The DOT has clarified its guidelines regarding airline support animal policies

It’s no secret that airline support animal policies have been the subject of controversy in recent years. So this month, the Department of Transportation has stepped in to clarify some things.

Per the AP (via Skift), the biggest takeaways include the clarification “that airline employees can bar any animal they consider a safety threat. Airlines, however, can be punished if they ban an entire dog or cat breed, such as pit bulls.” Delta, for example, has in the past banned pit bulls from its cabins. It will likely reevaluate that policy. In addition, writes the AP, “the department’s enforcement office said that it doesn’t plan to stop airlines from asking passengers ‘reasonable’ questions about a service animal’s vaccinations, training, and behavior. Airlines can require advance notice if passengers plan to bring an emotional support animal — several already do — but can’t impose the same requirement for service animals such as guide dogs for the blind.”

There’s more to the announcement, which USA TODAY sums up well in this post.

What inspired the clarification?

Concerns about abuse of airline service animal polices (including on this site) have been loud in recent years. What notably may have most immediately inspired the action, though, was an incident in late July in which an American Airlines flight attendant had to get stitches after being bitten by an emotional support dog. Following that, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA called for changes. And it seems they may get them.

What’s next in the world of airline support animal policies?

More and bigger changes to the DOT’s regulation of airline support animal policies may be ahead. Per the AP, “the priorities announced Thursday could serve as a warm-up for new regulations that the department hopes to enact by next summer. On a call with reporters, a senior department official declined to say what might be in those rules.”

 

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