Business

DOT backs pets-on-planes crackdown

Federal agency says it won't penalize airlines

Regulators are making it easier for U.S. airlines to limit the growing number of dogs and other animals being brought onto flights by passengers saying they are for emotional or psychological support.

The Department of Transportation Wednesday said it won’t penalize airlines if they refuse to let passengers take aboard more than one support animal, demand assurance that a passenger has a disability or require proof of an animal’s vaccination and training.

The agency also will allow airlines to impose “reasonable restrictions” on the movement of emotional-support animals in a plane’s cabin.

Service animals including seeing-eye dogs won’t be restricted under the proposed changes.

“The department has heard from the transportation industry, as well as individuals with disabilities, that the current regulation could be improved to ensure non-discriminatory access for individuals with disabilities, while simultaneously preventing instances of fraud and ensuring consistency with other federal regulations,” the agency said in a release.

The DOT’s actions come as the three largest U.S. carriers have altered their policies on animals since the start of this year in reaction to soaring numbers of passengers claiming they needed them for provide emotional support. Those increased numbers also led to at least two incidents in which passengers were injured, including a man who suffered severe facial wounds from a dog last June on a Delta flight.

Delta and United in March began requiring 48-hour advance notice to travel with an emotional support animal, along with documents that could include proof the animal is trained and vaccinations are up to date, and a letter from a doctor or mental health worker on the person’s need for an animal or identifying the disability involved.

American said May 14 it will adopt similar policies July 1.

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