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Airlines May Soon Ban Emotional Support Animals From Flights

A new federal proposal would ban people from bringing their emotional support animals (ESA) into aircraft cabins with them in response to what experts say is an increase in animal-related injuries and incidents aboard flights.

According to Forbes, the Department of Transportation (DOT) unveiled the proposed ban on Wednesday which would continue to allow trained service dogs on flights, but prohibit those animals used for emotional support.

Emotional support animals can be dogs and other pets who provide comfort to their owners on a daily basis.

According to the Animal Kennel Club, these animals must be legally prescribed by a licensed mental health professional.

ESAs are different from service animals, who are trained to perform specific tasks for individuals. Emotional support animals require no training, although their owners are encouraged to make sure they're well-trained before taking them out into public.

Per the ban, airlines will no longer be required to accommodate a passenger's ESA and reclassify them as pets.

Service animals will still be allowed to board flights, however the ban will restrict that category to dogs only. As of right now, the current regulations allow a limited list of species, including cats, pigs, rabbits, and even miniature horses.

The proposed ban would also allow airlines to create their own rules and requirements for service animal, like enforcing early check-ins or limiting how many service animals can board with a singular person.

The proposal explains that this ban is in an effort to protect the safety of all people on board the aircraft — passengers and crew alike.

"Animals on aircraft may pose a risk to the safety, health, and well-being of passengers and crew and may disturb the safe and efficient operation of the craft," the proposal reads.

It goes on to cite data which shows "increases in the number of behavior-related service animal incidents on aircraft, including urinating, defecating, and biting."

The different types of ESAs that people bring on board with them is also under scrutiny in this proposed bill.

Ramon Colon via NBC News

As the ban explains:

"Passengers have attempted to fly with many different unusual species of animals, such as a peacock, ducks, turkeys, pigs, iguanas, and various other types of animals as emotional support or service animals, causing confusion for airline employees and additional scrutiny for service animal users."

This ban has the full support of the Association of Fight Attendants.

"Flight Attendants have been hurt and safety has been compromised by untrained animals loose in the cabin," the AFA said in a statement. "The days of Noah's Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end."

The AFA, which represents 50,000 Flight Attendants at 20 airlines, said it will "work to ensure this rule becomes final."

Public comments regarding the proposal will be open for the next 60 days.

After that, the DOT will analyze them and issue a final policy. However, as of right now there is no firm deadline.

"When there are abuses in the system, it's individuals with disabilities who suffer," a DOT official told CNN.

h/t: Forbes, CNN