Woman and dog looking at lake.

Transportation and Relocation Options for Your Pets and Service Animals

Whether you are traveling for work or business, it is always great to be able to bring your furry companion with you. The rules for animals and aircraft travel have changed quite a bit over the years. Though we have become used to seeing animals in “Emotional Support” vests at the airport, these pets might not be allowed on planes for much longer. Understanding your options will help you create travel plans that work for your entire family.

New Ruling May Keep You From Flying With Your Emotional Support Animal

For many years, airlines were fairly lax on what sort of animals they let travel in the cabin of the plane. Most of the major airlines would let any emotional support fly for free and allow anyone to bring multiple emotional support animals on the plane. However, in January 2021, the Department of Transportation ruled that emotional support animals are not a protected class of animal. This means that airlines are not required to let anyone with an emotional support animal onboard. Some companies have chosen to still let emotional animals on board, but many others have changed their policies.

The new rules came about after a huge increase in emotional support animals. Between 2016 and 2017, there was a 40 percent increase in support animals on planes. With countless customers claiming their pets were emotional support animals, many airlines were becoming overwhelmed. The large increase in species like birds, reptiles, and rodents also resulted in some controversy among other airline passengers. Due to all the controversy, the Department of Transportation decided to rethink their ruling on emotional support animals. 

Therefore, quite a few companies have announced they will no longer be allowing customers to bring a free emotional support animal with them. Alaska Air was the first to announce it would completely ban emotional support animals, followed by United, American, and Delta. Other companies have announced strict rules about animal size and announced passengers with emotional support animals must bring a doctor’s note and documentation from a vet.

Airline Companies Are Still Required to Allow Service Dogs 

Keep in mind that these rules are all banning emotional support animals, not official service dogs. Though service dogs often provide plenty of support for their owners, they are in an entirely separate category from general emotional support animals. A service dog must be a dog that is specifically trained to assist an owner with a physical, psychiatric, or mental disability. They are typically registered with various organizations and have a lot of documentation, and no other species can be a service dog.

These animals are still allowed on flights. Passengers will need to fill out a Service Animal Air Transportation Form before the flight to show their dog is properly registered. Then they can bring the dog onto the plane with them. The dog will be free, and it can sit with its owner in the cabin. The new rules do clarify that service dogs are still allowed on planes, but they do place some limitations on service dogs. Each passenger can only bring two service dogs on board, and they have to be small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of the passenger. 

What This Means for Your Travel Plans

So if you have a beloved pet and were planning on flying with them soon, how will all these changes affect you? The answer to that question will depend on what sort of pet you have and what airline you are flying with. As long as your pet is a registered service dog, it can fly for free on any airline. If your pet is an emotional support animal, it might be able to fly for free, but some airlines might not let you claim an emotional support animal anymore. You will need to pick your airline carefully if you want your animal to qualify as an emotional support animal.

For all other pets, you are stuck with the basic airline rules for animal transportation. You will need to purchase a plane ticket for them, which might be just as much or even more than a human ticket. Airlines will offer the choice of letting your pet fly in the cabin with you or in the cargo hold. Almost all vets agree that pets should not be placed in the cargo hold. Cargo holds tend to have loud noises and extreme temperatures that can put a lot of stress on your pet’s health. 

Unfortunately, airlines tend to severely restrict which pets are allowed in the cabin. Animals must be under a certain size, and in-cabin transport is typically restricted to cats and dogs. Many airlines will have breed restrictions, so certain animals like Pitbulls might not be allowed in the cabin. Some airlines may not allow your pet on the seat, even if you purchase a ticket for them. In these cases, your animal must be small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of you.

Find the Right Solution for Your Furry Friends

Ultimately, the changes in Department of Transportation rules puts a lot of burden on pet owners. If you want to bring your pet with you on a plane, you might end up with more expenses and more hassle. Blue Collar Pet Transport helps make your travel plans easier. Regardless of your budget or type of pet, we are here to help.

At BCPT, we prioritize your pet’s safety, comfort, and happiness. Our team serves all of the United States and Canada, and we are USDA registered and insured. We provide a variety of travel options, including shared rides with other pets, private rides, air escorts, and private jets. Whatever service you pick, you can be confident we will follow your food and water schedule, take your pet out for regular breaks, and give them plenty of love. Contact us today to learn more.

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