What are the “US DoT standards” and what do they mean for flying with your dog?


In December 2020, the U.S. DoT (United States Department of Transport) announced that Emotional Support Animals (ESA’s) will no longer be considered service animals.
This provision and the related recommendations for U.S. and global airlines will come into effect on 28.02.2021 and are optional for all airlines worldwide flying to the USA, i.e. not mandatory. Nevertheless, or precisely because of this, it is to be expected that the previously approved transport of ESA’s in the aircraft cabins will no longer be offered.
In this new regulation (recommendation), a PSD (psychiatric service animal) service animal is defined as “a dog trained individually to perform work or tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.” Other animals are not currently part of this recommendation.
Despite the US DoT’s recommendation, airlines are expected to offer different rules for travelling with animals from March 2021. It is therefore essential to inform yourself about the regulations of the respective airline before EACH trip. Only on this basis can you find the CURRENT best option that suits you and your pet. This is the safest way to avoid unpleasant surprises (or costs).
As ESAeurope, we cannot make a recommendation in this regard. It is quite possible that in one case an airline accepts an ESA and then revokes that authorisation in another. We can therefore only present the current situation of an airline as it is published.

ESAeuropeTipp: Always re-insure yourself by having the airline of your choice give you the ok for YOUR animal, ESA or PSD. Best before or during the booking. Take the printout of this communication in a double copy on the journey – in case there are problems you can prove their statements. What an airline has confirmed and you can prove you can claim!

Using the example of United Airlines, you can see how the DoT final rules are actually implemented at this airline.


Source: United Airline website on service animals


Service animals. Service animals (taken from the United Airlines homepage)

A service animal is a dog, regardless of breed or type, who is older than 4 months and individually trained to perform work or tasks for the benefit of a qualified person with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other intellectual disability. Service animals are accepted in the cabin for qualified persons with a disability.
Qualified persons with a disability may only travel with a maximum of two service animals. A service animal must sit on the floor in front of the customer’s assigned seat and must not protrude into the corridors or footwell of the neighbouring traveller. Customers can use an approved kennel in the cabin for smaller animals, provided it meets the stowage requirements. This means that the corresponding container or bag must fit under the front seat. Seats in the last row as well as emergency exits are prohibited.

Required Department of Transportation (DOT) forms for service animals must be submitted.

As of February 1, 2021, United will require the following DOT forms for each service animal traveling with a customer. Please download the completed forms and carry them with you:

  • U.S. Department of Transportation Air Transportation Service Animal Training and Behavior Attestation Form
  • U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Relief Attestation Form (relief form) (for flights with a scheduled duration of 8 hours or more)

Helpful tips for travelling

  • Service animals must be properly strapped or leashed and remain under the direct control of you or the dog handler at all times
  • The animal must behave correctly in public and should follow the instructions of its owner
  • The dog must have a minimum age of 4 months to be accepted at United
  • The animal must sit on the floor directly in front of your seat. The animal must not protrude into the aisles.

If you travel with an animal in the cabin to an international destination (or to some domestic locations such as .B. Guam or Hawaii, where local regulations may require this), United may require you to take an up-to-date copy of your pet’s vaccination passport with you. We recommend that you have a copy at hand during the trip and always take the vaccination passport with you.
Another instruction from United is that you cannot travel within 30 days of your animal’s rabies vaccination.
If you have any questions or special requirement, contact the United Accessibility Desk at 1-800-228-2744.

Service animals in training

United only recognizes service animals that have been trained and certified. Animal trainers are allowed to bring a service animal trained to help disabled passengers on board free of charge. These service animals are not allowed to occupy a seat. Animal trainers transporting service animals in the normal course of business or service animals not in training must inspect these animals.

Therapy animals

Therapeutic animals, i.e. pets trained and registered by a therapy organisation to visit nursing homes, hospitals, schools and other facilities, are not considered service animals. If you are travelling with a therapy animal, the usual terms and restrictions apply to pets.

Animals for emotional support

United will continue to transport animals for emotional support for reservations purchased before January 11, 2021, for travel on or before February 28, 2021, provided that all relevant documents have been submitted to United by January 10, 2021 at the latest. After 28 February 2021, no animals will be transported for emotional support. Only PSD will be accepted to accompany you during your United flight.

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