Updated Rules: Read This If You Travel by Air With Service Animals (Mini Horses Allowed)

Posted by Christy Caplan
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The rules when you live and travel with a service animal are super confusing for most. Not anymore! The U.S. Department Of  Transportation (DOT) provided an updated statement and it's all made very clear for those that need to fly with their service animals, ESA's and PSA's. The good news is all breeds are allowed to fly under this statement. Bully breeds should never have an issue.

There is more good news. Now the rules also are encouraging airlines to accept miniature horses as legitimate service animals.

Let's unpack this news so it's easily digestible. There are many rules addressed but they also clarify what documentation can be requested by airlines.

"In this Final Statement, the Department's Enforcement Office announced that it does not intend to take action against an airline for asking users of any type of service animal to provide documentation related to vaccination, training, or behavior so long as it is reasonable to believe that the documentation would assist the airline in making a determination as to whether an animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others."

The Enforcement Officer will ensure the documentation is reasonable. If you'd like to review the final statement and all the rules, it can be found here. The Final Statement also addresses species limitations, containment, advance notice, and check-in requirements for Emotional Support and Psychiatric Service Animals. 

Here's a summary and highlights of the top rules:

  • Species Limitations:  Yes to miniature horses! The Department's disability regulation has a broad definition of service animals. Priority will be placed on ensuring that the most commonly recognized service animals (dogs, cats, and miniature horses) are accepted for transport.
  • Breed/Species Restrictions:  The Department's Enforcement Office views a limitation based exclusively on breed of the service animal to not be allowed under its service animal regulation. Great news for Bully Breeds as this seems to be an issue every once in a while. (Delta...) 
  • Documentation Requirements:  The Department's disability regulation permits airlines to determine, in advance of flight, whether any service animal poses a direct threat, but the rule does not clearly indicate how airlines must make that assessment.  The Department's Enforcement Office does not intend to take action against an airline for asking users of any type of service animal to present documentation related to the service animal's vaccination, training or behavior so long as it is reasonable to believe that the documentation would assist the airline in making a determination as to whether an animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. This seems very reasonable overall! 
  • Advance Notice:  The Department's disability regulation prohibits airlines from requiring advance notice for passengers traveling with service animals, other than emotional support animals (ESAs) and psychiatric support animals (PSAs).
  • Check-In Requirements:  The Department's Enforcement Office does not view it to be a violation of the Department's disability regulation if airlines require lobby check-in for ESAs and PSAs because the regulation permits airlines to require ESA and PSA users to check-in one hour before the check-in time for the general public. 
  • Weight Restrictions: Under the Department's disability regulation, airlines may deny transport to a service animal that is too large or too heavy to be accommodated in the cabin. 
  • Mental Health Professional Form:  Under the Department's disability regulation, airlines are not required to transport ESAs or PSAs unless the passenger provides medical documentation of their need for the animal as specified in the rule.

Finally, some clear rules! The rest is in the final statement so make sure to read the whole document.

The Department of Transportation outlined updated rules and guidelines and air travel with your service dogs is no longer confusing. If air transportation with a service dog is something you rely on then you must go through their statement and read through the summary. The types of service animals are limited to dogs, cats, and miniature horses. This will limit the chickens and peacocks that are ESAs that you read about. The good news is also that crewmembers can now point to these rules and get specific with people that don't think following these are important.

It is now the individual's disability that will need to be addressed rather than a big argument over the service animal and whether they're legit or fake. Note that Ferrets are not on the list but I also don't know many folks with ESAs that don't fall into the canine category.

These rules and guidelines were all created with the well-being of our animals in mind and now the definition of a service animal seems a lot clearer.

The updated rules even include the number of service animals allowed per individual. Your dog should also easily be able to fit into the aircraft cabin. They do say the airlines have the right to comment on a dog or assistance animal that is too large for the cabin.

Do you have a service animal? Does this impact you? Please leave a comment below.  

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Updated Rules: Read This If You Travel by Air With Service Animals (Mini Horses Allowed)