Fliers May Have to Attest Their Pets Are Service Animals

Proposal would limit passengers to humans and dogs
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2020 6:00 PM CST
Fliers May Have to Attest Their Pets Are Service Animals
FILE - In this April 1, 2017 file photo, a service dog strolls through the isle inside a United Airlines plane at Newark Liberty International Airport while taking part in a training exercise in Newark, N.J. The government is telling airlines and passengers how it will enforce rules governing animals...   (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Passengers have taken advantage by bringing miniature horses, monkeys, turkeys, pigs, peacocks, rabbits and, of course, cats aboard their flights, saying they're service animals needed for emotional support, airline employees say. A federal proposal would simplify the rules on service animals by allowing only dogs onto flights, NBC reports. Just dogs. "The days of Noah's Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end," said the head of a flight attendants union, adding that animals let loose to wander the cabin have injured her members. Under current rules, airlines have to allow most any pets aboard, unless they're something like "snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders." The Transportation Department said the number of complaints it receives about misbehaving service animals on flights has jumped from 719 in 2013 to 3,065 in 2018.

The rule would require passengers who say their dog is a service animal to attest, on a federal form, that their pet is trained to perform tasks that help counter the passenger's physical or psychological disability. The penalty for lying on the form would be a fine and possible jail term, per the New York Times. The animal would have to "fit within its handler's foot space." The proposal wasn't welcomed by everyone. The head of nonprofit that advocates for passengers said airlines should make more space on planes for service animals and add better air filtration to guard against allergens. "There is hardly room for the people onboard the plane," he said, "much less an animal." The National Disability Rights Network agreed in a statement that the shrinking space is the problem, and limiting the size of service animals allowed aboard could ground some travelers. "Cramped space on planes is a nuisance to all travelers," the group said, "but it now prevents some people from traveling at all." (A man was mauled by another passenger's emotional support dog on a flight.)

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