In 2018, a woman in Newark, N.J., tried to get her peacock, Dexter, onboard a United Airlines flight. A woman and her emotional support squirrel were booted off a flight out of Orlando, Fla., later that year.
The Department of Transportation came close to permitting miniature horses and Capuchin monkeys that are legitimate service animals on airplanes, but ultimately decided against it.
In December of 2020 the Department of Transportation said it will no longer require airlines to make the same accommodations for emotional support animals as they do for trained service dogs. Starting on January 11, 2021, emotional support animals are no longer considered service animals, and airlines — which previously had to make accommodations for them — will no longer be required to do so.
The U.S. Department of Transportation now defines a service animal as a dog that has been “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 new rules limit the number of service animals a person may travel with to two and require individuals to file paperwork detailing their animal’s behavior, training and health status before they fly.
American Airlines has announced it will stop accepting emotional support animals February 1, although animals that previously traveled as emotional support animals may still accompany passengers as carry-on or cargo pets if they meet requirements. Most airlines are expected to enact similar changes.
The new rule also permits airlines to turn away service dogs if: the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others; the animal causes significant disruption in the cabin or at the airport; or the animal’s carrier with a disability fails to provide the necessary paperwork.
Any animal, even legitimate service animals, could also be turned away if it violates “applicable safety or health requirements of any U.S. federal agency, U.S. territory or foreign government.”
Will you mourn the days of seeing non-paying odd animals on airplanes? Or is this good riddance? And where would you draw the line – at a monkey or a miniature horse?