Department of Transportation Changes Rules for Emotional Support Animals

Tomas Curcio, Staff Writer

The United States Department of Transportation has ruled that only dogs would be considered service animals aboard flights. 

Previously, passengers could bring service animals on flights for free as long as they had a note from a medical professional. Now, all non-canine animals would be held within the cargo-hold. 

With these actions, the Department of Transportation has projected that airlines may gain around $59.6 million a year merely from the pet fees.

 The department claims that passengers have abused the privilege by bringing aboard exotic animals in an attempt to bypass the pet fee.

The agency has given examples of passengers bringing pigs, turtles and even a peacock onto planes as service animals.

Each airline company has responded to the situation in differing ways.

American Airlines stated that they would continue allowing all types of service animals until the end of Jan. 2021.

JetBlue stated that moving forward, from Jan. 11, 2021 onwards, only dogs fall under the category of service animals.

United Airlines only allows service animals on flights booked before Jan. 11, 2021 that take place until Feb. 28, 2021.

Delta Airlines allows all types of service animals on any flights booked before Jan. 11, 2021.

Southwest Airlines states that they currently do not have any intentions of changing their service animal policy.

This movement against exotic service animals began last year when the US lobbying organization, Airlines for America, pushed for the Department of Transportation to only allow dogs to be defined as service animals.

With this new definition of service animals, Delta will also reallow pit bull type dogs as service animals aboard flights after a previous ban.

Due to recently-discovered highly contagious variants of COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control has required a negative COVID-19 test for all travelers entering the United States by airplane.