News from LINC, Inc

New Rules for Service Animals on Airplanes

    On December 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a final rule to amend the Department’s Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation on the transport of service animals by air carriers. The effective date for this run is January 11th, 2021.   

   The new rule means only specially trained dogs qualify as service animals, which must be allowed in the cabin at no charge. Airlines could ban emotional support animals which include untrained dogs, cats and more exotic companions such as pigs, pheasants, rabbits and snakes. 

Airlines say the number of support animals has grown dramatically and lobbied to crack down on what they consider a scam – passengers who call their pets emotional-support animals to avoid pet fees that generally run more than $100 each way.

For some people with disabilities, this is a step in the right direction, as they are dependent on and reliant on legitimate service animals. A boom in untrained animals threatens the ability to fly with properly trained service dogs. A dog trained to help with psychiatric needs will qualify as a service animal.

On the other side are people who say that an emotional support animal helps them with anxiety or other issues that would prevent them from traveling or make it more stressful. And the argument that a mental illness is just as debilitating as another disability and should require the same kind of accommodation.

But there are incidents of passengers being bitten by support animals, and complaints that the animals relieve themselves on planes and in airports. It’s also hard to remove an out of control animal once the plane is in the air. 

The proposed rules would allow many different breeds of service dogs, including pit bulls, after the passenger has filled out a federal form on which they swear the dog is trained to help them. The rules would also ban the current practice of requiring animal owners to fill out paperwork 48 hours in advance. This practice is unfair to disabled people by preventing them from bringing their service dog on last minute trips.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed changes.  Officials highlighted a few areas where they are most eager to get comments, including whether miniature horses should continue to qualify as service animals.

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