How do I know its an assistance animal and not a pet

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How do I know its an assistance animal and not a pet


    68 FR 24875, May 9, 2003


    Office of the Secretary

    14 CFR Part 382

    Docket No. OST-2003-15072

    Guidance Concerning Service Animals in Air Transportation

    AGENCY: Department of Transportation, Office of the Secretary.

    ACTION: Guidance Concerning Service Animals in Air Transportation.

    SUMMARY: This notice publishes a revision to the Department of Transportation’s Guidance Concerning Service Animals in Air Transportation, originally published in the Federal Register

    on November 1, 1996 (61 FR 56409, 56420). It is the result of the Department’s review of a

    September 19, 2002, submission of suggested improvements to the existing guidance from

    representatives of the disability community and the airline industry.

    ADDRESSES: This guidance document is available on the Department’s Web site at and future updates or revisions will be posted there. Questions

    regarding this notice may be addressed to the Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings,

    thC-70, 400 7 Street, SW, Washington, DC 20590.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Damon P. Whitehead, Office of the General

    Counsel, Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings, 400 Seventh Street, SW, Washington,

    DC 20590; (202) 366-1743; fax: (202) 366-7152; E-mail:









In 1990, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) promulgated the official regulations

    implementing the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). Those rules are entitled Nondiscrimination

    on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel (14 CFR Part 382). Since then the number of people

    with disabilities traveling by air has grown steadily. This growth has increased the demand for

    air transportation accessible to all people with disabilities and the importance of understanding

    DOT’s regulations and how to apply them. This document expands on an earlier DOT guidance

    1, which was based on an earlier Americans with Disabilities Act document published in 1996

    (ADA) service animal guide issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in July 1996. The

    purpose of this document is to aid airline employees and people with disabilities in

    understanding and applying the ACAA and the provisions of Part 382 with respect to service

    animals in determining:

    (1) whether an animal is a service animal and its user a qualified individual with a disability;

    (2) how to accommodate a qualified person with a disability with a service animal in the aircraft

    cabin; and

    (3) when a service animal legally can be refused carriage in the cabin.

     1 61 FR 56409, 56420 (Nov. 1, 1996).



    The 1996 DOT guidance document defines a service animal as “any guide dog, signal dog, or

    other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If the

    animal meets this definition, it is considered a service animal regardless of whether it has been

    licensed or certified by a state or local government.” This document refines DOT’s previous

    2definition of service animal by making it clear that animals that assist persons with disabilities

    by providing emotional support qualify as service animals and ensuring that, in situations

    concerning emotional support animals, the authority of airline personnel to require

    documentation of the individual’s disability and the medical necessity of the passenger traveling

    with the animal is understood.

    Today, both the general public and people with disabilities use many different terms to identify

    animals that can meet the legal definition of “service animal.” These range from umbrella terms

    such as “assistance animal” to specific labels such as “hearing,” “signal,” “seizure alert,”

    “psychiatric service,” “emotional support” animal, etc. that describe how the animal assists a

    person with a disability.

    When Part 382 was promulgated, most service animals were guide or hearing dogs. Since then,

    a wider variety of animals (e.g., cats, monkeys, etc.) have been individually trained to assist

    people with disabilities. Service animals also perform a much wider variety of functions than

    ever before (e.g., alerting a person with epilepsy of imminent seizure onset, pulling a wheelchair,

    assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance). These developments can make it

    difficult for airline employees to distinguish service animals from pets, especially when a

    passenger does not appear to be disabled, or the animal has no obvious indicators that it is a

    service animal. Passengers may claim that their animals are service animals at times to get


around airline policies that restrict the carriage of pets. Clear guidelines are needed to assist

    airline personnel and people with disabilities in knowing what to expect and what to do when

    these assessments are made.

    Since airlines also are obliged to provide all accommodations in accordance with FAA safety

    regulations (see section 382.3(d)), educated consumers help assure that airlines provide

    accommodations consistent with the carriers’ safety duties and responsibilities. Educated

    consumers also assist the airline in providing them the services they want, including

    accommodations, as quickly and efficiently as possible.

    General Requirements of Part 382

    In a nutshell, the main requirements of Part 382 regarding service animals are:

    ? Carriers shall permit dogs and other service animals used by persons with

    disabilities to accompany the persons on a flight. See section 382.55(a)(1-2).

    ? Carriers shall accept as evidence that an animal is a service animal identifiers

    such as identification cards, other written documentation, presence of

    harnesses, tags or the credible verbal assurances of a qualified individual with

    a disability using the animal.

    ? Carriers shall permit a service animal to accompany a qualified individual

    with a disability in any seat in which the person sits, unless the animal

    obstructs an aisle or other area that must remain unobstructed in order to

    facilitate an emergency evacuation or to comply with FAA regulations. ? If a service animal cannot be accommodated at the seat location of the qualified individual

    with a disability whom the animal is accompanying, the carrier shall offer the passenger

    the opportunity to move with the animal to a seat location in the same class of service, if

     2 See Glossary for definition of this and other terms.


    present on the aircraft, where the animal can be accommodated, as an alternative to

    requiring that the animal travel in the cargo hold (see section 382.37(c)).

    ? Carriers shall not impose charges for providing facilities, equipment, or services that are

    required by this part to be provided to qualified individuals with a disability (see section


    Two Steps for Airline Personnel

    To determine whether an animal is a service animal and should be allowed to accompany its user

    in the cabin, airline personnel should:

    1. Establish whether the animal is a pet or a service animal, and whether the passenger is a

    qualified individual with a disability; and then

    2. Determine if the service animal presents either

    ? a “direct threat to the health or safety of others,” or

    ? a significant threat of disruption to the airline service in the cabin (i.e. a “fundamental

    alteration” to passenger service). See 382.7(c). Service Animals

    How do I know it’s a service animal and not a pet? Remember: In most situations the key is TRAINING. Generally, a service animal is individually trained to perform functions to assist the passenger who is a qualified individual

    with a disability. In a few extremely limited situations, an animal such as a seizure alert animal

    may be capable of performing functions to assist a qualified person with a disability without

    individualized training. Also, an animal used for emotional support need not have specific

    training for that function. Similar to an animal that has been individually trained, the definition

    of a service animal includes:


? an animal that has been shown to have the innate ability to assist a person with a

    disability; or

    ? an emotional support animal.

    These five steps can help one determine whether an animal is a service animal or a pet:

    1. Obtain credible verbal assurances: Ask the passenger: “Is this your pet?” If the

    passenger responds that the animal is a service animal and not a pet, but uncertainty

    remains about the animal, appropriate follow-up questions would include:

    ? “What tasks or functions does your animal perform for you?" or

    ? “What has it been trained to do for you?” ? “Would you describe how the animal performs this task (or function) for you?”

    ? As noted earlier, functions include, but are not limited to:

    A. helping blind or visually impaired people to safely

    negotiate their surroundings;

    B. alerting deaf and hard-of-hearing persons to sounds;

    C. helping people with mobility impairments to open and

    close doors, retrieve objects, transfer from one seat to

    another, maintain balance; or

    D. alert or respond to a disability-related need or emergency

    (e.g., seizure, extreme social anxiety or panic attack).

    ? Note that to be a service animal that can properly travel in the cabin,

    the animal need not necessarily perform a function for the passenger

    during the flight. For example, some dogs are trained to help pull a

    passenger’s wheelchair or carry items that the passenger cannot readily


    carry while using his or her wheelchair. It would not be appropriate to

    deny transportation in the cabin to such a dog.

    ? If a passenger cannot provide credible assurances that an animal has

    been individually trained or is able to perform some task or function to

    assist the passenger with his or her disability, the animal might not be

    a service animal. In this case, the airline personnel may require

    documentation (see Documentation below).

    ? There may be cases in which a passenger with a disability has

    personally trained an animal to perform a specific function (e.g.,

    seizure alert). Such an animal may not have been trained through a

    formal training program (e.g., a “school” for service animals). If the

    passenger can provide a reasonable explanation of how the animal was

    trained or how it performs the function for which it is being used, this

    can constitute a “credible verbal assurance” that the animal has been

    trained to perform a function for the passenger.

    2. Look for physical indicators on the animal: Some service animals wear harnesses,

    vests, capes or backpacks. Markings on these items or on the animal’s tags may

    identify it as a service animal. It should be noted, however, that the absence of such

    equipment does not necessarily mean the animal is not a service animal.

    3. Request documentation for service animals other than emotional support animals: The

    law allows airline personnel to ask for documentation as a means of verifying that the

    animal is a service animal, but DOT urges carriers not to require documentation as a

    condition for permitting an individual to travel with his or her service animal in the


cabin unless a passenger’s verbal assurance is not credible. In that case, the airline

    may require documentation as a condition for allowing the animal to travel in the

    cabin. The purpose of documentation is to substantiate the passenger’s disability-

    related need for the animal’s accompaniment, which the airline may require as a

    condition to permit the animal to travel in the cabin. Examples of documentation

    include a letter from a licensed professional treating the passenger’s condition (e.g.,

    physician, mental health professional, vocational case manager, etc.)

    4. Require documentation for emotional support animals: With respect to an animal

    used for emotional support (which need not have specific training for that function),

    airline personnel may require current documentation (i.e., not more than one year old)

    on letterhead from a mental health professional stating (1) that the passenger has a

    mental health-related disability; (2) that having the animal accompany the passenger

    is necessary to the passenger’s mental health or treatment or to assist the passenger

    (with his or her disability); and (3) that the individual providing the assessment of the

    passenger is a licensed mental health professional and the passenger is under his or

    her professional care. Airline personnel may require this documentation as a

    condition of permitting the animal to accompany the passenger in the cabin. The

    purpose of this provision is to prevent abuse by passengers that do not have a medical

    need for an emotional support animal and to ensure that passengers who have a

    legitimate need for emotional support animals are permitted to travel with their

    service animals on the aircraft. Airlines are not permitted to require the

    documentation to specify the type of mental health disability, e.g., panic attacks.


    5. Observe behavior of animals: Service animals are trained to behave properly in

    public settings. For example, a properly trained guide dog will remain at its owner’s

    feet. It does not run freely around an aircraft or an airport gate area, bark or growl

    repeatedly at other persons on the aircraft, bite or jump on people, or urinate or

    defecate in the cabin or gate area. An animal that engages in such disruptive behavior

    shows that it has not been successfully trained to function as a service animal in

    public settings. Therefore, airlines are not required to treat it as a service animal,

    even if the animal performs an assistive function for a passenger with a disability or is

    necessary for a passenger’s emotional well-being. What about service animals in training?

    3Part 382 requires airlines to allow service animals to accompany their handlers in the cabin of

    the aircraft, but airlines are not required otherwise to carry animals of any kind either in the cabin

    or in the cargo hold. Airlines are free to adopt any policy they choose regarding the carriage of

    pets and other animals provided that they comply with other applicable requirements (e.g., the

    Animal Welfare Act). Although “service animals in training” are not pets, the ACAA does not

    include them, because “in training” status indicates that they do not yet meet the legal definition

    of service animal. However, like pet policies, airline policies regarding service animals in

    training vary. Some airlines permit qualified trainers to bring service animals in training aboard

    an aircraft for training purposes. Trainers of service animals should consult with airlines, and

    become familiar with their policies.

     3 Service animal users typically refer to the person who accompanies the animal as the “handler.”


What about a service animal that is not accompanying a qualified individual with a disability?

    When a service animal is not accompanying a passenger with a disability, the airline's general

    policies on the carriage of animals usually apply. Airline personnel should know their

    company’s policies on pets, service animals in training, and the carriage of animals generally. Individuals planning to travel with a service animal other than their own should inquire about the

    applicable policies in advance.

    4Qualified Individuals with Disabilities How do I know if a passenger is a qualified individual with a disability who is entitled to bring

    a service animal in the cabin of the aircraft if the disability is not readily apparent?

    ? Ask the passenger about his or her disability as it relates to the need for a service animal.

    Once the passenger identifies the animal as a service animal, you may ask, “How does your

    animal assist you with your disability?” Avoid the question “What is your disability?” as

    this implies you are asking for a medical label or the cause of the disability, which is

    intrusive and inconsistent with the intent of the ACAA. Remember, Part 382 is intended to

    facilitate travel by people with disabilities by requiring airlines to accommodate them on an

    individual basis.

    ? Ask the passenger whether he or she has documentation as a means of verifying the

    medical necessity of the passenger traveling with the animal. Keep in mind that you can

    ask but cannot require documentation as proof of service animal status UNLESS (1) a

    passenger’s verbal assurance is not credible and the airline personnel cannot in good faith

    determine whether the animal is a service animal without documentation, or (2) a passenger

    indicates that the animal is to be used as an emotional support animal.

     4 See Glossary.


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