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Transportation Dept Restricts Service And Emotional Support Animal Rules




Student guide dog Max, a Golden Retreiver puppy, pulls his handler down the aisle of a plane during their training program March 27, 2004 at New Liberty International airport in New Jersey.
Student guide dog Max, a Golden Retreiver puppy, pulls his handler down the aisle of a plane during their training program March 27, 2004 at New Liberty International airport in New Jersey.
Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

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The days of pets flying with their owners in airplane cabins for free are coming to an end.

The Transportation Department issued a final rule Wednesday covering animals on airlines. It decided that only dogs can fly as service animals, and companions that passengers use for emotional support don’t count.

The rule aims to settle years of tension between airlines and passengers who bring their pets on board for free by saying they need them for emotional help. Under a longstanding department policy, all the passengers needed was a note from a health professional.

Airlines argued that passengers abused the situation to bring a menagerie of animals on board including cats, turtles, pot-bellied pigs and, in one case, a peacock.

The agency said Wednesday that it was rewriting the rules partly because passengers carrying unusual animals on board “eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals.” It also cited the increasing frequency of people “fraudulently representing their pets as service animals,” and a rise in misbehavior by emotional-support animals, ranging from peeing on the carpet to biting other passengers.

What do you think? Are you a frequent flier who encounters animals on planes? Do you rely on a service or emotional support animal? Call us at 866-893-5722. 

Guest: 

Lori Aratani, transportation reporter for the Washington Post; she tweets @loriara