New rules will force passengers with emotional support animals to pay the pet fee or leave them at home.
Rule allows airlines to treat ESAs as pets
In December 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a final rule affecting people who fly with emotional support animals. It defines a service animal as “a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to perform work or duties for the benefit of a qualified person with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other intellectual disability. “
Emotional support animals do not meet this definition. While they provide comfort and support to their owners, an ESA’s training does not include performing duties like service animals. The rule goes on to say that airlines “are not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets.”
READ MORE ⇒ How to road trip across the country with pets
The Department of Transportation proposed the new rule in January 2020 and received more than 15,000 comments. While some commenters supported removing protections for service animals, twice as many people supported it, the department said.
The agency partially changed the rule to stem the tide of passengers with unusual animals on board. It also cited the increasing frequency of people “fraudulently presenting their pets as service animals”.
These actions “undermined public confidence in legitimate companion animals.”
Airlines are responding with new guidelines
In response to the new rule, almost all domestic airlines have announced that emotional support animals will no longer fly for free. The following airlines have announced that they will no longer recognize emotional support animals:
Currently, WestJet recognizes emotional support animals and lets them fly in the cabin for free. All other airlines only allow trained assistance dogs to fly in the cabin when not on an airline. And airlines can require people with a service dog to provide documentation certifying the dog’s health, vaccinations, behavior and training up to 48 hours before a flight.
The rule doesn’t allow airlines to bar travelers with service animals from online check-in like other passengers.
The airlines consider all other animals as pets. You can fly in carriers that fit under the seat in the cabin or in the cargo. In any case, owners will have to pay a pet fee, which varies by airline.
It is estimated that airlines make up to $59.6 million a year in pet fees.
Delta addresses pit bull ban
In the new rule, the DoT stuck to a previous ruling on pit bulls. Their ruling prohibits airlines from banning entire breeds of dogs as service animals. This is a setback for Delta Air Lines, which banned “pit bull type dogs” in 2018.
READ MORE ⇒ Denver lifts pit bull ban – should YOU go?
However, Delta is not backing down. In a statement, a Delta spokeswoman said the airline is reviewing the new rule, but, “At this time, there are no changes to Delta’s current animal service and assistance policies.”
More road trips
With airline pet fees starting at $100 each way, pet owners should consider road trips with their furry travel companions. Whether you want to hike in the mountains, romp on the beach or explore a new city, GoPetFriendly will help you do more together.
READ MORE ⇒ The ultimate pet-friendly American road trip
(Visited 606 times, 1 visit today)