New rule cracks down on emotional help animals on planes

(CNN) – Airlines don’t have to treat emotional support animals as service animals, a new rule states.

The US Department of Transportation rule announced on Wednesday states that “porters are not required to recognize animals with emotional support as service animals and potentially treat them as pets.”

Air carriers are also allowed to restrict service animals to dogs.

Defined the final rule for air travel with service animals a service animal as “a dog, regardless of breed or type, individually trained to perform work or duties for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including any physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.”

Emotional support animals are prescribed by mental health professionals to provide comfort and support to their owners. However, unlike service animals, they do not need to be trained in specific tasks.

The airlines asked DOT to do so regulate this problem in part because of their concern that passengers are fraudulently posing as the loosely defined and toll-free category of emotional support animals.

Flying a small pet in the cabin can cost $ 125 or more each way on US carriers.

The new regime was also triggered by an increase in complaints from passengers with disabilities about service animals, a lack of clarity on the definition of “service animal”, misconduct by animals with emotional support and disruption from “requests to transport unusual species on board aircraft” , “after the DOT.

Pigs, peacocks and other unexpected animals have previously flown as emotional support animals.

Praise from the aviation industry

Airlines for America, a trading group for US airlines, welcomed the new rule.

“Airlines are committed to promoting accessibility for passengers with disabilities and ensuring their safe travel. The final rule of the Department of Transport protects the traveling public and crew from untrained animals in the cabin and improves accessibility for passengers with disabilities to travel You with trained service dogs, “said Nicholas E. Calio, President and CEO of A4A, in a statement.

American Airlines is also happy with the rule.

“This new rule reflects respect for people with disabilities traveling with legitimate service animals that we share, and provides clear and practical guidelines that will eliminate system abuse that was a concern of our team members and customers.” “said AA spokesman Stacy Day.

“We look forward to the enhanced experience we can offer our customers, especially those with legitimate service animals.”

The new regulation enables airlines to require passengers traveling with service animals to fill out and submit a DOT form “which confirms the animal’s education and good behavior and certifies the animal’s health”.

According to DOT, approximately 15,000 comments were received in response to a notice of the proposed rule that was published in the federal register in February 2020.

These comments were taken into account in drawing up the final rule.

The rule comes into force 30 days after its publication in the federal register. The release date has not been set.

“We find peacocks with emotional support ridiculous too.”

Previously, a passenger traveling with an animal for emotional support had to present a letter from a licensed medical professional to their airline.

CertaPet, one of several services offering screening and letters to animals with emotional support, described the rule as “a major disadvantage for those facing mental health problems who receive emotional support from their animal”.

The company said in a statement that “providing clear guidelines for certification and review companies in the industry” would have been a better solution.

“We understand that there have been incidents where animals with emotional support and the services they provide have been discredited, but these situations could be prevented through increased regulation,” the telehealth company’s statement said. “We find peacocks with emotional support ridiculous too.”

CNN’s Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.

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