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OST-2018-0067 - Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel - Interim Statement of Enforcement Priorities Regarding Service Animals
OST-2018-0068 - Traveling by Air with Service Animals
OST-2003-15072 - Guidance Concerning Service Animals in Air Transportation
OST-2004-19482 - Nondiscrimination on Basis of Disability in Air Travel - NPRM
OST-2009-0093 - Psychiatric Service Dogs - Air Carrier Access Act
OST-2006-23999 - Notice of Proposed Rulemaking - Accomodations for Individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf-Blind
OST-2015-0246 - Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel: Consideration of Negotiated Rulemaking Process
Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel
Issued May 16, 2018
Today, the Department issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in response to concerns expressed by the stakeholders about the need for a change in the Department’s service animal requirements. The ANPRM solicits comments on ways to ensure that individuals with disabilities can continue using their service animals while deterring the fraudulent use of other animals not qualified as service animals and ensuring that animals that are not trained to behave properly in the public are not accepted for transport. Because the rulemaking process can be lengthy, the Department’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, within the Office of the General Counsel, is issuing this statement to apprise the public of its intended enforcement focus with respect to transportation of service animals in the cabin until the service animal requirements are revised.
This interim statement of enforcement priorities reflects the Department’s current view of where to focus its limited resources with respect to service animal issues, given airlines recently announced service animal policies. In appropriate cases, the Enforcement Office may take enforcement action against carriers for violations that are not described in this interim statement. The Department solicits comment on the effects and implications of adopting these enforcement priorities. The comment period will remain open for 15 days after publication in the Federal Register.
By: Blane Workie
May 7, 2018
At the beginning of the meeting, OIRA staff explained that the government participants are present to listen and, if needed, to ask clarifying questions. OIRA staff also explained that they will publicly post a list of the attendees, and that DOT will docket a summary of the meeting.
Airline representatives stated that passengers are increasingly bringing untrained animals onboard aircraft which has resulted in serious health and safety issues for other passengers and crew. They stressed the need to quickly amend the Department’s service animal rule and indicated that they would like for the Department to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking rather than an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The airline representatives stated that the US Department of Transportation should create a service animal definition that is consistent with the US Department of Justice’s definition of a service animal. One airline representative noted that emotional support animals are currently only recognized in housing and for air travel which she stated may make sense in the housing context but does not in air travel, considering aircraft have limited space. Concern was also expressed by another airline representative that there is no limit on the number of emotional support animals that are currently allowed on aircraft. Someone else voiced concern that dishonest individuals currently purchase service animal paraphernalia such as vests online and pretend their pets are service animals. Airline representatives also stated that, for safety reasons, that service animals should be tethered or leashed.
National Federation of the Blind representatives emphasized that the US Department of Transportation should not create a new set of requirements or hoops for service animal users to go through because of concerns about untrained animals and/or emotional support animals. They pointed out that guide dogs are typically trained from birth and that the training for guide dogs is intense. They stated that there have been no known problems of guide dogs biting others. It was also pointed out that guide dogs are so well trained that when attending meetings others sometimes do not even realize that the dogs are present.
Another NFB representative stressed that the Department should ensure that the right of persons who are blind to travel by air without providing advance notice is not curtailed. She spoke of her need in the past for last minute air travel due to an ill family member and to attend a funeral of another family member. She also indicated that, if she wished to do so, she and other individuals who are blind should be able to take spontaneous trips for pleasure at the last minute just like persons without disabilities can do.
June 7, 2018
American Airlines supports the rights of qualified individuals with disabilities and their legitimate service animals. American respectfully requests that the Department focus its enforcement priorities to protect all passengers and crews and trained service animals, and recognize that air travel is a unique platform that is not appropriate for an expansive view of already permissive regulations. To wit, American supports the following: limiting the species of service and support animal and the number of ESAs per-passenger to one; permitting advance notice requirements and in-person check -in for ESAs if circumstances require it; permitting airlines to require vaccination, behavior, and training documentation for ESAs; and permitting airlines to require that ESAs be tethered or in a pet carrier. Finally, American submits that further consideration be given to the significant safety issues posed by the larger, untrained and unsecured emotional support animals.
Counsel: American, Molly Wilkinson, 202-496-5643
To put it bluntly, people will need some serious disincentives before they will stop committing fraud or simply refusing to control their animals on flights. In the meantime, those of us who work with service animals to enhance our independence are blamed for these disruptions, seen as detrimental to the air travel experience and generally thought of by an increasing number of passengers and airline/airport staff as “the problem.” It is time that airlines take some bold, and in some quarters unpopular, moves and prosecute some of the obvious fraud cases they have ignored in favor of public approval, use the remedies available regarding poorly behaved and controlled animals, and respect those of us who present with well-behaved service animals.
By: Jenine Stanley
June 7, 2018
DOT’s service animal regulations pertaining to ESAs are “not working” and could have unexpected safety consequences. DOT recognizes that “airlines have a responsibility to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of all of [their] passengers and employees” and that air transportation must remain “safe and accessible for everyone."
Yet DOT’s regulations constrain airlines from meaningfully controlling fraud and reducing the likelihood of dangerous or disruptive behavior by these animals. We therefore welcome DOT’s decision to initiate a rulemaking to consider amending its regulations, and will submit separate comments in response to the ANPRM. Until DOT finalizes that rulemaking, we urge DOT to adopt a narrowly focused enforcement approach that protects passengers with disabilities’ right to travel with legitimate service animals, but without inhibiting airlines from adopting reasonable measures to prevent persons who are not qualified individuals with a disability from availing themselves of protections meant for those with disabilities and without inhibiting full review of the passenger and animal prior to boarding the aircraft. Even if animals are bona fide ESAs, given the sheer volume of ESA requests airlines are receiving, it may not be reasonable to allow all of them in the cabin, given the small space available in the cabin and the risks some of these animals may pose.
DOT is understandably concerned not to take any action that would undermine access to air transportation for qualified individuals with disabilities. We share that concern, but all stakeholders (including DOT, airlines, disability advocacy groups, and consumer groups) should agree that fraud and abuse of DOT’s ESA rules, which are exceptionally generous relative to other agencies’ approach to such animals, are unacceptable and must be stopped. As the US Department of Justice has recognized, such abuse undermines access to transportation for qualified individuals with a disability. We are seeking an interim enforcement policy (pending implementation of urgently needed amendments to DOT’s service animal regulations) to enable airlines to efficiently prevent fraud, abuse and access to the cabin by animals that pose a threat to health and safety so that the resources and efforts of all parties can be properly focused on providing services and accommodations to qualified individuals with a disability while protecting the safety and health of all passengers and crew.
We support most of the “enforcement priorities” set forth in the Department’s Interim Statement, but respectfully request that, in developing its Final Statement, DOT modify its enforcement approach. Limited modifications will enhance airlines’ ability to adopt reasonable measures to prevent abuse and avoid the safety shortcomings of DOT’s regulations governing the transportation of service animals and ensure the safety of all passengers and airline staff pending final resolution of these issues in the Department’s pending rulemaking to amend its service animal’s regulations.
Counsel: Douglas Lavin, 202-628-9443 for IATA / David Berg, 202-626-4000 for A4A
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in numbers of passengers claiming the need for emotional support animals in the cabin. A recent published article states: “The number of passengers flying with emotional support animals on the nation’s airlines has surged. United Airlines, one of the biggest carriers, saw a 75% increase last year compared with 2016.” This increase causes safety hazards and greater conflict onboard, and interferes with the rights of our veterans and people with disabilities who legitimately need these animals to travel.
Flight Attendants and passengers have been bitten, attacked, and inconvenienced by animals that lack proper training to be in a confined public environment. To address these threats to in-flight safety, the Department of Transportation should, without delay, issue a clear statement of enforcement priorities that allows reasonable solutions related to emotional support animals in order to standardize practices across the industry.
By: Christopher Witkowski
While Volaris appreciates the rights of individuals with disabilities and their legitimate service animals, Volaris supports the Department's Interim Statement of Enforcement Office Priorities and believes the Interim Statement focuses the Department's enforcement priorities and ultimately better protects all passengers and crew.
Counsel: Holland & Knight, Anita Mosner, 202-419-2604
While Condor and Thomas Cook understand and appreciate the importance of the legitimate service animals, the Department's Interim Statement of Enforcement Office Priorities strikes the appropriate balance between meeting the needs of the traveling public and ensuring the safety of all passengers and crew in long haul flight conditions.
Counsel: Holland & Knight, Anita Mosner, 202-419-2604
June 7, 2018
Delta remains fully committed to making air travel accessible to all persons with disabilities. But we must balance this important commitment with our responsibility to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of all of our passengers and employees. Accordingly, Delta has implemented a number of measures to prevent the abuse of existing service animal regulations, including documentation requirements to prevent fraud and enhanced training for our employees to assess and facilitate the transport of service animals. At the same time, we have also implemented measures to improve the travel experience for those passengers with legitimate service animals, such as the creation of a dedicated service desk to better facilitate required paperwork.
DOT’s statement of enforcement priorities is consistent with Delta’s efforts, and we applaud the DOT for clarifying the application of existing rules. Better defined and more uniform standards governing the transport of service animals will benefit the traveling public, including those passengers who travel with service animals. Providing greater certainty allows carriers to address real risks and better protect passengers with confidence and consistency, while clarifying the expectations of the travel experience for all passengers, including passengers with disabilities.
By: Delta, Rich Swayze, 202-216-0700
The Department must address the growing proliferation of individual air carrier policies related to service animal access requirements by enforcing current service animal regulations and guidelines. Otherwise, the ACAA’s protections for psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals are in significant danger.
By: Curt Decker
Any change in the Department’s policy toward service-animal transportation will have substantial, widespread impacts throughout the industry. As such, making such changes requires a reasoned and collaborative approach that balances safety with accessibility, harmonizes the rights of passengers traveling with animals with the rights of passengers who are not, and preserves the ability of airlines to exercise their responsibility to all passengers to maintain safety and order on board their aircraft. The Department’s requirement that all check-in paths be available does not reflect such an approach.
Counsel: United, Mary Barnicle, 872-825-8311
August 6, 2018
DOT’s proposal to allow airlines to require documentation that is unallowable under the existing regulation, and to deny complainants with psychiatric disabilities the right to DOT enforcement of legitimate claims gives airlines both permission to violate the law with impunity, and to impose significant burdens on persons with psychiatric disabilities. DOT has acknowledged that allowing airlines to require advance proof of vaccination, training, or behavior will have significant negative impacts on persons with disabilities. Advance notice requirements “prevent passengers from traveling in the event of an emergency,” such as a funeral, accident, or sudden illness."
NCD is also concerned that the Interim Statement does not explain what will happen to complaints filed regarding PSAs and ESAs during the non-enforcement period. Since the ACAA regulation “remains in effect under its own terms or until superseded,”
NCD urges DOT not abandon its plan to implement these enforcement priorities. The action is not defensible under the ACAA and implementing regulation; will remove the only avenue available for persons with psychiatric disabilities to enforce their rights under the ACAA; and will allow airlines to impose increased and discriminatory burdens on persons with psychiatric disabilities.
By: Neil Romano
July 12, 2019
In May 2018 American Airlines surveyed our passengers, requesting input on questions related to service and support animals. We included the results of the 2018 survey in our formal comments submitted to the docket in response to both the Interim Statement of Enforcement Priorities and the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
In order to give you updated results, we surveyed our passengers again this summer. The results reveal a level of consistency in our passengers’ views and reinforce our understanding—that passengers largely support the carriage of trained service animals in flight, but have concerns with safety impacts of emotional support animals.
The survey was conducted over an 11-day period and 36,855 passengers responded. Below are some highlights, and attached is the full survey:
By: American, Meghan Ludtke
Issued August 8, 2019
The purpose of this Final Statement is to provide the public with greater transparency with respect to the Enforcement Office’s interpretation of existing requirements and its exercise of enforcement discretion surrounding service animals. Our enforcement efforts will be focused on clear violations of the current rule that have the potential to impact adversely the largest number of persons. These determinations will be made on a case-by-case basis.
This guidance is not legally binding in its own right and will not be relied on by the Department as a separate basis for affirmative enforcement or other administrative penalty. Conformity with this guidance (as distinct from existing statutes and regulations at Part 382) is voluntary only, and nonconformity will not affect rights and obligations under existing statutes and regulations.
As a matter of enforcement discretion, we intend to refrain from taking enforcement action with respect to the issues set forth in this Final Statement for a period of up to 30 days from the date of publication so long as the airline demonstrates that it began the process of compliance as soon as this notice was published in the Federal Register. This timeframe should provide airlines with adequate time to review and revise their policies as needed to comply with the ACAA and the Department’s disability regulation.
By: James Owens