Airlines Can Now Ban Emotional Support Animals From Flights

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Airlines Can Now Ban Emotional Support Animals From FlightsPA Images

Airlines in the US can now ban ’emotional support pets’ from flights.

Back in 2018, the Department of Transportation issued guidance which noted it would ensure carriers ‘continue to accept the most commonly used service animals… i.e., dogs, cats, and miniature horses for travel’, adding: ‘We may take enforcement action against carriers for failing to transport other service animals on a case-by-case basis.’


The criteria for having a ‘support animal’ was broad, and it eventually led to a number of strange creatures being brought onboard flights, including pigs, turkeys and snakes.

Emotional Support DogsPA Images

Yesterday, December 3, the agency has changed its tune in response to a various complaints from ‘individuals with disabilities, airlines, flight attendants, airports, other aviation transportation stakeholders, and other members of the public, regarding service animals on aircraft’.

The rules no longer require emotional support pets to be accepted as service animals. ‘The final rule defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability,’ the guidance reads.

Airlines Service AnimalsPA Images

This also comes after recorded cases of people ‘fraudulently representing their pets as service animals’, such as a woman in 2018 who tried to fly with her peacock (which she had booked a seat for) and a 2014 passenger who was booted off the plane after their pig pooped in the cabin, as per BuzzFeed News.

There are a slew of other restrictions available to airlines now, such as the option to require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space. Airlines can also request that any dog be harnessed, leashed or tethered at all times in the airport and on the plane.

The rules also permit airlines to ‘refuse transportation to service animals that exhibit aggressive behavior and that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others’.

Airlines can't bar pit bulls or other breeds from cabins, feds sayPA Images

The latter rule became the subject of controversy in 2018 when Delta Air Lines cracked down on emotional support animals, having received reports of ‘comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more’ flying onboard.

However, the company also decided to ban ‘bull type dogs’ from flights, attributed in a statement to ‘growing safety concerns following recent incidents in which several employees were bitten’.

The agency guidance on animal transport specifically notes that airlines are prohibited from ‘refusing to transport a service animal solely based on breed’. Despite widespread backlash to Delta’s movie, the airline later doubled down and maintains its pit bull restriction to this day.


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Topics: Animals, Airline, News, Now, US


US Department of Transportation and 1 other
  1. US Department of Transportation

    U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Final Rule on Traveling by Air with Service Animals

  2. BuzzFeed News

    Airlines In The US Can Now Ban Emotional Support Animals From Flights

Cameron Frew
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