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Alaska Airlines reduces number of emotional support animals on flights

If you are traveling on Alaska Airlines from mid-January, do not plan to board with your support pig or miniature horse.

The airline, acting on new federal guidelines to subdue a range of sometimes exotic animals that passengers have brought on commercial planes as emotional support animals, made it simple by announcing on Tuesday that it would allow: only qualified assistance dogs. able to lie on the floor or stand on their knees.

Ray Prentice, director of customer defense for Alaska Airlines, who said it was the first major airline to publicly change its animal policy in light of updated federal guidelines, said the decision to the airline was a positive step.

“This regulatory change is good news as it will help us reduce disruption on board while continuing to accommodate our customers traveling with qualified service animals,” Prentice said in a statement.

The airline said that from January 11 it would only allow assistance dogs trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.

A Dec. 2 decision by the US Department of Transportation that amended the department’s air carrier access law grants airlines the power to classify emotional support animals as pets rather than service animals. Under the decision, only dogs that meet specific training criteria are allowed as service animals for people with physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other disabilities.

The new regulatory decision has been criticized by disability rights advocates, who said the restrictions would weaken protections for people with disabilities by limiting the definition of a service animal. According to official guidelines released by the Department of Transportation in 2019, common service animals include miniature dogs, cats and horses.

“While it’s no secret that we still remain a long way from a truly accessible transportation system in this country, the DOT rule will only exacerbate existing inequalities for people with disabilities participating in air travel and instead address almost exclusively to the interests of the airline. industry, ”said Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, in a statement this month.

Despite criticism, airlines and other players in the air travel industry, such as lobbying group Airlines for America, celebrated the recent changes, saying they would do more to reduce inappropriate animal behavior on the road. theft and help deter those who abuse the service rules. animals.

In the past, passengers have tried to travel with a variety of animals, from the most mundane to the simply unusual, such as pigs, monkeys and birds. (One failed attempt even included a peacock.)

The Americans With Disabilities Act defines miniature dogs and horses as service animals “that are individually trained to work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” By law, dogs that provide emotional support only are not designated as service animals.

Alaska Airlines’ revised policy will allow a maximum of two service dogs per guest and will include psychiatric service dogs. Passengers will also be required to submit a form, developed by the Department of Transportation, confirming that a dog is a service animal and that it has received proper training and vaccinations.

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