Air­lines must con­tinue to ac­cept ser­vice an­i­mals, says US trans­port dep’t

Manila Bulletin - - Shipping Bulletin -

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The US Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment told US air­lines that they must con­tinue to al­low the trans­port of the most com­mon ser­vice an­i­mals, but said it was ask­ing for pub­lic com­ment about amend­ing its ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tions.

The de­part­ment said in a state­ment that it "wants to en­sure that in­di­vid­u­als with dis­abil­i­ties can con­tinue us­ing their ser­vice an­i­mals while also help­ing to en­sure that the fraud­u­lent use of other an­i­mals not qual­i­fied as ser­vice an­i­mals is de­terred."

There are grow­ing con­cerns among air­lines about pas­sen­gers bring­ing aboard ex­otic cre­ates that could pose a safety risk, and com­pa­nies have re­cently be­gun tight­en­ing re­quire­ments.

The Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment said it would fo­cus on en­sur­ing that US car­ri­ers con­tinue to ac­cept the most com­monly used ser­vice an­i­mals – dogs, cats, and minia­ture horses. En­force­ment ac­tions re­lat­ing to other ser­vice an­i­mals would be on a case-by-case ba­sis, it added.

Ex­ist­ing rules al­low US air­lines to deny trans­port to an­i­mals such as snakes, other rep­tiles, fer­rets, ro­dents and spi­ders.

The gov­ern­ment said it would act if air­lines de­nied pas­sen­gers with ser­vice an­i­mals the ben­e­fits of early or on­line check-in avail­able to other pas­sen­gers. It also said it would take ac­tion to pre­vent air­lines from re­quir­ing ad­vance no­tice from pas­sen­gers trav­el­ing with cer­tain ser­vice an­i­mals, such as guide dogs for the blind.

It asked a num­ber of ques­tions about how it might re­vise its reg­u­la­tions.

Air­lines have com­plained that some pas­sen­gers are falsely claim­ing that pets are emo­tional sup­port or psy­chi­atric ser­vice an­i­mals to avoid pay­ing. The Trans­porta­tion De­part­ment said pas­sen­gers "have at­tempted to fly with pea­cocks, ducks, tur­keys, pigs, igua­nas" and other an­i­mals.

In March, Delta Air Lines tight­ened the re­quire­ments for pas­sen­gers trav­el­ing with on­board ser­vice and emo­tional sup­port an­i­mals, fol­low­ing a sharp uptick in pet-re­lated safety is­sues in re­cent years.

Amer­i­can Air­lines on Mon­day an­nounced new re­stric­tions on emo­tional sup­port an­i­mals, say­ing it would ban in­cabin trans­port of in­sects, hedge­hogs, goats and an­i­mals with tusks, horns or hooves as sup­port an­i­mals.

Delta said in Jan­uary that there had been a spike in the num­ber of re­ported an­i­mal in­ci­dents in re­cent years, in­clud­ing uri­na­tion, defe­ca­tion, bit­ing, and a high-pro­file 2017 maul­ing of a pas­sen­ger by an emo­tional sup­port dog.

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