Reason Roundup

Airlines Can Treat Emotional Support Critters Like Pets Instead of Service Animals

Plus: No Section 230 repeal in defense bill, Pelosi nixes Amash amendment on cannabis bill, New Mexico teen sues over wrongful arrest, and more...


"Carriers are not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets." Following an onslaught of passengers bringing "unusual species" of animals on flights for emotional support, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is backtracking on its guidance regarding airlines and service animals.

In August 2019, the department declared that its enforcement office would work "to ensure that dogs, cats, and miniature horses are accepted for transport. Airline policies that categorically refuse transport to all service animals that are not dogs, cats, or miniature horses violate the current disability regulation."

"Airlines will not be subject to enforcement action if they continue to deny transport to snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders; however, airlines will remain subject to potential enforcement action if they categorically refuse to transport other animals," said the 2019 guidance, which also clarified other rules surrounding "emotional support animals" (ESAs) or "psychiatric service animals" (PSAs) on flights.

The revised guidance was issued this past Monday, November 30, and significantly changes this tune. "This final rule defines a service animal as a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability," states the new rule.

It also stipulates that airline carriers "are not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets."

This doesn't mean that an airline can't have a broad policy allowing emotional support animals. But air carriers are no longer in danger of punishment if they choose to narrowly define service animals and limit the presence of other types of animals on flights.

The DOT guidance says the revision was necessary because of "the increasing number of service animal complaints received from, and on behalf of, passengers with disabilities by the Department and by airlines" and "the inconsistent definitions among Federal agencies of what constitutes a 'service animal.'"

The DOT also blamed "the disruptions caused by requests to transport unusual species of animals onboard aircraft, which has eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals" and "the increasing frequency of incidents of travelers fraudulently representing" pets as serious service animals.

"Airlines have long complained that passengers have exploited vague rules," notes Buzzfeed:

In 2018, United Airlines refused to let a woman fly with her emotional support peacock, Dexter, even after she had purchased a separate seat for him.

Earlier that year, a 21-year-old woman admitted to flushing her "doctor-certified" comfort hamster down an airport toilet after Spirit Airlines refused to let the hamster board the flight.

In 2016, a man flew with his emotional support duck on a flight. And in 2014, a passenger was kicked off a US Airways flight after his emotional support pig pooped in the cabin.

Passengers have also been seen with "comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders, and more," according to Delta, which cracked down on emotional support animals in 2018. The airline also banned "pit bull type" dogs as service or support animals.


There's no Section 230 repeal in the defense bill. "The final version of the National Defense Authorization Act that will soon be considered by the House and Senate won't include Trump's long-sought repeal of the legal immunity for online companies, known as Section 230, according to lawmakers and aides," reports Politico. The president promised he would veto the bill if it didn't repeal Section 230.

Author and lawyer Jeff Kosseff has a good thread today on what would happen if Section 230 was repealed; start here:



Teen sues over wrongful arrest and imprisonment in New Mexico. Gisell Estrada, "a 17-year-old girl who was wrongly arrested, falsely charged with murder, then put in jail is filing a lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque, the police department, and Albuquerque Public Schools," reports Albuquerque's KOB 4:

Gisell Estrada was involved in a case of mistaken identity last year. APD arrested her for armed robbery and first degree murder. She was charged as an adult and spent a week and jail. Estrada was released after APD arrested a different person.

The lawsuit, which is expected to be filed Thursday morning by the ACLU and a private law firm, is considering claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and violation of Estrada's state rights.


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• Los Angeles County says cops needn't display their names when policing protests. From the Los Angeles Times:

The details of the new rule are still being worked out but will leave it to deputies to choose whether to cover their name tag, a department spokesman said. Those who choose to do so will be identifiable through their badge numbers, the spokesman said.

• Florida authorities illegally spied on citizens, spent years of police time and public resources, possibly ruined multiple lives, and went on a hero's publicity campaign while saving no one and stealing about $45,000 from a few immigrant sex workers.

• Nick Gillespie interviews outgoing Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai.

• A baby was born from a 27-year-old donated embryo.

• "Using police to forcefully shut down Mac's Public House is a violation of liberty and a waste of resources," writes Reason reporter Eric Boehm.

• Apparently even Bill Barr may not be sycophantic and corrupt enough for Trump:

• Officials must provide scientific evidence for the Los Angeles ban on outdoor dining:

A judge on Wednesday ordered Los Angeles County public health officials to show scientific evidence justifying the outdoor dining ban imposed last week amid soaring coronavirus cases. The county must return to court Tuesday to present evidence supporting the ban, L.A. County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant said at a hearing Wednesday morning.

RIP Walter Williams.

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