You may or may not be aware, but this past December the U.S. Department of Transportation made a revision to the Air Carrier Access Act which resulted in the banning of emotional support animals on U.S. airlines. The new guidelines put out by the DOT define exactly which type of animal - and the work they do – that will be allowed. And that happens to be canines who are considered service animals – and the definition is quite specific - “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.”
Why the change now? Based on all of the research I did for this blog – it simply got out of hand the past few years. Not only were more and more flyers bringing their emotional support animals on board – but those emotional support animals were often ill-behaved and causing disruptions. And we aren’t just talking dogs – emotional support animals came in all types of species including ducks, pigs and monkeys.
From what I can tell DOT and the airlines are simply trying to restore order to a broken policy. So, what exactly does this mean? It means that yes – service animals are still allowed to fly next to their owners for free - with the proper paperwork. However - emotional support animals are not. Those that are not considered service animals still may have a chance to fly – for a cost and in a carrier – but that depends on the individual airlines’ rules and regulations.
So, what other options do travelers that want – or need – to have their support animal with them have, should the airlines policies prohibit it? Amtrak may be a viable solution as they still allow certain emotional support animals on some routes and for a cost. Or - if it is feasible there is always the road trip option. And – should finances permit – private flights are another way around it.
If you are planning on traveling with your pet – whether emotional support animal, service dog or just your favorite travel companion - your Travel Gurus will look into and discuss all options with you as part of the planning process. Afterall – we are animal lovers too!
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