Emotional support animals are no longer free to move about the cabin.
The Department of Transportation appears to have had enough with ducks, kangaroos and peacocks trying to ride with their humans in the cabins of airplanes, as emotional support animals are no longer considered service animals on flights. The decision could end up earning the airline industry an extra $60 million per year, as airlines now will be able to charge for transportation of the animals.
For years the Transportation Department has required airlines to allow animals with passengers who were able to provide a doctor’s note saying they needed the animal on the plane to provide emotional support. Airlines have argued that passengers abused the rule to bring an assortment of animals on board that included pigs, turkeys, cats, ducks, pandas and even kangaroos and horses. That is not a joke; in 2019, miniature horses were added to the list of service animals allowed to travel on domestic flights.
The agency announced today that it is rewriting the rules because passengers carrying unusual animals on planes “eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals.” The increasing frequency of people “fraudulently representing their pets as service animals” and “a rise in misbehavior by emotional support animals” were also cited as reasons for the change.
Under the new rule, passengers will be required to check their emotional support animals into the cargo hold and pay a fee that typically would run $100 or more. A service animal defined as a dog trained to help a person with a physical or mental disability will still be allowed in the cabin.
The new rule will start being enforced on Jan. 1, 2021, meaning people stressing out about COVID-19 or anything else from this last crazy year have about 29 days to get in their final emotionally supported flights with their farm animals.