Carriers must juggle legal mandates, passenger needs and safety concerns

US airlines need to make sure their employees grasp key legalities related to how animals and their owners should be treated as they fly, advises LeClairRyan aviation attorney Mark A. Dombroff in a new column on, the company said.

Two federal statutes are in play: the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, and the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986.

In the March 20 post, Dombroff cites a litany of incidents that have focused attention on the issue of animals on planes–including the death of a 10-month-old puppy in a United Airlines overhead bin earlier this month.

Dombroff advises airlines to educate employees about the distinctions between service animals and emotional support animals. The latter provide emotional, psychiatric or cognitive support for individuals with disabilities, but may or may not have task-specific training with respect to a disability.

By contrast, trained service animals receive specific training to perform life functions for individuals with disabilities. Examples include those that help with visual impairments, deafness, seizures and mobility limitations.

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