NEADS Supports New DOT Rules for Flying with Service Dogs

NEADS has long called for the critical need for a nationally recognized, legitimate Service Dog certification to prevent Service Dog fraud. On December 2, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that airline “carriers are not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets.”

NEADS applauds this decision. Although many pet owners believe there’s no harm in passing off a pet as a Service Dog, untrained and uncomfortable emotional support animals (ESAs) can not only be dangerous for the true working Service Dogs but also for other passengers, gate attendants, flight crew and TSA personnel. The experience can also be cruel to the pets themselves, because when an improperly trained or untrained pet is placed in a situation it isn’t prepared for, it can become nervous, afraid and unpredictable.

However, NEADS fully understands that this decision will impact the options available for people who travel with their pets and believes that the airlines need to address the less than ideal conditions they offer for transporting pets.

Unlike ESAs, Service Dogs fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), so businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities. However, with no national Service Dog licensing or credentialing system in place, there’s plenty of opportunity for abuse. The new DOT rule is only a first step.

NEADS is working on the state and national level to make Service Dog regulations and credentialing a reality. In Massachusetts, NEADS is working with lawmakers, including bill sponsor Rep. Kimberly Ferguson, to enact Service Dog fraud legislation (MA H.3657). NEADS is also a charter member of Assistance Dogs International (ADI), whose ADI NA Legislative and Advocacy Committee provided assistance in determining these new DOT rules.