Department of Transportation tightens rules for service animals on planes

The U.S. Department of Transportation is tightening the reigns on its airline animal policy. It says emotional support animals will no longer be given the same freedom as service dogs.

The difference between an emotional support animal versus a service animal is that an emotional support animal is not necessarily trained, as they provide comfort to their owner. A service dog is trained to provide specific tasks for an owner with disabilities.

This a change some aren't too happy about.

"I don’t think there should be an issue if you have your doctor’s letter and he’s not causing any problems," said Pat Pruden, who's been bringing her dog Caesar on flights with her for six years as a certified emotional support dog.

He's been able to fly free and hang out on her lap mid-flight.

"It’s been great. He’ll fall asleep, he’ll lookout, he doesn’t bark. He is a stress reliever for me and I have memory issues. He’s good with that," Pruden said.

It’s a similar story for Chara Dipple who brings her emotional support cat back and forth with her from home in Washington state to college at Grand Canyon University.

"She helps me with social anxiety and just in general, comfort," she said.

The DOT is requiring forms to confirm a service dog’s training, health and behavior prior to traveling. Dogs have to have shown they can perform a set of tasks for a person with a disability.

This news comes after years of controversy surrounding the boarding of various emotional support animals from peacocks to pigs.

Executive Director of the Foundation for Service Dog Support, Dr. CJ Betancourt, says the foundation is supportive of this decision because she says a general doctor who releases a note for an emotional support animal is not necessarily analyzing the behavior of that pet, and that could become a danger to others on the plane.

"Put the physician in a very poor position because they are not equipped to make a decision about whether the animal will be safe on an airplane," Betancourt said.

Marilyn Stone, whose daughter has a service dog agrees, saying that those allowed on a plane should be registered service dogs.

"It got to be out of control. There was huge dogs, dogs pooping on planes and I thought it needed to be reigned in," she said.

Service animals are restricted only to dogs, with limited exceptions. You can find more on the new policy here.

This story was reported on from Phoenix, Arizona.