DearGDUI Members and Friends,
We are writing to encourage each one of you to submit comments on the recently released Announcement of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM)regarding the U. S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) intention to modify regulations under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), especially with respect to the rights of guide and service dog owners to fly with our dogs. GDUI, ACB, many guide and service dog training programs, the Council of U. S. Dog Guide Schools, and many other service dog users and organizations have already submitted comments in response to the announcement, and we urge all of you to think about how important it is to you to be able to travel wherever you need to go with your guide dogs– including airports and onboard planes – and then to submit your own comments. Your individual perspectives are important, and when you share your personal stories with regulators, they gain the kind of understanding that will serve us well as they write the regulations that will govern our right to travel with our dogs in the future. All comments are due by the close of business on July 9, 2018.
In order to help you think about what you may want to say, we are sharing a list of Talking Points, which ACB prepared for just this purpose, in collaboration with GDUI, and other advocates.
The Air Carrier Access Act is a critical component of the body of law which assures our civil rights as people with disabilities. Recently all of us have been made all too aware of the importance of protecting our rights to fly unencumbered by superfluous requirements or burdensome check-in processes when we fly with our dogs. As airline personnel and the flying public have been subjected to the increasing presence of untrained and often uncontrolled pets brought onboard by people who either haven’t understood or cared about the risks these animals, often masquerading as “service animals,” pose to our and our legitimately trained and well controlled dogs’ safety, it has become imperative for the Department of Transportation to think about how best to modify the regulations that govern the Air Carrier Access Act, in order to guarantee safe air travel for all passengers and airline crews, while assuring that people with disabilities have equivalent access to public venues and the supports that accommodate for their disabilities. It is equally imperative for us to make our voices heard during this process, so that those who write the regulations will understand the very real differences between untrained and uncontrolled animals and our well trained, and highly valued guide and service animals. To preserve our civil rights, it is so important that the DOT hears from us, and so, that’s why we are sharing these talking points with you, and encouraging you to share your own comments with the Department of Transportation.
You will need to post your comments at the web site, http://www.regulations.gov. If you have any problems posting or uploading your comments on the web site, ACB can help. Just submit your comments to ACB’s Director of Advocacy and Governmental Services, Tony Stephens, indicating in your subject line the purpose of your message, and ACB will be happy to submit them on your behalf. Use this e-mail address: mailto:Advocacy@acb.org
And, after reading Tony’s excellent summary and suggested talking points, below, or if you would like us to share the comments GDUI shared with the DOT last week, just give GDUI a call at 866.799.8436, or write to Charlie Crawford, Director of GDUI’s Advocacy and Legislative Committee at: mailto:email@example.com or to me at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll be pleased to answer questions or help in any other ways.
Thank you for all you do.
Penny Reeder, President
Guide Dog Users, Inc.
Charlie Crawford, Director
GDUI Advocacy and Legislative Committee
With our thanks to Tony Stephens, here are the Talking Points that will assist, as you prepare your own comments on the DOT ANPRM:
TALKING POINTS: DOT Action to Redefine Service Animals in ACAA
Contact: Tony Stephens, Director of Advocacy
American Council of the blind
The Department of Transportation is currently seeking comments from stakeholders on regulatory changes to the Air Carrier Access Act of
1986 (ACAA), which would amend regulations defining the use of service and emotional support animals aboard commercial airlines. The window to submit comments runs through July 9th, 2018.
Currently, the ACAA prohibits discrimination of passengers based on their use of service animals who are used to mitigate a person’s disability. The Department of Transportation divides these animals into three primary classes under the Service Animal definition:
• Service Animals (SA) – trained to provide a specific task or service
for a person with a disability;
• Psychiatric Service Animals (PSA) – trained to provide a service for
psychiatric condition that may not be readily identifiable.
• Emotional Support Animals (ESA) – while not trained for any task or
service, their mere presence provides a therapeutic remedy.
In recent years, the rise of emotional support animals has grown significantly. With this rise has come an increase in individuals trying to pass their pets off as service or emotional support animals.
These animals are often untrained and respond hostilely to other animals. Many owners of these fraudulent animals acquire false documentation online. This false representation has fostered negative attitudes toward legitimate well-trained service animals, harming passengers and trained service animals, causing damage to property, and furthering negative attitudes toward the use of SAs.
Subsequently, airlines have responded by implementing stricter policies curtailing the use of ESAs, while at the same time pressuring the Department of Transportation to amend its policies regulating the rights of passengers with disabilities who rely upon the use of SAs and/or ESAs. This push comes after disability advocates and the airline industry were unable to reach compromise in 2016 during structured negotiations that were to focus on altering the current ACAA service animal regulations.
What’s in the ANPRM?
An ANPRM is intended to provide key policy positions and request specific feedback. The goal is for federal agencies to share thoughts on proposed regulatory changes and to give an opportunity for stakeholders to weigh in and provide feedback. An ANPRM usually will be followed by a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which will provide the proposed regulatory change with one last chance for individuals to provide public comment. In this ANPRM, the Department of Transportation focuses on the following ten questions:
1. Should PSAs be included in the SA definition?
2. Should ESAs be included in the SA definition?
3. Should ESAs be contained in a carrier during the flight?
4. Should there be restrictions on species, excluding more unusual or
5. Should there be a limit on the number of SAs a person can have?
6. Should all passengers with SAs attest verbally or through some
other manner that their animal is well behaved?
7. Should SAs be required to have a leash, tether, or harness?
8. Should there be restrictions for large-breed animals?
9. Should passengers with SAs be required to provide veterinary forms
like proof of vaccination?
10. Should U.S. airlines be held to this rule when operating on behalf
of foreign carriers, who have more strict guidelines that just permit service dogs?
The American Council of the Blind (ACB), along with Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI) and other leading service dog institutions, have been engaged throughout the Department of Transportation’s negotiations in 2016, and has subsequently been in talks with the Department along with other disability advocates to find a solution that eliminates fraud while not restricting the rights of guide dog users. To this end, the following talking points are intended to help guide dog users with crafting their own comments. Shared messaging will help lift the fundamental values and rights that all guide dog users deserve.
Therefore, try to find ways to incorporate the below talking points should you decide to comment on any of the above questions.
• For almost 90 years, guide dogs have been a vital tool for helping
to secure independence and opportunity for tens of thousands of Americans who are blind and visually impaired, exemplifying the potential certain animals possess in aiding humans through extensive training and ongoing obedience.
• Guide dog advocates have argued for years that there needs to be
greater harmony between the ADA definition of service animals and other federal agency definitions protecting access in places of public access and travel, asserting that animals not trained for service in places of public accommodation pose a risk if not managed responsibly.
• No regulation should create an undue burden for passengers relying
upon well-trained service animals.
• Verbal attestation and documentation alone will not stop the rampant
fraud of false representation and presence of disobedient animals aboard aircraft; rather, there needs to be persistent training of personnel, public education and pressure on bad actors who provide false documentation.
How to File Comments
Comments to federal proceedings are sent via an online portal at http://www.regulations.gov. Because the federal government handles so many types of comments across hundreds of subject areas, it is critical that comments include at the very top any information for reference location. A Regulatory Identification Number (RIN) is typically included with every proceeding, and should be used to make sure your comments end up in the right hands. The RIN for this proceeding is RIN No. 2105-AE63.
You may also include a Docket Number for further reference. The Docket Number is DOT-OST-2018-0068.
The complete public notice was published May 23, 2018 in the Federal Register (83 FR 23832) and is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/05/23/2018-10815/traveling-by-air-with-service-animals.
If you have questions regarding these talking points, contact the American Council of the Blind at email@example.com, or call (202) 467-5081.
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