The U.S. is tightening the definition of service animals allowed on aircraft

The government has decided that when it comes to air travel, only dogs can be service animals and companions used for emotional support don’t matter.

The Department of Transportation on Wednesday issued a final rule aimed at relieving tensions between airlines and passengers who bring their pets on board for free, saying they need emotional support.

For years, the department has required airlines to admit passengers to animals who have had a medical note stating that they need emotional support for the animal. Airlines believed that passengers abused the rule by bringing zoos on board, including cats, turtles, pigs and in one case a peacock.

The agency said on Wednesday that it would rewrite the rules in part because passengers carrying unusual animals on board “destroyed trust in legal service animals”. He mentioned the increasing frequency of people “fraudulently representing their pets as service animals” and the increase in misbehavior of emotionally supportive animals.

The new rule forces passengers with emotionally supportive animals to check in the hold – and pay a pet fee – or leave them at home. The agency estimates that airlines could make profits of up to $ 59.6 million a year.

The final rule, which takes effect within 30 days, is a service animal is a dog that is trained to help a person with a physical or psychiatric disability. Advocates from veterans and others called for the involvement of psychiatric service dogs.

Airlines may require owners to vouch for a dog’s health, behavior, and training. Airlines may require people with a service dog to load paperwork up to 48 hours before the flight, but may not deny passengers online check-in like other passengers.

Airlines may require service dogs to be kept on a leash at all times and may also prohibit dogs showing aggressive behavior. There have been emotional supportive animals that have bitten passengers.

The Department of Transportation has advocated an earlier decision banning airlines from banning the entire breed of dog. This is to the detriment of Delta Air Lines, which banned “pitbull-type dogs” in 2018. This move has been criticized by disability advocates.

However, Delta does not point to a setback. A Delta spokesman said in a statement that the airline is reviewing the new rule, but “There is currently no change in Delta’s current animal service and support policy.”