Senator wants to put a tighter leash on airline rules for service animals

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Fredrick Kunkle | The Washington Post

WASHINGTON – Congress will consider tightening the rules on service animals allowed to accompany passengers on airliners under legislation introduced this week.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has introduced an airline bill that would align the definition of a service animal to fit the stricter regulations in the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Burr, noting that things have gotten out of hand when people try bringing support kangaroos onto a plane, said in a news release that the proposed rule would also establish a criminal penalty for falsely asserting that the family pet is a service animal.

The measure comes as some animal-loving passengers have pushed the limits to bring pets onboard and others have expressed discomfort about traveling in an airborne Noah’s Ark. Earlier this year, Delta announced steps to tighten its procedures after people attempted to fly with a menagerie of comfort animals, including turkeys, snakes, spiders and more.

Burr’s legislation, which was introduced Tuesday as part of the Federal Aviation Authority reauthorization, has the backing of Airlines for America, which represents the airline industry. Burr said the measure also has support from the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO; K9s for Warriors; the American Legion; and the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans.

Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a creature that has been trained to perform specific tasks to assist people with disabilities, such as dogs that help blind people navigate. An animal would not fit the bill if it were there simply to offer its owner comfort.

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