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Federal Proposal Could Allow Airlines To Bar Emotional Support Animals From Flying

A passenger guides her support pic through the San Francisco airport.
A passenger guides her support pic through the San Francisco airport.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Do you think all emotional support animals should be allowed to fly? The Department of Transportation is considering changes to the rules that would allow airlines to ban emotional support animals and only allow service dogs trained to do specific tasks for those with disabilities on board. 

Airlines could ban emotional-support animals including untrained dogs, cats and more exotic companions such as pigs, pheasants, rabbits and snakes.

Airlines say the number of support animals has grown dramatically in recent years. They lobbied the Transportation Department to crack down on what they consider a scam - passengers who call their pets emotional-support animals to avoid pet fees that generally run more than $100 each way.

The main trade group for large U.S. airlines praised the proposal. Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America, said, “The proposed rule will go a long way in ensuring a safer and healthier experience for everyone.”

Flight attendants had pushed to rein in support animals, and they too were pleased.

Veterans groups also sided with the airlines, arguing that a boom in untrained dogs and other animals threatens their ability to fly with properly trained service dogs. Last year, more than 80 veterans and disability groups endorsed banning untrained emotional-support animals in airline cabins. 

On the other side are people who say that an emotional-support animal helps them with anxiety or other issues that would prevent them from traveling or make it more stressful. They aren't a very organized group, but there are lots of them.

The rules do not require any training for emotional-support animals. However, airlines can demand that the animal's owner show them a medical professional’s note saying they need the animal for support.

With files from the Associated Press


Hugo Martin, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, covering the travel industry

Douglas Kidd, the executive director at the National Association of Airline Passengers, a nonprofit organization that does advocacy work