DOT Announces New Guidelines for Travel with Pets

Air travel with pets will look a bit different in 2021.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) announced earlier this month that it is revising the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation on the transportation of service animals by air. The decision was not made lightly, and took into account over 15,000 comments and concerns raised by people with disabilities, airlines, flight attendants, airports, other aviation transportation stakeholders, and other members of the public.

Here is a quick overview of the new guidelines:

  • A service animal is defined as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability
  • Emotional support animals are now considered pets rather than service animals
  • Airlines may now require forms developed by DOT attesting to a service animal’s health, behavior and training up to 48 hours in advance of travel
  • Airlines may require a service animal to fit within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft
  • Airlines must treat psychiatric service animals the same as other service animals

The changes will take effect next month. According to this New York Times article, disruptions caused by taking unusual species aboard airlines had “eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals” and there were increasing cases of travelers “fraudulently representing their pets as service animals.”

The new rules are intended to protect the traveling public, along with airline crew members. See this FAQ document for more information.