New Rules for Flying with Pets
Cat Talk|August 2021
On December 2, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it was revising its Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation on the transport of services animals by air.5 One of the main revisions to the act was airlines would no longer to be required to treat emotional support animals (ESAs) as service animals. Airlines are required to allow service animals to fly in the cabin free of charge with their owners. Prior to this ruling, pets that the traveler needed to provide them with emotional support had been able to fly for no charge. The only documentation a traveler was required to produce was a letter from a licensed mental health professional that the traveler had some sort of emotional disability that required them to travel with a pet.
Lucy Drury

While most ESAs were dogs and cats, passengers attempted to travel with all kinds of pets and exotic animals, including an 80-pound pig and a well-publicized peacock who was denied passage and subsequently died.2 Incidents such as this help explain why the new rules no longer consider ESAs as service animals. While passengers who suffered psychiatric disabilities can still bring service animals with them, it is now the animals who must have documentation, not the owner. USDOT greatly narrowed the definition of a service animal to a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. It is no longer enough for a dog to just sit on its owner’s lap and wag its tail; it must be able to perform specific tasks. Airlines can now require documentation to prove that the dogs could actually perform the task that the owners claimed they needed the dog to perform for them.3

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