Feds release new airline guidance on emotional support animals

The airline industry applauded the DOT’s decision.

Airlines’ efforts to crack down on travelers abusing emotional support animal (ESA) policies got a little help from the federal government Thursday after Department of Transportation officials released their “final statement” on ESA priorities.

The airline industry applauded the DOT’s decision.

In one of the most recent incidents, an Envoy Air flight attendant required five stitches two weeks ago after an emotional support dog bit him during an American Airlines flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Piedmont Triad.

The Association of Flight Attendants has been pushing the DOT to strengthen ESA standards.

"We have had a huge problem with too many animals on our planes,” AFA President Sara Nelson told ABC News Thursday. "We’ve been begging the DOT for this guidance and we want to see even more. We want to see this as a clear rule for everyone across the industry."

According to the DOT, airlines will still be subject to enforcement action if they ban specific breeds of dogs on board flights. They are working on a more long-term plan to ensure that “dogs as a species are accepted for transport,” according to the DOT.

This guidance seems to go against a controversial addition to Delta’s ESA policy a year ago to ban “pit bull type dogs” as service animals.

"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," Delta officials said in a statement to ABC News. "In 2018, Delta augmented its policies on service and support animals to reinforce our core value of putting safety and people first, always."

Airlines will have one month to change any policies that do not comply with the DOT’s guidance, but department officials did not specify which airlines’ policies would have to change.