WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senator Richard Burr introduced legislation to align the definition of a “service animal” under the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) with the definition under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), establish a criminal penalty for making misrepresentations about a service animal, and require federal agencies to establish a standard of service animal behavior training for animals who will be working on an aircraft.
“Today, I’m proud to introduce legislation that will protect the ability of individuals and veterans with disabilities to travel with their trained service animals,” said Senator Burr. “One doesn’t have to look far to find rampant cases of abuse where even emotional support kangaroos have been allowed to fly on planes to the detriment of fellow travelers and handlers of trained service animals. This bill will help clearly define what is a ‘service animal’ and will establish penalties for those fraudulently claiming disability needs.”
The ACAA (49 USC 41705) prohibits discrimination on a commercial aircraft against anyone with a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Enacting regulation for the ACAA (14 CFR 382.117) allows the use of an “emotional support or psychiatric service animal” under certain conditions. However, under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) the definition of “service animal” (28 CFR 36.104/302) does not require accommodation for dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support, as those animals do not qualify under the ADA.
The legislation would amend the ACAA by defining “service animal” in statute using the current definition under the ADA. By aligning the two statutes using the ADA definition of service animal, it would bar animals not currently recognized by the ADA, would not allow animals whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support, and would require that in order to qualify as a service animal a dog must be individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.
The legislation would also make it illegal for an individual to knowingly and willfully make a false statement for the purpose of seeking accommodation involving an animal from a commercial air carrier. Specifically, the proposal would prohibit false statements or representations regarding whether an animal is a service animal trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.
Finally, the legislation would require the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Attorney General, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, commercial air carriers, and private industry, to establish a standard of service animal behavior training for individuals seeking accommodation under the ACAA.
This bill has garnered the support of Airlines for America, the American Legion, the Association of Flight Attendants – CWA, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, K9s for Warriors, the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans, and numerous other airlines.