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No more emotional support animals on planes; DOT closes major loophole

Dec. 02, 2020
3 min read
No more emotional support animals on planes; DOT closes major loophole
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The U.S. Department of Transportation just announced a major revision to its Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) with specific updates to the Traveling by Air with Service Animals section. In it, the agency makes a final ruling on emotional support animals. When the final ruling goes into effect, 30 days after the publication date in the Federal Register, emotional support animals will no longer be considered service animals.

A man walks with his service dog in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

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This news will be celebrated by every traveler or airline crew member that has witnessed a bad-behaving animal on an aircraft that clearly hasn't been trained as a service animal but is masquerading as one at the behest of its owner. TPG has talked about the issue before as many travelers claimed any pet as an emotional support animal so they could fly.

The DOT said that "This final rule is intended to ensure that our air transportation system is safe for the traveling public and accessible to individuals with disabilities."

Related: Complete guide to traveling with pets

To that end, going forward, a "service animal" is defined as one that is "individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability." The animal may assist with tasks related to physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disabilities. The ruling specifies that airlines must treat psychiatric service animals the same as any other service animal, such as one that assists an individual with a sight impairment.

This change lets airlines reclassify emotional support animals as pets instead of service animals. They may still fly based on the airline's guidelines for pet travel.

Related: Guide to flying with Emotional Support Animals

Additionally, passengers flying with a service animal will now be required to fill out a form, developed by the DOT, and submit it to the airline. The information provided will confirm the animal's service training, good behavior and good health. If your flight is eight hours or more, the passenger must also attest that the service animal either won't relieve itself during the flight or will do so in a "sanitary manner."

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If you make your flight reservations in advance, your form is due to the airline within 48 hours of departure. For last-minute reservations, you can provide your form at the departure gate. Ask for the U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form.

Related: The Feds are going to change the ESA rules and I'm glad

Note that according to the new ruling, a carrier may limit service animals to dogs. And, carriers are permitted to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger to two. Furthermore, carriers can require that your service animal either fits on your lap or at your foot space on the aircraft.

Featured image by Featured image by Javier Brosch/Shutterstock

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023