Emotional Support Animals May Not Be Allowed To Travel With You On Your Next Flight

No longer considered service animals, in accordance with new rules issued by the Department of Transportation, passengers might have to check their pets into the cargo hold for a fee.

It’s a sad day for the Emotional Service Animal (ESA) owners of the world.

According to a final ruling issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Wednesday, major changes to the rules around flying with animals are underway.

Most notably, animals with Emotional Support Animal status will no longer be considered service animals and could be subjected to flying in cargo for a fee.

Until today, airlines would only require passengers to provide a doctor’s note stating that they needed the animal for emotional support. The issue has been the subject of major controversy over the years, causing major rifts amongst passengers and airline personnel. In the end, the DOT says they received more than 15,000 comments on the proposed ruling.

The final decision, which was made in accordance with the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), will go into effect within 30 days. Here’s a look at some of the changes you can expect to find around traveling with pets:

  • Defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability;
  • No longer considers an emotional support animal to be a service animal;
  • Requires airlines to treat psychiatric service animals the same as other service animals;
  • Allows airlines to require forms developed by DOT attesting to a service animal’s health, behavior and training, and if taking a long flight attesting that the service animal can either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner;
  • Allows airlines to require individuals traveling with a service animal to provide the DOT service animal form(s) up to 48 hours in advance of the date of travel if the passenger’s reservation was made prior to that time;
  • Prohibits airlines from requiring passengers with a disability who are traveling with a service animal to physically check-in at the airport instead of using the online check-in process; 
  • 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;
  • Allows airlines to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals.

Here’s a look at the DOT’s final rule on Traveling by Air with Service Animals.

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