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DOT Moves to Limit Types of Animals Permitted on Airplanes

SmarterTravel

After a long period of silence after saying last year that inflight animal rules would change, the Department of Transportation is now officially soliciting public comments on new rules about animals in an airline cabin.

The proposed changes would primarily apply to:

  • Limiting service “animals” to dogs that are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability” and
  • Limiting emotional support and psychiatric service animals to those designated as service animals: namely, trained dogs.

As I read it, that probably means airlines are saying no more miniature horses, ferrets, peacocks, etc. that have made headlines in recent years. However, the changes also would preclude airlines from refusing to transport a trained dog solely on the basis of breed.

A stated purpose of the initiative is to reduce “the likelihood that passengers wishing to travel with their pets on aircraft will be able to falsely claim their pets are service animals.”

These changes would not affect airline policies about non-service pets. Airline policies, which require pets to be in containers small enough to fit under seats, would remain in effect. Similarly, many airlines can and undoubtedly will continue to limit in-cabin pets to small dogs and cats, and to exclude short-muzzle breeds.

I’ll admit to a personal bias against miniature horses in an airline cabin. But whether you agree with me or not, you can make your voice heard by logging on to regulations.gov, entering the docket number DOT-OST-2018-0068, and submitting a comment on the proposal.

But if you’re vehemently against the proposal, don’t get your hopes too high. In my experience, once DoT gets to this point, it has pretty well hardened its position.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

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