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Feds Say Airlines Can Ban Emotional Support Animals

Agency tightens definition of service animals
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 2, 2020 12:42 PM CST

(Newser) – The government has decided that when it comes to air travel, only dogs can be service animals, and companions used for emotional support don't count. The Transportation Department issued a final rule Wednesday that aims to settle years of tension between airlines and passengers who bring their pets on board for free by saying they need them for emotional support, the AP reports. For years, the department required airlines to allow animals with passengers who had a doctor's note saying they needed the animal for emotional support. Airlines believed passengers abused the rule to bring a menagerie of animals on board including cats, turtles, pigs, and, in one case, a peacock.

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The agency said Wednesday that it was rewriting the rules partly because passengers carrying unusual animals on board "eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals.” It also cited the increasing frequency of people "fraudulently representing their pets as service animals," and a rise in misbehavior by emotional-support animals The new rule will allow airlines to force passengers with emotional-support animals to check them into the cargo hold—and pay a pet fee—or leave them at home. The agency estimated airlines will gain up to $59.6 million a year in pet fees. Under the final rule, which takes effect in 30 days, a service animal is a dog trained to help a person with a physical or psychiatric disability.

(Read more emotional support animal stories.)

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