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Airlines no longer required to treat emotional support animals as service animals

In this April 1, 2017 file photo, a service dog strolls through the aisle inside a United...
In this April 1, 2017 file photo, a service dog strolls through the aisle inside a United Airlines plane at Newark Liberty International Airport while taking part in a training exercise in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)(GIM)
Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 9:15 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Wednesday, the United States Department of Transportation issued a final ruling regarding service animals on airplanes, determining that airlines are not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets instead.

The DOT says this final rule is intended to ensure that the air transportation system is safe to the public and accessible to individuals with disabilities who need service animal assistance.

The ruling stems from rising numbers of complaints about service animals from passengers and airlines. It also comes from the “inconsistent definitions among federal agencies of what constitutes a ‘service animal’ and fraudulence among people claiming an EAS animal,” the final ruling document reads.

In this Sept. 20, 2017 file photo, Oscar the cat sits in his carry-on travel bag after arriving...
In this Sept. 20, 2017 file photo, Oscar the cat sits in his carry-on travel bag after arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. Under the DOT's new ruling announced on Dec. 2, 2020, cats, rabbits and all animals other than dogs are no longer considered service animals. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)(GIM)

“A service animal is defined as a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric intellectual, or other mental disability,” the ruling reads.

Under the new DOT ruling, airlines can also require that service dogs must be leashed at all times, and have the ability to bar dogs that show aggressive behavior. Additionally, passengers traveling with a service dog can now be required to fill out airline forms about the dog’s training, behavior and health.

The ruling will go into effect 30 days after being published in the Federal Register.

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