Many people in Missouri require the assistance of a trained service dog to help them with day-to-day activities. An emotional support animal is a bit different, providing comfort to someone with an emotional or mental illness, though they are no less important to those who need them. An ongoing debate over whether ESAs should be allowed on flights has come to a head as the U.S. Department of Transportation recently stated that it will be reevaluating its guidelines for ESAs. Critics say there have been one too many incidents of airline passengers or crew suffering a dog bite due to an untrained pet that its owner unfairly claims as an ESA.
Many different airlines across the country have been pushing for this change in regulation to the Air Carrier Access Act. The DOT decided that, starting next year, ESA animals will no longer be allowed on flights. Instead, they will be classified as pets, meaning owners will have to pay a significant fee if they want to bring their animal on board the airplane with them. Only trained service animals with official paperwork stating that the animal is healthy, well-behaved and properly trained will be allowed.
Organizations in support of ESAs admit that many animals have earned their designation as an ESA unfairly, but they point to unscrupulous companies handing out certifications rather than individual passengers acting inaproppriately. They fear that people who genuinely benefit from an ESA will needlessly suffer and they are hopeful the DOT will reconsider. Airlines generally favor this rule change and hope it will bring an end to the injuries that they say far too many people have received from the increase in ESAs on planes.
Though this rule may help prevent some incidents, the fact remains that even trained animals may cause an injury to a person. A dog bite attack can cause significant, long-lasting damage to a person and require extensive and expensive medical treatment. It may make sense for those in Missouri who have been attacked by someone’s pet to file a personal injury claim as a means of holding the owner accountable.