A United States Department of Transportation committee will meet for the final time Wednesday to clarify rules that allow service animals to fly for free with their owners on commercial flights.
Federal regulations require airlines to allow service animals to accompany their owners with a legitimate disability in the air.
Questions and concerns have popped up when people have successfully flown with what they claim to be emotional-support animals of all shapes and sizes, including turkeys, pigs, kangaroos and miniature horses.
“That’s the question. What is a legitimate service animal?” asked Steve Cosgrove, owner of Southlake travel agency Dynamic Travel.
Cosgrove said he has been asked by clients to book flights for a turkey and a pot-bellied pig and that the system is set up to allow it.
“The rules are not set, so they’re very vague,” he said. “You can probably just claim you’ve got a service assist animal and get away with it.”
Anyone can go online and within a few clicks find official-looking “Service Dog” harnesses and certificates of authenticity, but disability rights advocates have argued many of the animals being used in these roles are fraudulent.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, any business that suspects an animal is fraudulent can ask two questions of the owner:
- Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?