When Delta Airlines released their latest 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 guidance issued on Thursday 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.
When the DOT document is officially published next week, airlines will have 30 days to comply with new regulations or face enforcement action.
Delta Airlines said in a statement regarding the Air Carrier Access guidance document, “Delta continuously reviews and enhances its policies and procedures for animals onboard as part of its commitment to health, safety and protecting the rights of customers with disabilities. In 2018, Delta augmented its policies on service and support animals to reinforce our core value of putting safety and people first, always.”
They are currently reviewing the updated guidance and have not announced whether they will update their service and support dog policies to comply with new guidelines.