Under the new guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines are permitted to ban Emotional Support Animals (ESA)from the passenger cabins on flights. Starting January 11, 2021, Delta, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and JetBlue have ceased taking new flight reservations for Emotional Support Animals.
The move comes as airline customers express growing discontent with the increasing number of animals on board and the diversity of species claimed as ESA’s by passengers. Animals brought on board as ESA’s in the past include peacocks, snakes, ferrets, hamsters, monkeys, and even pigs.
Unruly, and even aggressive, behavior by emotional support animals has also worried airline staff in recent years and led to a call for changes in the guidelines by lobbyists and airline staff. The DOT wrote in a statement, “Today’s NPRM is intended to ensure a safe and accessible air transportation system. It addresses concerns raised by individuals with disabilities, airlines, flight attendants, airports, other aviation transportation stakeholders, and other members of the public, regarding service animals on aircraft.”
Under the new rules, emotional support animals will no longer be classified as service animals. Service animals will be defined as animals trained to work and perform essential tasks for an individual with a disability, such as guide dogs for legally blind persons and seizure alert dogs. Species that qualify as service animals are also limited to dogs.
Importantly, the DOT said in a statement, that it would be up to individual airline carriers to enforce these policies. The Department of Transportation will not require airlines to adhere to regulations, so customers should call to confirm their airlines’ new policies for emotional support animals.
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