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New proposed rules from the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) that seek to clarify Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulations regarding the transportation of service animals by air and that are intended the ensure that America’s air transportation system is safe for the travelling public and accessible to individuals with disabilities, are expected to be published in the Federal Register by the end of this week.


  • Defines a “service animal” as a dog that is individually trained to do work to perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.
  • Allows airlines to recognize emotional support animals as pets rather than as service animals.
  • Allow airlines to require all passengers with a disability traveling with a service animal to complete forms attesting to the animal’s training and behavior, certifying the animal’s good health, and confirming that the animal has the ability either not to relieve itself on a long flight or to relieve itself in a sanitary manner; and submit completed forms to the airline.
  • Clarifies existing prohibitions on airlines’ imposing breed restrictions on service animals.
  • Allows airlines to set policies to limit the number of service animals that one passenger can bring onboard an aircraft.
  • Requires service animals to be harnessed, leashed, or otherwise tethered.
  • Addresses the safe transport of large service animals in aircraft cabins.
  • Clarifies when the user of a service animal may be charged for damage caused by a service animal.
  • Addresses the responsibilities of airline code-share partners.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) strongly supports public accommodations that allow individuals with disabilities to use service dogs.  The AKC also strongly condemns characterizing dogs as service animals when they are not, or attempting to benefit from a dog’s service dog status when the individual using the dog is not a person with a disability.


In May 2018, DOT published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking comment on amending the Department’s ACAA regulations on transportation of service animals.  This was published in response to concerns expressed by individuals with disabilities, airlines, flight attendants, and other stakeholders about the need for a change in the Department’s service animal requirements.  THE ANPRM asked for comments on ways to ensure and improve access to air transportation for individuals with disabilities, while also deterring the fraudulent use of animals not qualified as service animals and ensuring that animals that are not trained to behave properly in public are not accepted for transport.

Then, in August of 2019, DOT issued interim guidance to help travelers understand their rights regarding the use of service animals and emotional support animals.  This clarification came after the number of animals traveling with passengers in cabin has significantly increased since 2016 (from 481,000 to 751,000 the following year, according to Airlines for America, an industry trade group) and a significant increase in the number of bite and other safety incidents involving ESAs.  Click here to read AKC’s August 2019 post on DOT’s interim clarifications. 

Read Misuse of Service Dogs Hurts the Disabled and Responsible Dog Owners.


AKC Government Relations Department (AKC GR) encourages all interested parties to review the proposed updates, which are available for consideration here. 

Concerned parties are encouraged to provide comment to U.S. Department of Transportation  during the update’s public comment period, which will run for 60 days after the proposal’s official publication in the Federal Register (i.e., through late March).

Individuals may file comments identified by the docket number DOT-OST-2018-0068 by any of the following methods:

  • Federal rulemaking Portal: go to and follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
  • Mail: Docket Management Facility. U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
  • Hand Delivery or Courier:  West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SW, between 9AM and 5PM E.T., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
  • FAX: (202) 493-2251.


AKC’s Government Relations Department will provide additional commentary and talking points on the proposal after fully analyzing the proposal.

Did you know that AKC GR recently redesigned and continues to update its Regulatory Resource Center, which provides information on regulatory proposals and requirements from both the federal and state governments?  For more information, access the Regulatory Resource Center at, or contact AKC GR at