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  1. Opinion

The airplane cabin is not a zoo | Editorial

Trained dogs are fine. Pigs and turkeys—uh, no.
A rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation this week would allow airlines to crack down on personal pets that are carried aboard as so-called service animals. [MARK SCHIEFELBEIN  |  AP]
A rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation this week would allow airlines to crack down on personal pets that are carried aboard as so-called service animals. [MARK SCHIEFELBEIN | AP]
Published Jan. 24

Now arriving at Gate 1: some common sense from Washington.

A rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation this week would allow airlines to crack down on personal pets that are carried aboard as so-called service animals. The measure would improve cabin safety and the flying experience and help ensure that those who need them still have their legitimate service animals within reach.

The measure defines a service animal as “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” And while the department would not bar airlines from allowing passengers to fly with “emotional support animals,” airlines could treat them as pets instead of as legitimate service animals.

The aim is to cut down on the growing number of passengers who are scamming the system by trying to bring their cats, pigs, turkeys and other personal pets aboard by declaring them as service animals. Passengers do this to avoid paying pet fees charged by most airlines; carriers cannot charge for transporting service animals. According to one industry trade group, the number of passengers seeking to travel with emotional support animals has exploded, increasing by 56 percent from 2016 to 2017.

This is a sensible, necessary response to a flying public that has abused the right of those with disabilities to fly with properly trained service dogs. The rule offers clearer guidance for passengers and airlines alike, while still allowing the airlines to make free accommodations for species other than dogs if they choose. This is the reasonable balance between personal rights and public safety.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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