. What most people don’t know is that The Americans With Disabilities Act does not have any bearing on airplane flight. Airplane travel of service animals and emotional support animals is regulated by a different organization all together, the Department of Transportation through the Air Carrier Access Act. Unfortunately this means that the rules apply on the ground do not necessarily hold up in the air. Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) a service animal is defined as “ANY ANIMAL that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support.”
After several recent high profile cases of emotional support animals biting passengers and crew on airplanes, people regularly passing off their pet dogs as emotional support dogs in order to get around transportation fees, the implementation of breed restrictions by some airlines and high profiles cases like the woman who tried to board an airplane with an emotional support peacock, the friendly skies were looking less and less like an airplane and more like a barn yard. About a year ago the Department of Transportation asked for public comment about how they should be addressing the recent problems airlines and passengers had been having.
On August 8th 2019 the Department of Transportation released a 28 page document to clarify what airlines could and could not do. Here is a summary of the regulations that will affect your next flight.
- Puppies younger than 4 months are no longer allowed on airplanes as service dogs
- The only animals the airlines are allowed to refuse access to are “certain unusual species of service animals such as snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders.”
- Breed bans are no longer legal
- There are still no legal requirements that your animal has received ANY TRAINING as a service animal or emotional support animal in order for it to be able to fly on an airplane
Here at Service Dog Academy we were hoping that the Department of Transportation would do SOMETHING to prevent people from being able to bring untrained dogs, barnyard animals and emotional support velociraptors onto airplanes. Turns out, they did almost nothing except restrict a puppy from being able to be socialized to an airplane during its critical socialization window. So what is our advice? Take your puppy to a petting zoo and make sure its exposed to tons of different animals. You don’t want the first time your bird dog sees a peacock to be in a small cylindrical tube, packed with people and various barnyard animals at 30,000 feet in the air. That’s a guaranteed recipe for disaster.
So what do you think of our answer? Do you think the Department of Transportation should have done more to make the skies safer from fraud and prevented the airlines from transporting almost any type of animal for emotional support reasons?