By Joe Fagnani
Airlines continue to update their policies regarding animals that fly onboard planes because consumer complaints are up 80% this year. We think a lot of this is because they allow emotional support animals and pets to fly in the passenger cabins.
There has been a dramatic increase in numbers of people who, identify as having a disability or anxiety, who bring dogs, cats, and other kinds of animals onboard, resulting in associated increases in the number of incidents involving badly behaved and uncontrolled animals. It should be noted that accredited schools do not train cats, rodents, pigs, snakes, insects, etc., to be service animals. Also, certification does not mean that the dog has come from an accredited school, since there are more self-proclaimed certification facilities than there are accredited schools. While there was a movement toward miniature horses to guide the blind, that has since been found to be too problematic. If the airlines are motivated by concerns for the safety of all, they need to revise their policies about accepting emotional support dogs and pets for their passengers and crews.
People accompanied by certified service dogs are also concerned about safety onboard an aircraft. Requiring updated vaccination records does not address the behavioral issues that can make sharing a cabin or a row with a frightened or untrained animal any safer for passengers or crew members. Like anyone else who flies, we don’t want ourselves or our well-cared-for service dogs (including up-to-date vaccinations) to be exposed to communicable diseases, or distractions that can result in our being unsafe. We understand the airlines’ concern about the health and behavioral certification for service dogs, because having well trained and controlled dogs, makes flying a more comfortable experience for everyone.
The airlines received an exception from the ADA regulations and are controlled by the Aviation compliance division of the department of transportation (DOT). The DOT breaks down the animals into two main groups, service dogs and pets. Service dogs are further broken down in to three groups: service (for physical disabilities), psychiatric (can perform defined tasks) and emotional support dogs (not trained to perform assistive tasks).
Pets need documentation 48 hours in advance of the flight and must be in a carrier. Emotional and psychological support dogs require documentation to be supplied 48 hours before flying. A service dog for a physical disability does not have to have documentation.
The DOT is supposed to clarify the requirements for the different groups of animals by the end of 2018. The current policy states that if you are traveling with a trained service dog, in some cases, you may be asked to show:
1. The dogs Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record or other proof that the dog’s vaccinations are current within one year of the travel date.
2. While not required, customers are encouraged to upload this documentation to My Trips through the Accessibility Service Request Form.
Airlines say valid tags issued by your local animal services department will suffice as “other proof that the dog’s vaccinations are current.”
If the airlines think that your dog is not a certified service dog, they may ask the following two questions:
Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?
If there is still a problem at this point, the handler can ask to speak with a Complaint Resolution Officer (CRO). The CRO should know all the rules and policies surrounding allowing animals on the aircraft.
In addition, effective July 10, Delta Airlines announced, pit bulls as pets are not allowed inside the cabin.
The ADA does not accept emotional support animals or pets as service dogs. We think the acceptance of these animals by the DOT promotes the spread of fraudulent service animals in other places of public accommodation.
Editor’s Note: Joe Fagnani submitted this article in his capacity as the Board President of the Center for Independent Living of South-Central PA and Chairman of the Service Paws of Central PA Board.