Transportation Department proposes limiting service animals on flights to dogs

Transportation Department proposes limiting service animals on flights to dogs
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The Department of Transportation unveiled a proposed rule on Wednesday that would limit service animals on commercial airplanes to dogs that have been professionally trained to assist humans.

The rule, which would end the practice of forcing airlines to allow different kinds of "emotional support" animals to travel in the cabin with passengers, will go through a 60-day public comment period before implementation. If implemented, animals used for emotional support would "require the same training and treatment" as service dogs for those with physical handicaps.

"Today’s NPRM [notice of proposed rulemaking] is intended to ensure a safe and accessible air transportation system. It addresses concerns raised by individuals with disabilities, airlines, flight attendants, airports, other aviation transportation stakeholders, and other members of the public, regarding service animals on aircraft," the department said in a statement.

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"The Department recognizes the integral role that service animals play in the lives of many individuals with disabilities and wants to ensure that individuals with disabilities can continue using their service animals while also reducing the likelihood that passengers wishing to travel with their pets on aircraft will be able to falsely claim their pets are service animals," the statement continued.

A wave of news stories in recent years have described the growing trend of passengers attempting to bring various exotic species on aircraft while claiming them to be necessary for emotional support, including one woman who unsuccessfully attempted to bring a peacock on board a United Airlines flight traveling from Newark to Los Angeles.

Wednesday's proposed rule would also "Allow airlines to require passengers with a disability who are traveling with a service animal to check-in at the airport one hour prior to the travel time required for the general public to ensure sufficient time to process the service animal documentation and observe the animal," a provision that could result in extra time at the airport for some disabled flyers.

“Untrained pets should never roam free in the aircraft cabin,” the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents tens of thousands of flight crewmembers in the U.S., told The New York Times in a statement following the announcement. “The days of Noah’s Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end.”