Despite everything that is going on in the world, we are back with our emotional support animal weekly news report. Today, we’re looking back at a proposed law announced in January 2020. It affects emotional support animals and their owners looking to travel by plane together. Get your morning cup of joe and join us to get caught up.
5 Months Later: DOT Changing ESA Laws?
Back in January, the Department of Transportation received a request to change its definition of assistance animal. Five months later, no decision has been issued.
Airlines for America is behind the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. It went forth with the request after receiving hundreds of complaints from airlines concerning unruly ESAs.
Over the past few years, the number of ESAs aboard planes has skyrocketed. Some incidents have left passengers and airline staff injured as a result. Thus, these carriers are asking for major changes to be done to the law, to crack down on fake ESAs.
If passed, it would change the Air Carrier Access Act: a federal law protecting ESAs and their owners when flying. This would mean that ESAs would have to travel as pets, which comes with a pet fee. Only service dogs would be allowed on planes with their owners free of charge.
In the five months that have elapsed, no ruling has been made. The Department of Transportation welcomed feedback on the proposed changes from the public for sixty days. By the time it ended in April, there were thousands of comments available.
Most recent comments show that people are largely against this change. ESA owners and medical professionals have called the proposed ruling “discriminatory.” They think it will make traveling for disabled people much, much harder. Some go so far as to call it an undue burden on the person.
Airlines, however, continue advocating for changes to the ACAA. They cite widespread ESA fraud as a problem to be addressed immediately. However, with COVID-19 grounding most flights, the issue has been put on the back burner for the meantime.
CertaPet’s Thoughts on This Week’s News
Regulating emotional support animals is extremely important. Unfortunately, there are too many people abusing the system. Not only is this unethical, but it also hurts disabled people who have a legitimate need for ESAs deeply.
Yet, it is not fair (and possibly illegal) to completely ban all ESAs from flights. These animals are crucial to their owners. They’re prescribed by mental health professionals as part of their therapy. Ruling that they can’t fly with their owners will effectively make many disabled people unable to fly.
Instead, we support airlines creating tighter ESA policies to ward off frauds. ESA letters and veterinary and vaccination forms are good ways of screening fake ESAs and keeping them off the plane—while still allowing real ESAs in.
If you, too, suffer from a mental or emotional disability, getting an ESA can help. Start by taking our free 5-minute pre-screening test. If you qualify, we’ll connect you with a licensed mental health professional who will have an appointment with you.