Published: Thu, January 23, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Possible ban on emotional support animals on U.S. planes

Possible ban on emotional support animals on U.S. planes

The US Transportation Department on Wednesday announced plans to tighten rules around service animals, the biggest change being that only dogs could qualify.

The next time you fly on a commercial airline, you many notice fewer emotional support peacocks, rabbits, goats or other creatures sharing the cabin.

The department said the proposal "is meant to ensure a safe and accessible air transportation system" and will be open for public comment, adding it "wants to ensure that individuals with disabilities can continue using their service animals".

"Untrained pets should never roam free in the aircraft cabin", the union said.

Under the proposed rule, passengers who want to travel with a trained service dog can fill out forms that attest to a service animal's good behavior, good health, and for a long flight, that it "has the ability to either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner".

"Animals on aircraft may pose a risk to the safety, health, and well-being of passengers and crew and may disturb the safe and efficient operation of the aircraft", the proposal says. "Flight attendants have been hurt and safety has been compromised by untrained animals loose in the cabin".

Instead, airlines would only be required to accept service animals, which would be defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability, according to a United States DOT spokesperson.

Members of the public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rule. Currently, passengers have been allowed to bring many other animals if they have a medical professional's note saying they need the animal for emotional support.

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Some animal lovers and nervous fliers may squawk but the USA government wants a definitive "neigh" to the question of passengers bringing rabbits, turtles, birds, miniature horses and other unusual emotional support animals on planes in future, especially free of charge.

"Airlines want all passengers and crew to have a safe and comfortable flying experience, and we are confident the proposed rule will go a long way in ensuring a safer and healthier experience for everyone", said Nicholas E. Calio, CEO of Airlines for America, a trade association.

The Department of Transportation has proposed to restrict that right to dogs that are trained to help people with disabilities. And nowhere is that more evident than on airplanes, where it seems a new headline about someone abusing the system and injuring or annoying their fellow passengers pops up nearly every day.

Furthermore, airlines would be allowed to recognize all other animals as pets.

However, the airlines would be prohibited from refusing to transport a service animal based exclusively on its breed or general physical type such as a pit bull terrier.

The proliferation of animals has led to conflict and sometimes injury, but because federal law doesn't address the issue of emotional support animals, airlines have had little recourse except to accommodate them. The result, the industry and Transportation Department have said, is an increase in incidents such as bitings aboard planes.

The proposal also come with new check-in rules for passengers looking to fly with service animals, requiring them to arrive at the airport at least an hour earlier than passengers flying without animals.

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