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President's Page by Jennifer Lorenz

I recently had a client ask me if they could travel with their dog. If you’ve flown lately you’ve probably noticed an increase of people traveling with their pets. In years past, most airlines permitted small animals, under approximately 20 lbs., to travel in a pet carrier that fit beneath the seat. However, the rules have changed.

Most airlines permit services animals and emotional support animals to fly with their owner. But there is a clear difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal.

Pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 35.104:Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal's presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

Service animal are not considered “pets” but are treated like any other accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, such as a wheelchair or prosthetic limb. However, pursuant to 28 C.F.R. § 35.136, a public entity may ask an individual with a disability to remove a service animal from the premises if: (1) The animal is out of control and the animal's handler does not take effective action to control it; or (2) The animal is not housebroken.

Service animals are limited to specifically trained dogs and miniature horses. Its true! According to 28 C.F.R. § 35.136, a public entity shall make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability if the miniature horse has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of the individual with a disability. But a public entity may consider (i) The type, size, and weight of the miniature horse and whether the facility can accommodate these features;(ii) Whether the handler has sufficient control of the miniature horse; (iii) Whether the miniature horse is housebroken; and (iv) Whether the miniature horse's presence in a specific facility compromises legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation.

If a miniature horse trots into a public entity, including an airport, the public entity cannot ask about the nature or extent of a person's disability, but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal.

1. A public entity may ask if the animal is required because of a disability.

2. The public entity may ask what work or task the animal has been trained to perform.

According to the Transportation.gov website, under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) a service animal is any animal that is individually trained or able to provide assistance to a person with a disability; or any animal that assists persons with disabilities by providing emotional support. Documentation may be required of passengers needing to travel with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal.

The laws and regulations regarding emotional support animals are far more lenient than those related to service animals. Pursuant to 14 C.F.R. §382.117 (e): If a passenger seeks to travel with an animal that is used as an emotional support or psychiatric service animal, you are not required to accept the animal for transportation in the cabin unless the passenger provides you current documentation (i.e., no older than one year from the date of the passenger's scheduled initial flight) on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, including a medical doctor specifically treating the passenger's mental or emotional disability) stating the following:

(1) The passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—Fourth Edition (DSM IV);

(2) The passenger needs the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger's destination;

(3) The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional, and the passenger is under his or her professional care; and

(4) The date and type of the mental health professional's license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.

Airlines are never required to accept snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, sugar gliders, and spiders. Pursuant to 14 C.F.R. §382.117(f): You are never required to accommodate certain unusual service animals (e.g., snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders) as service animals in the cabin. With respect to all other animals, including unusual or exotic animals that are presented as service animals (e.g., miniature horses, pigs, monkeys), as a carrier you must determine whether any factors preclude their traveling in the cabin as service animals (e.g., whether the animal is too large or heavy to be accommodated in the cabin, whether the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others, whether it would cause a significant disruption of cabin service, whether it would be prohibited from entering a foreign country that is the flight's destination). If no such factors preclude the animal from traveling in the cabin, you must permit it to do so. However, as a foreign carrier, you are not required to carry service animals other than dogs.

Sleep easy knowing that you will not have to sit next to someone’s emotional support snake on your next flight! 

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