Sign In

ESA On Flights

December 3, 2020

The Department of Transportation said Wednesday it will no longer require airlines to make the same accommodations for emotional support animals as they do for trained service dogs. No more guaranteed free flights for comfort cats and dogs, therapy monkeys or miniature horse companions.

A service dog is trained to do work or perform a task to benefit an individual with a disability. Emotional support and psychiatric service animals function therapeutically. And starting in 2021, it will be up to individual airlines to decide whether or not treat the two the same.

The DOT said complaints by passengers with disabilities, inconsistent service animal definitions, fraudulent representations and animal misbehavior drove the change in policy. Also, disturbances brought about by requests to transport “unusual species of animals onboard aircraft,” have compromised the public trust in recognized service animals, the department said.

In 2018, a woman in Newark, N.J., tried to get her peacock, Dexter, onboard  a United Airlines flight. A woman and her emotional support squirrel were booted off a flight out of Orlando, Fla., later that year.

The DOT considered permitting miniature horses and Capuchin monkeys that are legitimate service animals, but ultimately decided against it. The department received comments in support of miniature horses.

Psychiatric Service Dog Partners, a nonprofit group based in South Carolina commented to the DOT, “Many miniature horses are comparable in size to a St. Bernard, and that many can fold their legs and lie down more easily than their larger equine counterparts.” Another service dog organization added that a miniature horse should be 34 inches or shorter, if measured from its withers; slightly smaller than a Great Dane.

Although a Great Dane may be marginally larger than a miniature horse, it cannot be discriminated against based on breed. There are several instances in which a service dog may not be allowed to fly. According to the new rule, a service dog may be denied if: the animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others; the animal causes significant disruption in the cabin or at the airport; or the animal’s carrier with a disability fails to provide the necessary paperwork.

The animal could also be turned away if it violates “applicable safety or health requirements of any U.S. federal agency, U.S. territory or foreign government.” Individuals traveling to Hawaii with service animals or guide dogs must have appropriate documentation of the animal’s vaccinations. Australia requires all animals, including service dogs, to undergo a quarantine period, even if accompanied with the appropriate paperwork. They take it very seriously.

In 2015, actor Johnny Depp’s Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, were almost sentenced to death after entering the country illegally, NPR previously reported. Barnaby Joyce, Australia’s agricultural minister at the time, told Depp the animals would be destroyed if they weren’t removed voluntarily. Pistol and Boo were hustled out of the country.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Former Victoria man’s diabetic alert dog helps him get back to life

    When Luke Hengen’s diabetes worsened in his early twenties, it stripped him of the outdoor activities where the country kid felt at home. Countless wilderness adventures and years of hard-fought football games took a toll on his body, to the point where he could no longer sense when his blood sugar was too high or […]

    Read more

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more