Despite a U.S. Department of Transportation guidance that strictly prohibits discriminating service dogs and emotional support animals based on breed, Delta has announced they will uphold their pit bull ban.
When Delta Airlines released policies on flying with service dogs and support animals in 2018, those advocating for animals and the rights of disabled passengers questioned whether the new policies were discriminatory or illegal. Under the new policy, Delta Airlines banned any pit bull or pit bull-mixed breed dogs from accompanying their handlers on flights.
Nearly a year after countless legitimate service dogs and emotional support animals were turned away from the airline based solely on their breed, federal officials announced that airlines are, in fact, NOT permitted to deny access to service dogs and ESA’s because of their breed.
U.S. Department of Transportation officials said in a 28-page final enforcement policy that the Department “is not aware of and has not been presented with evidence supporting the assertion that an animal poses a direct threat simply because of its breed.”
Officials further confirmed that “a limitation based exclusively on breed of the service animal is not allowed under the Air Carrier Access Act.” This means, very clearly, that Delta’s latest service and support animal policies are both discriminatory and directly go against the Department of Transportation’s ruling.
This doesn’t mean that any service or support dog should automatically be permitted onboard, as the airlines are still granted the right to disallow individual dogs that pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others, on a case-by-case basis.
After the final enforcement policy was published, airlines were given 30 days to update their service dog and emotional support animal policies to comply with federal regulations. While Delta did update policies to comply with other changes, including discontinuing a policy that prohibited ESA’s on flights longer than 8-hours, the continue to uphold their pit bull breed ban, despite federal regulations against it.
It is unclear at this time how the U.S. Department of Transportation plans to enforce its air carrier service and support animal regulations and what actions will be taken against Delta and any other carriers that refuse to comply.