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New DOT Service Animal definitions

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flitcraft

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I'm a frequent flyer who has seen more than a few instances of so-called emotional support animals misbehaving on planes. One woman had a cat escape her grip and two flight attendants had to chase the darn thing, which was running, hiding under seats, etc. Comical, perhaps, but the attendant who caught it got scratched up in the process. Passengers have been bitten by untrained emotional support pets; severely allergic people who complained about being seated next to a claimed emotional support animal were the ones booted off the plane, etc. I've done cross-country flights where my seat-mate's emotional support pet barked, slobbered over me, and took up half my seat. So, I'm delighted that common sense has finally prevailed.

Having said that, I know that Amtrak has weight restrictions on dogs brought on board. Do these apply to service animals? I ask because I was surprised at how big some service dogs can be--one of my students trained service animals and sometimes brought them into class as part of their training. She told me that seeing eye dogs are often fairly large, and can use their size and weight to give physical cues to their owners regarding turns and stops. I would hope that Amtrak allows certified service animals that exceed the weight limits.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I do not doubt that most pets provide some level of emotional comfort, and that some people need more comfort than others, but that doesn't change the fact that most pets are not trained to handle a dense mass of people in a calm and quiet manner. Actual service animals that have traveled around me were nearly undetectable by sound or behavior and only caught by a random glance. Perhaps a reasonable compromise would be refocusing our efforts on how a given pet travels rather than why the passenger brought them. That means all cabin pets would need to be trained for dealing with crowds and certified that they have good health and the right temperament for public travel. Said certification would need to be updated annually in order to remain current. Some trips would be scheduled as pet plus while others would be pet free. Not perfect but better than what we have now. Also, that hippopotamus video is one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. Perhaps they should have indulged her request and televised the result. What most people don't know about hippos could make for a hair raising spectacle if viewed live without commercials.
 
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jloewen

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"Real service dogs are generally very well trained and behave properly." Damn straight. My wife and I raise guide dogs for blind people. Our dogs will sit even when enticed by otheers. We used to teach them a secret bark command, which enabled us to ask them complex math problems like 35 divided by 5, which, amazingly, they got right. Two could even be cut off mid-bark, which enabled them to answer correctly such queries as the square root of 30. Really.
 

jloewen

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I would hope that Amtrak allows certified service animals that exceed the weight limits.
It does. It has to. The average guide dog (Lab) weight 70 lbs. Almost never do you see a guide Chihuahua.
 

tgstubbs1

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I think it's unfortunate that Amtrak doesn't have a PetLounge car. I think along with a variety of kennels there could be a small 'exercise area, perhaps small seating areas at each end for their human servant, and a water closet plus hoseable floors.

People must want or need to take their animals to a great degree to pull the kinds of shenanigans we hear about.

Amtrak is probably the only common carrier in the country with a relatively easy solution for these situations.
 

PVD

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Carry on pet regulations do not apply to service animals. I would point out that small breeds certainly can be service animals, just not usually for the things that come to mind first., but for people who live in apartments or smaller quarters, they are becoming increasingly popular.
 

Cho Cho Charlie

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I know this is about Amtrak, but I know that the AKC is attempting to tackle the run-away problem of numerous Show Dogs being falsely ID'ed as being Service Dogs, when flying to major dog shows.

Beyond this, at least emphasizing its only dogs (or miniature horses), will stop people from falsely claiming they their cat, hamster, snake, bird, or elephant is a legal Service Dog and protected by the ADA.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I read articles and watched videos of miniature horses and eventually came the conclusion that they were probably more about grabbing attention from strangers than assisting the owner in a way that a dog cannot. One girl said the horse helped her with crowded situations but later said she didn't really have anywhere to go and was mainly traveling to show off her tiny horse. So why did she need assistance with crowds if the pet was her reason for traveling? Her circular logic made no sense but that aspect was never explained or explored by the people interviewing her. Unsurprisingly horses were rarely employed or encountered and are now removed from the list of approved animals.
 
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PVD

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The airline problem was less a service animal problem, but a support animal problem. They are definitely not the same, and that caused real problems for people who need real service animals.
 

neroden

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There is an unfortunate gap in the pet carriage rules.

I remember someone who smuggled his fish onto an airplane in a water bottle. Although technically not allowed... nobody would ever have caught him, and the fish was of course very well behaved. This changed after the idiotic post-9/11 security-theater ban on carrying liquids through security, of course. Would still work on Amtrak, though.

Honestly, the rules should be more generous for very small pets who never leave their carrier and don't have to (or in the case of fish, really shouldn't!) Other passengers probably never find out when they're being carried, so why not make it legal.
 

HenryK

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As a service dog handler myself (I use a dog specifically trained to alert me to sounds such as the doorbell, fire alarm, ring of captioned phone, oven timer, alarm clock, call of my name, etc.), I applaud DOT's new rules. They will make life easier for me and my dog in airports and on airplanes. The only negative I see in it is that miniature horses are not recognized under the ACAA as legitimate service animals, as they are under the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are highly useful for those allergic to dogs or with religious scruples against them.

My dog Trooper (mini schnauzer mix) and I have traveled about 50,000 miles on Amtrak, mostly without incident. One Zephyr conductor forbade us from going to the dining car because "people don't like to eat with dogs," but I told an Amtrak official about that and the conductor was re-educated.

Fake service dogs are not uncommon on Amtrak trains because it's just easier for crews to say OK rather than risk a lawsuit. I don't blame them. If there was national certification for trained service dogs (there is NOT), things would be much easier. Many people with disabilities who use service dogs don't want the added burden of obtaining certification, and I don't blame them either. But something's got to give sometime. There are just too many selfish and unscrupulous pet owners out there.
 

tgstubbs1

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There is an unfortunate gap in the pet carriage rules.

Honestly, the rules should be more generous for very small pets who never leave their carrier and don't have to...

Other passengers probably never find out when they're being carried, so why not make it legal.
I think the argument would be about allergies.

A separate pet car is the answer.
 

Qapla

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The allergy problem would still exist. I know several people who are allergic to cats but not to dogs and some the other way around - so, having a car where people with their animals can ride separate from those without animals would still create problems.

I remember when the signs used to say "Seeing Eye Dogs". Then it was changed to "Service Dogs". After this change the definition of a "service dog" kept changing until it became "Service Animals" and included a vast array of animals that are not documented as "service" like seeing eye dogs were.
 
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Skyline

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My dog is my best friend, most days. I would never subject him to some of the other pax I've seen riding Amtrak or the handful of bad attendants I've encountered over the years. That's how you protect best friends. And I most certainly would never agree to keep him in a baggage car, or the cargo hold of an airliner for that matter.
 

Night Ranger

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The allergy problem would still exist. I know several people who are allergic to cats but not to dogs and some the other way around - so, having a car where people with their animals can ride separate from those without animals would still create problems.

I am one of those people who is highly allergic to cats. Garfield is the only cat that doesn't make me sneeze violently. The last time I traveled was by airplane and I was concerned that someone sitting next to me would have a cat for a support animal. If you bring your cat onboard and sit next to me be prepared for a cough filled trip and a lot of tissue to dispose of.
 

Steve4031

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My dog is my best friend, most days. I would never subject him to some of the other pax I've seen riding Amtrak or the handful of bad attendants I've encountered over the years. That's how you protect best friends. And I most certainly would never agree to keep him in a baggage car, or the cargo hold of an airliner for that matter.
Then you are not adding to the issue of non-service animals onboard trains and planes. I do agree that travel can be very stressful for animals.

I remember one trip on British rail in1990. I was riding from London to Glasgow. This lady brought her cat on a wicker basket. It lookedvery British. Then the cat started to complain. If anybody has ever heard a pissed off cat meow, then youcan picture the scene of a bunch of stoic British sitting there on a train listening to this cat yeow. Eventually the cat urinated in the British looking wicker basket. This was not a very British moment, but every one rode quietly.

To make matters worse, the train took several diversions of the main line. The diversions, which caused the train to operate at slowerspeeds, agitated the cat even more. It yeowed louder with greater frequency as we rolled along at 45 mph vs the normal 125 mph.
 

daybeers

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As a service dog handler myself (I use a dog specifically trained to alert me to sounds such as the doorbell, fire alarm, ring of captioned phone, oven timer, alarm clock, call of my name, etc.), I applaud DOT's new rules. They will make life easier for me and my dog in airports and on airplanes. The only negative I see in it is that miniature horses are not recognized under the ACAA as legitimate service animals, as they are under the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are highly useful for those allergic to dogs or with religious scruples against them.

My dog Trooper (mini schnauzer mix) and I have traveled about 50,000 miles on Amtrak, mostly without incident. One Zephyr conductor forbade us from going to the dining car because "people don't like to eat with dogs," but I told an Amtrak official about that and the conductor was re-educated.

Fake service dogs are not uncommon on Amtrak trains because it's just easier for crews to say OK rather than risk a lawsuit. I don't blame them. If there was national certification for trained service dogs (there is NOT), things would be much easier. Many people with disabilities who use service dogs don't want the added burden of obtaining certification, and I don't blame them either. But something's got to give sometime. There are just too many selfish and unscrupulous pet owners out there.
I think the whole service animal/emotional support animal situation is very complex. I do agree there needs to be a national certification for trained service animals and I don't see why that can't encompass emotional support animals as well if they are well trained. The issue is the cost and inconvenience of obtaining such certification. Training takes time, patience, and money, and time away from the handler that needs their capabilities. Maybe the solution is requiring those animals which their owners want to be certified to be so before ownership is transferred. I think the companies that run "registries" for emotional support/service animals are terrible. All they do is take money to provide a PDF download with a couple names on it and make a fortune off public confusion & desperation.

I think the issues with people taking advantage of the previous regulations highlight a need for a comprehensive pet program on some carriers, but I agree that might require a pet car. But what about those with allergies that have to walk through that car to get to the dining car? Make the pet car the first or last in the consist? I don't think just anyone should be allowed to bring their pet because there is no way to know that they might be aggressive towards others.
 

PVD

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The pet car idea is great, but does anyone think a carrier that doesn't supply decent lounge space for a high percentage of the human passengers it carries is actually going to have one for pets? Would the people who use it be willing to pay the very high cost of operating it, since there is pretty much a zero chance of having it as an additional highly subsidized service like much of Amtrak is already viewed as.
 

mitako

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I myself have pretty extreme travel anxiety, but have always found that a half milligram of Klonopin gives me far more comfort than any pet would, much as I love my dog.
 

Devil's Advocate

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If there was national certification for trained service dogs (there is NOT), things would be much easier. Many people with disabilities who use service dogs don't want the added burden of obtaining certification, and I don't blame them either. But something's got to give sometime. There are just too many selfish and unscrupulous pet owners out there.
This is where I think most of us can find common ground. In my view there needs to be a correction to the law (or interpretation thereof) that allows good faith efforts to expose fraud and hopefully requires approved animals to carry descriptive identification (ideally including subcutaneous tracking) that links back to a qualified certification authority. Validity would be renewed on an annual basis (like auto registration). Fraudsters and businesses that abuse their authority would be fined and disqualified. This is not intended to be a punitive move to harm people who need service animals and I would support providing registrations for free with fines and taxes to help avoid creating too many problems for disabled people. I'm not yet clear on what can or should be done about the various allergy concerns but I have a pet dander allergy and actual service animals keep to themselves and have never caused me any problems.
 
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gwolfdog

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I think service dogs can be important factors to provide safety and emotional support for a small segment of the population. I also believe people abuse this privilege to bring there pets along and at times seek sympathy for their conditions that are not serious enough to affect the rights of others. This behavior affects the honest people with needs. I use a Wheelchair Van that was provided by the VA for Doctor Certified medical conditions. I used too get upset, and still do on occasion with the Handicap Pass Abuse. I don't know how you'll correct either situation, as people are lazy, self centered, lawyers abound and PC rules the day. JMHO 🤔 😷
 

west point

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Ever tried to get a horse down a cattle ramp ? I witnessed one jump off about 4 feet from pavement and fracture a leg.
 

Qapla

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Ever tried to get a horse down a cattle ramp ?
Yes!

I have loaded and unloaded many horses from various types of trailers and trucks ... though I have not taken one from a train - they did used to do that on a daily basis back before automobiles populated the western states.

I have never had a horse jump from a loading ramp.
 
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