Published on Thursday, January 23, 2020

US authorities look to tighten rules over emotional support animals

The U.S. Department of Transportation wants to completely rewrite rules governing the carriage of emotional support animals.

It plans to change the definition of a service animal as the 'existing structure has a very broad definition' open to abuse.

It will no longer consider an emotional support animal to be a service animal, and any animal used for a passenger's emotional wellbeing must undergo the same training as conventional service animals.

Due to the training requirements needed, it effectively bans all animals except for dogs.

Airlines will be able to demand special DOT documentation is filled in confirming the animal's training, health and ability to fly safely.

False documentation could become a federal crime.

There will be a limit on two service animals per traveler and airlines will be required to promptly check-in passengers with service animals who are required to be at the airport an extra hour earlier.

"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.

Flight attendants have been especially vocal about the huge increase in emotional support animals and the fraudulent use of medical documentation to avoid paying animal cargo fees.

"The days of Noah's Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end," said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants.

The DOT will open a 60-day public consultation period seeking comments on the proposed changes.

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