Feds considering new rules for service animals on flights

Emotional support animals would not be considered a service animal under newly proposed rules from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Many think pet owners are stretching the good taste of what an emotional support animal really is, especially when it comes to traveling.

The federal government seems to agree, noting that every year it gets more and more complaints about service animals. In particular, a growing number of incidents involving animals that don’t have adequate training.

Under new rules considered by the DOT, that could all change.

The rules, available for public comment, would define service animals, which by law have to be allowed on to flights, as dogs that are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.”

In particular, the rules say emotional support animals would no longer be considered a service animal.

“A lot of this stuff has been out there already,” said Captain Jason Haag, a military vet who is now the CEO of Virginia-based Leashes of Valor, which helps train service animals for veterans suffering from PTSD or who have suffered significant brain injuries. “It hasn’t been viewed as a unified front. Most of the airlines have had some sort of regulations like this before.”

He said you run into problems when different airlines allow different accommodations.

“You can make anything an emotional support animal,” said Haag. “If it makes you happy and you like petting it, you can have an emotional support iguana. But does that mean it needs to be out in public? In my opinion as someone who has been in this industry, absolutely not.”

Haag said the new rules wouldn’t impact him at all, since his dog is specially trained to do a number of things that help veterans that suffer from nightmares or traumatic flashbacks. His argument is that it’s the training that sets dogs apart.

The new rules were made public on Jan. 22 and the government is now accepting comments from the public.

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