LIEB BLOG

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Thursday, December 10, 2020

Service Animals, Not Emotional Support Animals, on Airplanes - The Law is Changing on January 11, 2021

The US Department of Transportation just added a new wrinkle into your post-pandemic travel plans if you have an emotional support animal. According to new regulations, effective January 11, 2021, carriers can consider emotional support animals to be pets and therefore, make no special accommodations for you even if you are emotionally disabled and need such emotional support animal to function. This is a particularly troublesome decision by the US Government for veterans suffering from PTSD and autistic individuals who both often need emotional support animals to function. 


The new regulations also have enhanced rules for disabled passengers with service animals. A service animal is now defined as a "dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability." As a result, if you have a service monkey or peacock, too bad - these animals don't count anymore. Previously, they did as per the Department of Transportation's website and pursuant to a 2008 regulation (14 CFR 382.117).  


Even if your service animal is a dog, there are other rules that you still need to know. The Department of Transportation is created a form that can be required for travelers requesting an accommodation. This form requires that you certify that your animal is trained, has good behavior, and good health. Additionally, the form can be required up to 48 hours before flights or at the departure gate for animals that will be transported in the cabin. Finally, the regulations allow carriers to require service animals to be harnessed, leashed, or otherwise tethered while onboard. 


It is imperative that airlines train their teams about these new regulations and travelers are immediately noticed about their lessoned rights and heightened obligations.





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