As the result of the passage of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018, it looks like the Department of Transportation (DOT) is set to address the emotional support animal issue in 2019.
More specifically, the legislation requires to DOT to enter into the rulemaking process to determine if it should more narrowly define the term “service animal”, and to look at the acceptance standards for service animals and emotional support animals.
As it stands now, service animals and emotional support animals are subject to different standards under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA); while emotional support animals are not even recognized under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Many organizations have suggested that the regulations should be the same in the air as they are on the ground, and have vocally supported the elimination of emotional support animals from the ACAA. Additionally the airlines have repeatedly asked the DOT to tighten the regulations to prevent what they feel is widespread abuse of the emotional support animal designation.
The DOT must issue their final rule by March 2020.
Fasten your seatbelts folks, this is definitely going to be a bumpy ride. I’m sure we will have stakeholders from all factions — include those folks that sell emotional support animal certifications online — and it could get a little messy.
I’ll keep you updated.