New emotional help animal rule is unfair to Individuals with disabilities

Comparison: The Ministry of Transport prioritizes the interests of the airlines over the rights of travelers

I don’t think anyone traveling by plane these days would describe it as an enjoyable experience. But for people with disabilities, the misery of air travel is exponential.

Try to get a red eye from Los Angeles to Boston without using the bathroom as the toilets are inaccessible. Or you can find your wheelchair broken when you arrive. Or you miss the flight completely because you are deaf and couldn’t hear the announcement that your plane was being moved to a different gate. These are all common experiences for travelers with disabilities.

The regulations, enacted by the Department of Transportation (DOT) last week, restrict service animals to dogs, require notice and documentation to travel with a service animal, and open the door for airlines to ban animals with emotional support.

These changes will only worsen the experience of travelers with disabilities. Given airlines’ dire record of mistreating people with disabilities – passengers filed nearly 31,000 disability-related complaints against U.S. airlines in 2018 – I don’t think they’ll be fair to administer this new system.

Imagine getting a phone call that your mother is seriously ill. In this stressful situation you would have to leave your emotional support animal behind with the new DOT regulations. Service dogs can be brought, but only if you have the right records and trust that an industry notorious for ignoring customer circumstances will serve you justice.

Yes, there are people who do not rely on animals with emotional support who have taken advantage of the law to avoid paying their pet fee. However, people with disabilities should not have to pay the price for other people’s wrongdoing.

In fact, the new rule stipulates that some people with disabilities will no longer be able to travel by air like everyone else.

The rules are fundamentally unfair, and prioritize business interests over the rights of Americans with disabilities. We believe that the regulations on animals with emotional support should be repealed.

Curt Decker is the executive director of the National Disability Rights Network.

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