By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
The Department of Transportation has just finalized a rule that prohibits airlines from banning pit-bull-type dogs and certain other breeds from serving as service animals on flights.
The Humane Society family of organizations has long opposed breed bans because they are unscientific and discriminate against animals based simply on their appearance. Airline bans on specific dog breeds also cause unnecessary and cruel hardships for customers with disabilities, forcing them to choose between air travel and their essential service animals.
Such bans have also affected members of the military who have had pets and service animals banned from flights when returning home from service overseas.
The rule finalized today is a rebuke to airlines like Delta, which implemented a discriminatory ban on pit bull-type service dogs in the summer of 2019.
It also brings our nation’s policies in alignment with scientists and animal experts, including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Bar Association, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior and the National Animal Control Association, all of which oppose policies that discriminate against dogs based on their physical appearance. Indeed, there is no evidence that pit-bull-type dogs or other breeds typically maligned by breed-specific policies have more aggressive tendencies than other dog breeds. Dogs with these types of characteristics have been successfully serving as support animals for years.
State and local lawmakers have also moved on this issue in recent years, and 21 states have passed laws prohibiting breed specific legislation by localities (100 municipalities around the country also have similar laws). Michigan is now poised to become the 22nd state with such a law. A House bill there has just passed a Senate committee and awaits a final vote on the full Senate floor before heading to the governor. If you live in Michigan, please contact your state Senator and urge them to pass H.B. 4035.
In a welcome development the rule also prohibits wild animals from serving as service and support animals on flights—a move that is consistent with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which does not recognize wild species as service animals. Having monkeys or other wild animals in a small, crowded space is dangerous for both the animals and people as there is a significant risk of injury and disease transmission.
By finalizing a rule ending breed discrimination by airlines today, the Department of Transportation has taken a huge step toward correcting the historic wrongs perpetrated against a group of dogs based simply on how they look. We applaud the agency for doing the right thing, both by the animals and by the people who love and rely on them, whether in their travel or their day-to-day lives.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.