DOT proposed rule: Service dogs only

 

The U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed new rules for animals in airline cabins, allowing airlines to ban any animal other than a trained, certified service dog. The new rule would put an end to what one commenter called "Noah's Ark in the air."

The animal issue has seesawed back and forth over the past two years. No one is questioning seeing-eye and similar service dogs flying with passengers, but a wide variety of animals, ranging from small pets to dangerous exotics has been claimed as 'emotional support animals' that calm their owners.

But since there is no defined training or certification for ESAs, and since the internet is full of services offering to sell certificates that their owner needs the support, it's become a loophole for people who just want to travel with their pets, who have been involved in a long series of incidents on airliners, with bites, fights and feces featuring prominently.

Last August's DOT guidance in advance of rule-making told airlines that they could not decide what animals or what breeds were acceptable and were essentially told to take all. The pendulum has now swung the other way, with strong support for the new rule from service dog organizations, the American Kennel Club and several airline employee and passenger organizations.

There's a 60-day period for public comment before the rule becomes final. Airlines would not be barred from accepting ESAs, but they would not be required to accept them.

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