The BIGGEST change in ESA travel, Effective January 1, 2021.

I will forewarn you, this is one of my nerves that people like to hit a LOT because of the damage people do to those who really need the RSA. This will likely be the most biased report I ever do. There is NO reason I can ever be given that will let me not get angry with those who pass off pets as RSA’s. I fully support the DoT in their decision to finally enforce the rules.

Now, to clarify. I have no problem with ESA’s or pets traveling. If you pay for them, they should be allowed to go. Provided they are healthy, clean, not aggressive, and can control elimination. My anger and annoyance comes when someone claims their purse dog is a registered RSA so they don’t have to pay. Then the dog barks, climbs everywhere, tries to bite people,does it’s stinky business everywhere, etc.

So, it has been well known for years that people pass off their animal as a service animal in order to take their purse dog on flights. Well, it’s simply no longer going to be allowed. And, it’s legal to deny your pet access to a flight.

Under the ADA, the ONLY animals that are NOT allowed to be blocked from boarding a flight are legitimate Service Animals. These do not, and have never included emotional support animals. However, out of fear of the American mentality of “I will sue to get what I want”, it has never been challenged when someone brings on an animal.

Now, they are, and always have been, allowed to ask “What service is your animal trained to provide”, and they can require documents. They never have though, because fear of being sued. Not sued by those with legit RSA’s, but those trying to pass Princess FluffButt off as one while she barks, growls and snips at people.

So, A little more background. RSA’s are registered, fully trained dogs or small horses. They are trained to detect medical conditions, such as seizures, low blood sugar, PTSD reactions and more. They are then trained to get help, medication, calm, etc.

As with many other articles I will be writing, this one is fraught with people who have found a way to skirt the rules . However, now there are stronger consequences when (yes, no longer if, but WHEN) the people doing it are caught. Including falsifying federal documents.

Under the now much more firm rules, airlines will no longer take the chance that a customer will sue. If they break the rules the flight crew is to be fired and the airline will be fined a substantial amount.

The new rules, going forward are simple. First, the RSA must be a dog, regardless of breed. Second, be VERY aware that (as has been written since the ADA RSA act was enabled) the dog must be registered and certified. Don’t use the online “certify your pet today” sites, as they do NOT register them correctly.

If you desire to take your RSA with you, you must fill out a form attesting to your dog training, temperament, and overall health. If your flight is over 8 hours, you must also attest your dog is able to take the flight without relieving itself, or able to relieve itself in a sanitary manner. Yes, some RSA’s are trained to use a toilet. Even an airplane one.

In addition to the forms, you may be asked several times what task your RSA is trained to provide. You MUST answer this, as the flight crew needs to now also watch for warnings of distress. The forms, which include your statement, the vet’s records, and proof of registration can be required to be provided to the airline 48 hours in advance. The registration will be verified, and if it’s found you have falsified any portion your animal will be denied main cabin entry and placed in the animal cargo area in a crate you provide. You will be charged the animal travel fee. You may face deeper penalties such as fines and jail time, as well as being on the No-Fly list.

Now, for those who use the ability correctly, please note you may now need to provide a harness or other measure to ensure your assistant is safe in heavy turbulence.

In the final rule document, it goes on to explain that if they have not completed a registration check and your animal begins barking, or exhibiting agressions, the check will be done while in air, and if it turns out that your animal is not registered legally and correctly, the flight will be diverted and you, your travel companions, and your animal will be removed from the flight. Be aware that in some areas that includes impounding your animal until it is evaluated and proven to be a RSA.

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