New Rules for Support Animals on Planes

Hello and welcome to Dog Works Radio. I am Michele Forto, the lead trainer at Alaska Dog Works. Almost every day we get calls from potential clients asking how we can certify their dogs to be service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional dogs. Almost always they interchange the type of dog that they need and therein lies much of the problem. If you have been to an airport recently, undoubtably you have seen many dogs. Some of these dogs are in strollers. Some are on leash. Some even have on muzzles. For some reason everyone wants to take their dog on the plane. Today we are going to talk some new rules that are coming down the pipe that will change all of that.

To listen to this as a podcast please click on the player, otherwise continue to read:

I have been a service dog trainer for more than twenty years. Along with the many dogs that I have trained to help make folks more independent that suffer from mobility issues, kids with autism, PTSD for our soldiers and psychiatric issues I have also been asked hundreds of times if I will just sign off on a dog so that they can travel with them on the plane. One day when we had our training center in Denver a lady came into our office and asked about service dog training and she pulled out a little dog from under her shirt and asked us to certified it so they could travel to Hawaii the next day!

Recently there was much abuzz about some new rules that may be implemented. I will read you the article here and then discuss it:

The U.S. Transportation Department unveiled a series of proposed new rules aimed at cracking down on the types of service animals that passengers can bring with them when they fly. Currently, there is confusion over what constitutes a service animal, and many people claim their pets, including mice, cats, pigs, and in one case, even a peacock, are service animals.

Under the current system, passengers must fill out paperwork ahead of time and have a doctor’s note saying their pet is an emotional support animal. While service animals are supposed to be highly trained to assist their owners with a specific disability, there is no formal training for emotional support animals. In addition, it is relatively simple to go online and get your pet certified, even if they lack the proper training.

Many airlines have lobbied the government to strengthen the rules after they have been forced to waive their pet fees for a growing number of passengers who claim their pets are emotional support animals. In addition to the lost fees, airlines have complained that many of the animals are not trained and have created a nightmare for crew members and other passengers.

Under the updated rules, the new definition of service animals would only include dogs that are trained to help a person with a physical or other disability.

“Airlines want all passengers and crew to have a safe and comfortable flying experience, and we are confident the proposed rule will go a long way in ensuring a safer and healthier experience for everyone,” said Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed changes.

Last summer my husband Robert and I were in Seattle at waiting for a flight at the gate. There was a dog with a service dog vest on and they were rolling around the floor playing and goofing off. I told Robert, I bet that is not a service dog. I was right. As they called everyone up to board the plane this lady took out a neck brace and put it on! I could not believe it. What this lady did is common. Either they don’t want to pay the extra fee to have their dog fly in cargo or they just want their dog on the plane, folks like this cheat the system by buying a service dog vest online and claiming it to be a service animal. Fake service dogs are everywhere and in airports and on planes it is getting worse.

The need for a mandatory and recognizable certification. We have been certified evaluators for the American Kennel Clubs Canine Good Citizen program for years. It is a test that tests whether a dog will be well behaved in public and around strangers and other dogs. The beauty of the CGC test is that it is an independent test meaning that I am not supposed to test a dog that I have trained, another evaluator is supposed to test the dog. Checks and Balances if you will. Many service dog companies use the CGC test as a part of their program. Something like this could be developed for service dog certification and then, something that we have advocated for years, a recognizable certification card, that we call a service dog drivers license could issued which would be much like your own drivers license with watermarks, pictures, etc, and a renewal date too. This alone would go a long way in combating the fake service dog epidemic.

What do you think of the new rules? Let us know on our social channels. Just search dog works radio. As always you can find out more about us at Alaska dog