BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)–The U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing a new set of guidelines for allowing animals on airplanes. Government figures show the number of “support” animals flying with their owners is growing, and so is the number of complaints.
Until now the USDOT has generally left it up to the indivdual airlines to set policy for allowing animals on commercial flights, which has led to confusion over whether the animal is a pet, an emotional support animal, or a service animal–which is permitted by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
In many instances, a paying passenger might bring their pet on board, and claim it provides emotional support. All the airline requires is a note from their doctor, therapist, or someone in authority.
Passengers have no specific rights to take a support animal on a plane, and flyers have brought a whole host of animals they contend provide emotional support, including snakes, pigs, ferrets, and even a peacock.
But service animals, specially trained dogs, have a right under the ADA, to go just about anywhere with their handlers because of their disability-specific training.
Iraq War veteran Chris Kreiger is the founder of WNY Heroes, a non-profit corporation that provides support for veterans and their families, which includes “Pawsitive for Heroes” a program that matches veterans with service dogs.
“The service dogs are for a reason,” said Kreiger, “They are not show dogs, they are not out in the community for anyone’s pleasure. They are there to do a job, let them do their job.”
The DOT’s new rules would require a passenger to fill out a questionnaire for their service dogs indicating they have training for the handler’s disability, and confirming the service animal can travel without requiring relief, or can be relieved sanitarily.
Kreiger said it is about time the DOT clears up the confusion among which animals will be allowed to fly.
“Dogs and miniature horses under the federal law are the only two identified to be service animals. Then when you go to the airport and you see the individual bringing in the peacock or the rat or the hamster or the guinea pig, where do you draw the line?”
Kreiger adds, the line has to be drawn because those who need service animals will suffer without it.
“We have service dogs in our program for veterans who needed them strictly for stability and balance. You have one of those dogs coming after a true trained service dog and the dog goes to defend itself, and that veteran goes down and hits the ground and gets hurt, who is going to be held liable?”
While the ADA restricts service animals to dogs and miniature horses, the DOT’s proposal would only allows dogs on a commercial flight, in its present form.
The DOT is seeking the public’s comment on its rulemaking proposal, and will be accepting those ideas for 60 days. You can read the DOT’s new rules proposal and submit your comments here.