US officials have come up with a proposal to limit the kinds of “emotional support” animals that airlines allow on board airplanes for free.
The US Department of Transportation proposed to limit “emotional support” animals allowed on planes to dogs that are trained to help people with disabilities. The proposal was made in response to concerns that more passengers are falsely claiming pets as “service animals”.
Prior to implementation, the proposal will be subject to public comment. Under the proposed changes, the so-called emotional support animals will no longer be entitled to the same rights as “service animals”.
Psychiatric service animals would be required to have training in order to be classified as such. Airlines in the US welcomed the proposal as they have raised concern over the increasing number of animals traveling in plane cabins which has led to complaints and incidents such as biting.
Nicholas Calio, president of industry lobby Airlines for America, said: “Airlines want all passengers and crew to have a safe and comfortable flying experience, and we are confident the proposed rule will go a long way in ensuring a safer and healthier experience for everyone.”
The proposed changes will make the US implement a similar approach to that of the UK, where “emotional support” animals are not recognized and only guide dogs, and dogs that help people with disabilities are allowed on flights.
In recent years, US passengers have tried bringing turkeys, peacocks and squirrels inside plane cabins, which have drawn attention to the issue and prompted some airlines to implement stricter rules.
American Airlines prohibited flying with frogs, ferrets, hedgehogs and goats, even if they are therapy animals. Meanwhile, Delta Airlines in 2018 reported that some passengers “attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes” and spiders.
The new proposal would allow US airlines to limit the number of animals passengers may bring with them, impose size rules and require paperwork certifying their service animals.