Airlines may soon start banning service animals that aren't dogs

Alexander RyuminTASS via Getty Images

  • The US Transportation Department has proposed changes to its Air Carrier Access Act service animal rule.

  • The new rules would limit service animals allowed in a plane’s cabin to dogs.
  • Under the change, the department would allow airlines to limit service animals based on size.
  • Airlines had previously begun banning some species after a rise in in-flight animal incidents.

Airlines may soon be able to turn away all service animals other than dogs.

On Wednesday the US Department of Transportation announced plans to tighten rules around service animals.

“Under the Department’s proposed rule, airlines would only be required to transport dogs as service animals,” the department said in a statement on its website. “As a result, airlines would no longer be required to accommodate miniature horses, cats, rabbits, birds, and all other service animals that airlines are currently required to transport.”

The number and breeds of support animals being brought on flights in recent years have grown dramatically and airlines have lobbied to tighten the rules.

Some airlines, including Delta Airlines and United, have imposed their own restrictions after a spike in in-flight issues related to untrained animals. Some animals have urinated, defecated, or bitten passengers while on planes.

Passengers have attempted to board planes with hamsters, small horses, ferrets, and even peacocks.

PeacockKerstin Joensson/APYes, someone tried to bring a ‘support peacock’ onto a plane.

The Department has proposed narrowing the definition of service animal to a dog that is trained to help a person with a disability.

Currently, passengers are allowed to bring many other species if they have a medical professional’s note saying they need the animal for emotional support.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), a service animal is any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support, according to the Department of Transportation.

Currently, airlines can require passengers to fill out paperwork about their service animals in advance of their flight.

Miniature horseGetty ImagesIn 2018, Southwest Airlines announced it would allow passengers to bring miniature horses on planes as service animals.

The recent proposal, though, would bar the current practice of airlines requiring animal owners to fill out paperwork 48 hours in advance.

While airlines are already prohibited from baring certain breeds of dogs from flights, the new proposal allows airlines to limit service animals based on whether the animal can fit onto the service animal handler’s lap or within the handler’s foot space.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed changes, and they could take effect any time after that.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.