Pit bulls can fly! Not on their own, of course, but a new federal rule says that airlines are no longer allowed to ban entire breeds of dogs, most notably pit bulls, as service animals, which is good news for dog lovers and those who rely on a pit bull for assistance.
In the wake of Delta Air Lines issuing a company-wide rule that it does “not accept pit bull type dogs as service or support animals,” the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a rule of its own. Disability advocates have argued that service dogs of any breed are protected under the Americans with Disability Act, and the federal government agrees.
In a new 28-page report, the federal government told airlines they can’t discriminate against specific breeds. Per the AP, the Department wrote that it 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.” In a move sure to thrill anyone with a lovable, cuddly pit, officials said, “a limitation based exclusively on breed of the service animal is not allowed under the Air Carrier Access Act.”
Delta put the policy in place in 2018, citing “growing safety concerns” after two workers were bitten by pit bulls while boarding a flight from Atlanta to Tokyo, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. However, the vast majority of pit bulls and all dogs that are trained as service animals are well-behaved and helpful animals that perform important tasks for their human companions. To not allow them on board due to their breed would be an undue hardship for travelers whose beloved service animal happens to be a pit.
That said, the new rules do not stop airline employees from asking passengers “reasonable” questions about a service animal’s vaccinations, training, and behavior and, according to the AP, before a long flight, ensuring “that their animal can relieve itself in a sanitary way.” Additionally, if airlines are concerned about a specific animal’s behavior or if the pup poses “a direct threat to the health or safety of others,” they don’t have to let the dog on the plane.
Service animals are distinct from emotional support animals, however. Under the new rules, airlines can still require advance notice if passengers plan to bring an emotional support animal on board but can’t impose the same requirement for service animals, such as guide dogs for the blind.
The department said it will officially publish its guidance next week, and then carriers will have a month to start following the rules, the AJC reported. So for now, pit bulls are allowed to fly. No word on whether airlines can ban Pitbull, though.
When reached for comment, Delta said it is reviewing its policy and sent this statement:
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.