US seeks to tighten rules covering service animals on planes
AP – Airlines might soon be able to turn away cats, rabbits and all animals other than dogs that passengers try to bring with them in the cabin.
The U.S. Transportation Department on Wednesday announced plans to tighten rules around service animals. The biggest change would be that only dogs could qualify.
Airlines say the number of support animals has been growing dramatically in recent years, and they have lobbied to tighten the rules.
They also imposed their own restrictions in response to passengers who show up at the airport with pigs, pheasants, turkeys, snakes and other unusual pets.
The U.S. airline industry trade group praised the tighter rules.
“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 Calio, president of Airlines for America.
Veterans groups have sided with the airlines, arguing that a boom in untrained dogs and other animals threatens their ability to fly with properly trained service dogs.
Last year, more than 80 veterans and disability groups endorsed banning untrained emotional-support animals in airline cabins.
Department officials said in a briefing with reporters that they are proposing the changes to ensure safety on flights. They also said some passengers have abused the current rules.
The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed changes, and they could take effect any time after that.
The Transportation Department proposes a narrow definition of a service animal — it would be a dog that is trained to help a person with a physical or other disability. 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.
A dog that is trained to help a passenger with psychiatric needs would continue to qualify as a service animal.
The proposal would prohibit airlines from banning particular types of dog breeds — Delta Air Lines bans pit bulls, for example – but airline employees could refuse to board any animal that they consider a threat to other people.
It would also bar the current practice by many airlines of requiring animal owners to fill out paperwork 48 hours in advance.
A department official said that practice can harm disabled people by preventing them from bringing their service dog on last-minute trips.
Are You Falling for an Emotional Support Animal Scam?
Thousands of people every day are registering their emotional support animal online, but what are they really getting for their money?
The shocking answer is the majority of these people are getting absolutely nothing. If you only read one sentence in this article, read this: you NEED to talk to a board-certified doctor licensed to practice in your state to see if you qualify for a legal ESA letter.
If you didn’t talk to a doctor, you are being sold an unenforceable document that will not get your pet on an airplane or into your apartment building for free. Over the past few months we have reviewed dozens of websites touting cheap ESA doctor’s letters and just about all of them are scams.
While we don’t think it is our place to list which specific companies are scams, here is a list of things to look for to make sure you aren’t being taken advantage of:
Things To Watch Out For
- Instant ESA letter approval – If all you did was answer a few questions online and then are instantly approved for an ESA letter you are being scammed. You must talk to a board-certified doctor licensed to practice in your state, on the phone or in person, in order to find out if you qualify for an ESA letter.
- Shockingly cheap ESA letter – Quite simply, if it is too good to be true, then it probably is. Building a large network of licensed, high quality doctors covering just about every state is both time consuming and costly. These cheap ESA letter companies are cutting corners, typically having you speak to an overseas doctor not licensed to practice in your state, or just generating you a letter with a fake doctor’s name/signature on it. Be careful!
- Registration only websites – If the website “registers” your pet as an emotional support animal, but doesn’t actually have you speak to a doctor, your pet is not eligible for the benefits of an ESA letter (airplane and housing). A certificate with your dog’s name on it is not a substitute for a doctor’s letter.
- Multiple year ESA letters – ESA letters NEED to be renewed every year by talking to a doctor. Any company selling you a multi-year or lifetime ESA doctor’s letter is scamming you.
- Take your pet anywhere claims – An ESA letter gives your pet the right to fly in the cabin of an airplane and live in “not pet policy” housing with no pet security deposit. Any claim beyond that is a lie. You cannot take your pet into public places like restaurants, theaters, libraries, etc. Only service animals have the freedom to go just about anywhere with few restrictions. Source.