There are four major federal laws that impact disabled Americans and service dogs. Those four laws are the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), The Rehabilitation Act (Rehab Act), the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), and the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Each law provides different protections and clarifications on the rights of businesses and disabled individuals. If you have a service dog, or you are considering getting one, it’s critical that you are familiar with these laws.
Prior to 2021 the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) allowed for both service dogs and emotional support animals (ESA) to fly with their owners. In 2021 the act was amended and there were a few key changes.
The biggest change was that ESAs were no longer categorized as anything other than pets. Previously service dogs had one classification and ESAs were classified with psychiatric service dogs. This was problematic for a number of reasons.
When the ACAA was initially written it was done so with bad information. The people who wrote it did not understand the difference between service dogs and ESAs (if you aren’t sure the difference click here for more information). They also didn’t understand that there was no reason to classify psychiatric service dogs separately from any other type of service dog. Under the amended act psychiatric service dogs are classified with all other types of service dogs.
The following chart outlines many of the new requirements that airlines are now allowed to implement.
|Definition of Service Animal:||A service animal is a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.|
|Emotional Support Animal:||Carriers are not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets.|
|Treatment of Psychiatric Service Animals:||Psychiatric service animals are treated the same as other service animals that are individually trained to do work or perform a task for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.|
|Species:||Carriers are permitted to limit service animals to dogs.|
|Health, Behavior and Training Form:||Carriers are permitted to require passengers to remit a completed hardcopy or electronic version of the Department’s “U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form” as a condition of transportation.|
|Relief Attestation:||Carriers are permitted to require individuals traveling with a service animal on flights eight hours or longer to remit a completed hardcopy or electronic version of the Department’s “U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Relief Attestation” as a condition of transportation.|
|Number of Service Animals Per Passenger:||Carriers are permitted to limit the number of service animals traveling with a single passenger with a disability to two service animals.|
|Large Service Animals:||Carriers are permitted to require a service animal to fit on their handler’s lap or within its handler’s foot space on the aircraft.|
|Control of Service Animals:||Carriers are permitted to require a service animal to be harnessed, leashed, or otherwise tethered in areas of the airport that they own, lease, or control, and on the aircraft.|
|Service Animal Breed Type:||Carriers are prohibited from refusing to transport a service animal based solely on breed or generalized physical type, as distinct from an individualized assessment of the animal’s behavior and health.|
|Check-In Requirements:||Carriers are not permitted to require a passenger with a disability to physically check-in at the airport, rather than using the online check in process, on the basis that the individual is traveling with a service animal. Airlines may require a passenger with a disability seeking to travel with a service animal to provide the service animal form(s) at the passenger’s departure gate on the date of travel.|
|Advanced Notice Requirements:||Carriers may require individuals traveling with a service animal to provide a U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form and, if applicable, a U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Relief Attestation up to 48 hours in advance of the date of travel if the passenger’s reservation was made prior to that time.|
*Chart from the DOT’s final rule on the ACAA amendment