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DOT Rules on Airplanes and Animals: Key Takeaways

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Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced they are revising the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regarding the transportation of service animals by air.

Below are our key takeaways from the Department of Transportation's final rule:

The term "service animal" is defined as a dog, regardless of the breed or type, that is trained to work or perform tasks to the benefit of a qualified individual that is disabled - including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

It will allow airlines to recognize emotional support animals as pets, rather than service animals, and permits them to limit the number of service animals accompanied by one passenger on an airplane to 2 service animals.

Airlines can now require passengers to provide forms developed by the Department of Transportation clearly disclosing the service animal's health, behavior, training, and if taking a long flight, confirming whether the service animal can relieve itself in a sanitary manner. Airlines will retain the right to refuse transportation to service animals exhibiting aggressive behavior that poses a direct threat to the health and safety of other passengers.

Passengers traveling with a service animal may be required to provide their DOT service animal form up to 48 hours in advance of travel date if the reservation is made prior to that time frame. As well as allowing airlines to require a disabled passenger traveling with a service animal to provide their DOT forms at the departure gate on their travel date.

Airlines cannot require disabled passengers traveling with a service animal to physically check-in at the airport instead of checking-in online. But they can require passengers to keep their service animals harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times in the airport and aircraft, as well as holding the right to require service animals to fit within the handler's foot space on the aircraft.

The final rule changes made by the Department of Transportation not only tightens the restrictions of traveling with a service animal, but also increases the overall authority of airlines to now refuse passengers who do not meet these rules or requirements.

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