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DOT Proposes New Rules for Animals on Planes

 
Update:

On Dec. 2, 2020, the Department of Transportation (DOT) posted their final rule on “Traveling by Air with Service Animals.” The rule will allow airlines to treat emotional support animals as pets. The DOT acknowledged AAFA’s comments. They said they felt the rule will likely reduce the number of uncrated animals on planes, so that would reduce the number of potential allergic reactions and asthma episodes.

AAFA expressed support for the core proposal. But we are disappointed that the final rule did not include our recommendation that airlines provide reasonable accommodation for passengers with documented allergies or asthma. This would include seating any service animals, pets, or emotional support animals (for airlines that choose to permit them) at the safest possible distance in an airplane cabin.

We do believe preventing the abuse of service animal policies will reduce the risk of allergic reactions and asthma episodes. But AAFA will continue to push the DOT for reasonable accommodation for the asthma and allergy community.


On Jan. 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released proposed rules on animals on planes. If they finalize these rules, airlines would no longer be forced to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets.

Under the proposed rule, only qualified service dogs would be allowed on planes at no extra charge. Additionally, passengers with physical or psychological disabilities who need to bring a service dog into the cabin may have to fill out a new federal form attesting that it has been trained to perform tasks that address the disability.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has been advocating for equal rights for people with asthma and allergies on planes. We have also met with the DOT and airlines to discuss the need for rules that allow all people with disabilities (including asthma and allergies) to be treated fairly – not favoring one disability over another.

AAFA supports aligning the definition of service animals with the ADA’s definition of service animals (dogs and when necessary, miniature horses). Our hope is that this will reduce past abuses by pet owners of finding ways to travel with their pets in the airplane cabin, and thus, may reduce the amount of animal dander on planes. However, the proposed rules by the DOT still fall short of protecting the disability group that has life-threatening asthma or animal dander allergies. For some travelers who have asthma, traveling in a confined space in close proximity to an animal can trigger a life-threatening asthma attack. Up to three out of 10 Americans have a dog or cat allergy, and more than 25 million Americans have asthma. The current regulation does not provide enough recognition nor accommodation for this community.


In a New York Times article, Kenneth Mendez, CEO and president of AAFA, had the chance to speak about the rule on behalf of people with asthma and allergies:

...The proposed rules might help curb some of the abuses by people taking animals on airplanes and saying they were there for emotional support.

But you also have to take into account those passengers with asthma and allergies, and there is a growing number of animals on airplanes...

The DOT will be accepting comments on the proposed rule. We are working on AAFA’s full response to the DOT and will submit it when the public comment period opens. We’ll keep our community updated when it’s time to take action!

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Comments (16)

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Thank you so much for advocating for asthma/allergy sufferers regarding animals on planes. People with pets do not seem to realize that it is a matter of life or death for an allergy sufferer, like me, to be exposed to pet dander. Please let me know how I may help with this effort.

Also, I had to cancel my plans to two family weddings this past year, sadly, because the hotels offering accommodations for the wedding guests, as well as other hotels in the same towns, had "pet friendly" policies, and could not guarantee that no pets would have recently been in my reserved room. Is your organization also advocating for asthma sufferers to hotels and VRBOs? If so, how may I help in that effort?

Thank you, Deborah Belonick

Last edited by Kathy P

Thank you for your continued advocacy on this. It does seem like we need to keep working on even more accommodations as I'm worried this still won't change the fact that more and more people are bringing animals onto planes, allowing them to sit on seats etc.

Could we make any headway by looking at the root cause of the issue which is that the reason people want to bring their pets with them in the cabin is that they fear putting them in cargo? The main reasons they worry about the cargo hold seem to be: temperature fluctuations (and often colder air in cargo than the cabin), difficulty making sure pets have access to their food or water, the worry that they may be anxious and frightened, and that they are sometimes unloaded last, after the luggage is taken off. There are many many articles and blog posts online arguing that owners should do whatever they can to bring their pets on board in order to protect them.

I'm not sure what the FAA could do about this but it seems like an important part of the conversation.

Thanks again for your work on this!

Thank you so much from all of us who suffer and for this update !
I too have to worry about traveling with animals, where I can stay, hotel, rental home that a cat /dog has not stayed in. I get extremely sick for a long period of time.
Definitely ruins a vacation or going to see my kids in other States.  
Michelle Keen

In an effort to best take care of me when purchasing a plane ticket is, I buy business class. This is obviously at a height cost to me and I feel it’s unfair. But, animals are not often in B/C.

It’s beyond sneezing and itchy eyes. My asthma kicks in. It becomes very hard to breathe.

I understand people have animals for various reasons (medical and otherwise). I do not however feel they should be allowed in the cabins sharing the same air quality as us human beings. Is it really worth the life of another…?

Thank you for the update! It is very good and should lessen the amount if problems for many, but sadly does not quite allow me to travel yet.

At least it is acknowledged that the airlines do not accommodate individuals with dander allergies and asthma, and that the resulting risk to us can be life threatening asthma attacks, worsening of severe chronic conditions that involve multiple vital organs and are also life-threatening,  increased need for high-risk medication use with detrimental side effects and worsened medical prognoses.

The airlines do show preference to disabilities involving individuals with  service animals over those with allergic and asthmatic diseases, although I do not believe those people with service animals would have as detrimental effects if separated from their animals for a flight duration and the benefit to others would be very great.

I do admit that I do not know all the outcomes of a person having an alternate aid during a flight, but it certainly seems unfair to me that my disability is not accommodated at all and I cannot fly due to the risks caused by accommodating other disabilities that would not be there otherwise.

But I just will continue not to travel by plane and be discriminated against.

Last edited by Shea

Oh my gosh YES !!! Travelling with Asthma...

Animals checked onto planes have "bumped" me off intercontinental flights a number of times (even if I had reserved my ticket weeks or months before the animal owner!), as I don't want to have an acute asthma attack half-way across the Atlantic. I could easily die.  To add insult to injury, no compensation has ever been forthcoming from the airline for a hotel when the next flight was the next day.....

If airlines require animal owners to submit documentation minimum 48 hours before, then asthma and allergy sufferers should be able to submit their disability documentation when they reserve their airline ticket, and thus be able to make sure there will be no animals allowed on the flight, or be able to switch flights right away (if an animal is already registered) with no extra charge. 

There are lots of possible solutions, but all of these require airlines recognizing that asthma and allergy suffers have a REAL disability that can be life threatening, and that needs to be accommodated with the same rights as other disabilities. 

Hotels should also always guarantee permanently animal-free rooms. No matter how well a hotel cleans, it is not going to eliminate all animal dander. So not to have permanently animal-free rooms is discriminating against people with allergies to animal dander, just as not having a wheelchair accessible bathroom discriminates against people with mobility issues.

I also rent out two holiday homes on our farm in Tuscany, and have had to opt for a special rental/tax category that permits me to NOT accept animals, as normally vacation accommodations and hotels are obliged to be animal-friendly.

Please let me know if there is anything I can do to further the interests/rights of asthma and allergy sufferers on public transportation, planes and in hospitality structures.

SFMG

 

Debsie posted:

Thank you so much for advocating for asthma/allergy sufferers regarding animals on planes. People with pets do not seem to realize that it is a matter of life or death for an allergy sufferer, like me, to be exposed to pet dander. Please let me know how I may help with this effort.

Also, I had to cancel my plans to two family weddings this past year, sadly, because the hotels offering accommodations for the wedding guests, as well as other hotels in the same towns, had "pet friendly" policies, and could not guarantee that no pets would have recently been in my reserved room. Is your organization also advocating for asthma sufferers to hotels and VRBOs? If so, how may I help in that effort?

Thank you, Deborah Belonick

 

Thanks for sharing your experience with hotels and other accommodations @Debsie. AAFA continues to educate and raise awareness about the seriousness of asthma and allergies and for advocates for access.

Last edited by Kathy P

Thank you for bringing attention to this important issue! Is there anything we can do to help advocate? This is a constant stressor for me as I have severe asthma triggered by cat and dog dander and flying in the states (animals aren't allowed in planes in the same way in other countries) has become harrowing for me. 

Thanks!

I just want to thank the AAFA for their advocacy regarding the pet dander issue. I have allergic asthma and highly allergic to cat, dog, and horse dander. So much so, that my immunologist prescribed me an EpiPen after my allergy test results were revealed. Also, a few years ago, after being exposed in an airplane cabin to a dog that was shaking and being bounced around on someone's lap, I had to stop flying to the East Coast to avoid the dog dander allergen that triggers my asthma. 

Kathy P posted:

  @Chinarider10 - the public comment period is not open yet. We will keep everyone posted when that opens. Meanwhile, you can read the proposed rules (PDF).

It says directly at the top how the public can submit comments. What is the AAFA planning to do about this? I believe that the definition of service animal needs to be universal and that "emotional support animals" need to be eliminated. That said, if I can't have anything under my feat upon take off and landing, how is an animal, however well trained, going to react during a true flight emergency? 

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