Thinking about visiting family or taking a long vacation with your emotional support animal once the pandemic is over?

On Thursday, December 10, 2020, the US Department of Transportation, reported a final rule effective January 11, 2011 that will affect the transport of service animals by air. The rule amends the former ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act) regulation with the intention to ensure air transportation is safe for the traveling public as well as accessibility to individuals with disabilities.

The Good News for Dogs:

The new rule defines a service animal as a “dog” that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a “qualified individual” with a disability. The breed or type of dog does not matter as long as the passenger attests to the dog’s training and good behavior and certifies the animal’s good health.
The new rule also permits airlines to limit the number of service animals that one passenger can bring on board to two.

For the Rest of Our Animal Friends:

The new definition of “service animal” by the DOT brought its definition in line with the Department of Justice’s existing definition for a service animal. The DOT did publish a couple of Notice(s) of Potential Rule Making for comment and then analyzed the numerous comments received in return. After review, the conclusion was made to use the strict standard proposed. However, the DOT noted “ that airlines may choose to continue to transport emotional support animals without charge at their discretion.”

Misrepresentation as a Service Animal is a Federal Offense

As stated above, the DOT has required that three federal forms be submitted prior to a service animal being allowed to board a flight. The Department stated that although the DOJ does not allow these types of forms, “…it would be appropriate for airlines to require these forms to ensure that the animal does not pose a health or safety risk to other passengers or service animals before boarding the cabin of the aircraft.” The forms state that “…it would be a Federal crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001, to make false statements or representations to secure disability accommodations.”

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