68 FR 24875, May 9, 2003
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
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 http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/ 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: email@example.com.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY
POLICY GUIDANCE CONCERNING SERVICE ANIMALS IN AIR
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
(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
? 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
? 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.