Emotional support animals no longer considered service animals on US flights, according to DOT

For years people have been testing airlines to see what pets they can bring on board for free by claiming them as emotional support animals.

But now the Department of Transportation is changing their rules because passengers have “eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals.”

Only dogs will be allowed in the cabin as a service animal, pets flying as emotional support companions must be checked into the cargo-hold.

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Over the year there have been ducks, a turkey, a kangaroo, a squirrel, and probably countless more that have gone undetected by the internet.

While these odd lot of animals provide comfort to their owners, they often, but not always, cause trouble in the cabin for other passengers and crew.

And that’s typically because they are emotional support animals and not service animals, the latter being a dog specifically trained to assist their owner with a disability.

Prior to Wednesday’s final ruling, under the Air Carrier Access Act, the DOT allowed both service animals and emotional support animals to fly for free in the cabin. Some airlines banned certain animals, but the majority of the airlines accepted a range of pets onboard as long as they weren’t too large or didn’t pose a threat to the health and safety of others.

If you were traveling with an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal, airlines could request documentation and/or a 48-hour advance notice.

But since the animals traveled for free, many began “fraudulently representing their pets as service animals.”

The increase created problems for those who legitimately needed a service animal.

Plus, as emotional support animals do not go through rigorous training, there were many instances of misbehavior on a plane.

According to the final ruling, which will take effect in 30 days, a service animal will only include a dog that is trained to help a person with a physical or psychiatric disability.

The dog’s owner will have to account for the animal’s health, behavior, and training, and they may have to provide documentation 48 hours in advance.

Any other animals, such as emotional support animals, will be subject to a pet fee and must be checked into the cargo-hold.

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