Webinar: Service Animal Rules When Flying

audio version (opens in a new tab)

I became aware weeks ago about new rules regarding service animals on airplanes. I registered for a February 9 webinar to learn more information. The session was hosted by the Great Lakes ADA Center and entitled

“New Rules: Service Animals and the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA)”.

I experienced difficulty connecting to the live webinar, so I am summarizing presentation materials. In this blog post, I will share what I learned.

The new ACAA rules went into effect on January 11, 2021. For air travel purposes, a service animal is defined as an individually trained dog which performs tasks for a person with a disability. The disability can be visible or invisible. Airlines are not required to accept miniature horses as service animals, but they may choose to do so. The new ACAA rules allow an airline to treat an emotional support animal as a pet. According to

this Frequently Asked Questions document about emotional support animals,

such animals provide comfort and support to their owners without being trained for task performance. The new ACAA rules allow airlines to transport emotional support animals in the cargo hold, charge a fee for transport in the cabin or decline to transport such animals altogether. An airline’s decision to transport emotional support animals or not depend upon the airline’s pet policy. I have covered the basics, but there is more to know.

To determine if someone’s dog is a service animal, the airline can ask if it is needed because of a disability and what task the animal performs. An airline can require the service animal to sit on the passenger’s lap. If the animal is large, the airline may offer various accommodation alternatives. These accommodations include booking the passenger on a later flight, allowing the passenger to change seats on current flight or transporting the animal in cargo hold at no charge. Regardless of how the animal travels on the plane, it must be trained to behave properly. An airline may also decline to transport a service animal in specific situations. Such denial situations include the owner not providing necessary service animal forms in a timely manner, the animal poses a direct threat to the safety of other people or it is disruptive. If an airline denies transport of a service animal for any reason, a written statement must be sent to the owner within 10 days. I will now reflect on what I learned.

It is worth noting that I provided the information above objectively, with the goal of sharing what I learned with other people. I do not own a service animal myself. I was surprised to learn that an airline can require the animal to sit in the owner’s lap. If that is not possible, I also learned about alternatives which may be offered to accommodate a large animal. Over many years, I have thought about acquiring a seeing eye dog. If I ever fulfill that dream, knowing about airline rules pertaining to service animals might be useful for me in the future. Ultimately, learning information in advance can help someone with a disability prepare for various situations.

Question: What facts outlined above caught your attention? I shall return next week with another article.

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