Just over a year after Delta Airlines announced that “pit bull type dogs” were not welcome on flights, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a statement that forbids airlines from banning dogs based on their breed.
The decision, which is seen as a win for pit bull owners and lovers, was announced on Thursday alongside a statement that permits airlines to determine if a service animal — regardless of breed — is a threat based on their training, behavior, and vaccination history.
“In this Final Statement, the Department’s Enforcement Office announced that it does not intend to take action against an airline for asking users of any type of service animal to provide documentation related to vaccination, training, or behavior so long as it is reasonable to believe that the documentation would assist the airline in making a determination as to whether an animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others,” said the Department of Transportation in a statement.
In addition, the department stands by airlines’ decision to ban certain animal species, such as snakes.
The purpose of the statement was to clarify the Department of Transportation’s position on animals in planes. As the number of airline passengers flying with service and emotional support animals has increased, airlines have started tightening restrictions in order to safeguard other passengers and limit the sheer number of animals on planes.
United Airlines reported a 75 percent increase in emotional support animals on flights between 2016 and 2017, and there have been instances of biting, mauling, and exotic animals being brought on board.
The Los Angeles Times reports that federal law states that passengers who rely on an animal to help quell anxiety or other emotional challenges can fly with their animals, however, the 1986 law doesn’t provide clarity on how to diagnose a person who needs to be accompanied by an emotional support animal or what animals are allowed. The Department of Transportation’s position is meant to help solidify rules around animals in airplanes, which as of recent have been dictated by individual airlines.
Later this year, the Department of Transportation states that they plan to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Service Animals.