The Department of Transportation issued a “final rule” on Wednesday that allows airlines to significantly limit animals allowed in cabins.
The revised Air Carrier Access Act rules specified that a service animal must be “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.”
The latest announcement is a reversal of a former rule, which allows dogs, cats, and miniature horses to be accepted as service animals for transport.
The move comes after disruptions caused by “unusual species of animals” on flights, which “eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals.”
They also said that there had been an increase in the number of passengers “fraudulently representing their pets as service animals,” leading to thousands of complaints from other passengers.
One example was in 2014, when a passenger was kicked off a US Airways flight after his emotional support pig pooped in the cabin.
Delta also reported that passengers have been seen with “comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders, and more.”
The final rule allows airlines to limit the number of service animals travelling with a single passenger to two, and the animals are required to be fit within the handler’s foot space on the plane.
Service dogs on flight are required to be harnessed, leashed, or tethered at all times, and the airlines could ban animals that exhibit “aggressive behavior” or pose a direct threat to the health of others.
However, the airlines are prohibited from banning service dogs based solely on their breeds.
People who will be travelling with a service animal shall be required to fill out a form up to 48 hours in advance of travel.
“Airlines are committed to promoting accessibility for passengers with disabilities and ensuring their safe travel,” said Airlines for America president and CEO Nicholas E. Calio in a statement.
“The Department of Transportation’s final rule will protect the traveling public and airline crew members from untrained animals in the cabin, as well as improve air travel accessibility for passengers with disabilities that travel with trained service dogs.”