AFA Applauds Final DOT Rule on Service Animals

WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 2, 2020) — The Department of Transportation today released a final rule that amends the definition of a service animal in air transportation and includes safeguards to ensure safety and limit fraud. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA International President Sara Nelson issued the following statement:

“Today’s rule by the Department of Transportation for service animals in the passenger cabin is a good news for the flying public and crew. It sets clear definitions and guidance to ensure people with disabilities and our veterans have necessary service animal assistance while maintaining the safety, health and security of all passengers and crew onboard our planes.

"Passengers claiming pets as emotional support animals have threatened the safety and health of passengers and crews in recent years. Flight Attendants have been hurt and safety has been compromised by untrained animals loose in the cabin. This final rule will ensure that untrained pets will never roam free in the aircraft cabin again. Passengers can still travel with animals under their preferred carrier’s pet program."

In summary, the final rule:

  • Defines a service animal as a dog that is trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability;
  • Frees carriers from recognizing emotional support animals as service animals;
  • Recognizes that psychiatric service animals are the same as other service animals;
  • Allows carriers to limit the species of service animals to dogs;
  • Allows carriers to require that passengers provide a completed DOT-approved form as a condition of transportation;
  • Carriers can require a complete behavior and training attestation as a condition of transport on flights that are eight hours or longer;
  • Permits carriers to limit the number of service animals per passenger to two;
  • Allows carriers to require that service animals fit on the handler’s lap or within the handler’s foot space, and be harnessed, tethered, or leashed;
  • Prohibits carriers from discriminating based on the service animal breed;
  • Prohibits carriers from requiring a passenger with a disability traveling with a service animal to physically check-in at the airport rather than online, but allows the carrier to require the passenger to provide the service animal form(s) at the departure gate on the date of travel; and
  • Allows carriers to require individuals traveling with a service animal to provide a DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form and, if applicable, a DOT Service Animal Relief Attestation up to 48 hours in advance of the date of travel if the passenger’s reservation was made prior to that time.


The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, (AFA) AFL-CIO represents nearly 50,000 Flight Attendants at 17 airlines. AFA is the union that has advanced the Flight Attendant profession for 75 years, beating back discrimination and improving wages, benefits, working conditions, and aviation safety, health and security in the aircraft cabin. AFA also partners with the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO. Visit us at

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