Flying with your ESA2017-02-20
What are the New Rules for Emotional Support Animals on Flights?
In January 2021, the Department of Transportation (DOT) came out with a new final ruling that amends the Air Carrier Access Act. The new rule states that emotional support animals are no longer a protected class of animal and airlines are no longer required to allow them on flights. Service Dogs, which are animals that are trained to perform a specific task, are allowed on flights by passengers are now required to submit a form before flying stating that the dog has been trained, is in good health, and can properly perform a specific task for its owner.
You can read the DOT’s entire report and analysis here in this 122 page in-depth summary. We combed through the entire report to save you some time.
The following bullet points outline the DOT’s final ruling that impacts both ESA and service dog owners alike.
Summary of ESA Changes on Airlines
· The definition of a service dog only applies to dogs- not other animals- that have been trained to perform a specific task to benefit an individual with a physical, psychiatric, or mental disability.
· Emotional Support Animals do not fall under the category of service animals.
· Psychiatric service dogs are considered to be under the same guidelines as service dogs and are not considered emotional support animals.
· In the past miniature horses were allowed on flights as trained service animals. However, only service dogs are allowed on flights going forward. There are no size and breed restrictions for service dogs.
· A US Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form must be filled out before a flight.
· A U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Relief Attestation must be filled out by service dog owners for flights over 8 hours.
· While more than one ESA used to be allowed on flights, there is now a limit of two service dogs per passenger.
· Service Dogs must also fit under the seat in front of the passenger. While there aren’t specific service dog size requirements, this will require the service dog owner to determine the best course of action given the constraint.
· Service dogs are now required to be leashed throughout the airport and on flights.
· Airlines are not allowed to prohibit certain dog breeds as service dogs.
· A physical check in with an airline cannot be enforced against passengers with service dogs. Rather, they must allow for an online option.
· Typical advance notice forms should be provided up to 48 hours before the flight by the passenger to ensure for smooth conduct.
Which Airlines Allow Emotional Support Animals?
As of January 2021, the following airlines have changed their rules regarding emotional support animals on flights and no longer allow animals with these designations to fly free of charge. Some of these airlines have stated they will allow passengers who have already purchased tickets to fly with their ESA’s until February 1, 2020. However, these same airlines will no longer allow new passengers booking tickets to bring their ESA’s and must pay the extra fee.
Southwest Airlines has not yet changed its emotional support animal policy, but said that it will announce any policy changes and a timeline for those changes this year.
International airlines have yet to come up with new guidance in reaction to the new US guidance. Since airlines continue to update their policies in real-time, we urge readers of this article to double check ESA travel status with any airline not mentioned above. ESA’s are still protected by the Fair Housing Act and allowed to live with their owners in pet-free housing.
Final Thoughts on ESA Rule Changes
At ESA Registration we will provide up to date information on the rules governing ESA’s. We believe in transparency and want to make sure consumers have all the information they need to make informed decisions about their pets. While we are saddened to see the Department of Transportation’s Ruling, we will stand by our community offering high quality products and online therapy assessment services for pet parents to who value their ESA’s. Going forward we will only offer ESA letters for airlines that continue to accept them- such as certain international carriers- but reserve the right to stop offering ESA travel letters should rule changes make travel impossible.
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