Guide Dog Users, Inc. Supports Proposed Rule Changes Allowing Only Individually Trained Service Dogs to Fly With Disabled Partners Onboard Planes

Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI), the largest United States advocacy organization of blind and visually impaired people who choose to partner with guide dogs for independent and safe travel, greets the U.S. Department of Transportation’s announced Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) for the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) with enthusiastic
support.

GDUI President, Penny Reeder, of Montgomery Village, MD, says, “We have long urged the U. S. Department Of Transportation to revise the regulations on the transportation of service animals by air, which,
beginning when regulations were first published in 1990, allowed people to bring all manner of untrained and often misbehaving animals onboard planes, thus jeopardizing our safety and that of our guide dogs, confusing the general public regarding what qualifies an animal to be identified as a service animal, and – no matter how unintentionally – encouraged pet lovers to game the system and bring pets aboard under the pretext of providing essential emotional
support.”

“We are especially appreciative,” Ms. Reeder continues, “That the DOT
has chosen to harmonize their official definition of a service animal
with that which is contained in the Americans with Disabilities Act of
1990. Our community has relied upon this definition for nearly 30
years now as an essential shorthand that explains how our dogs’
specialized training mitigates for our disabilities, making it
possible for us to live our day-to-day lives accomplishing tasks,
traveling where we want and need to go, and enjoying the same kinds of
freedom that people who do not contend with disabilities take for
granted.. It is our dogs’ training, their commitment to our personal
safety, and the standaards of good behavior which they are expected to
meet which make them attentive companions, reliable stewards of our
safety, and good flyers. These are expectations which pets who might
have never left the familiar confines of an owner’s apartment dwelling
or a fenced yard or doggie day care cannot be expected to meet, and
hundreds of accounts of calamitous in-air AND AIRPORT encounters have
made this abundantly clear since emotional support animals began to be
accepted, with minimal certification, as companions to passengers
inside the cabins of planes.”

GDUI will be encouraging its members to comment favorably on the
regulations proposed in the Notice of Proposed Rule Making, released
on January 22, 2020, during the sixty-day period set aside for that
purpose. Guide dog users have often looked back fondly on a time, back
in the day, when the chance of encountering a lunging, snarling dog on
a plane or in an airport was so unlikely as to be almost unheard of.
GDUI members are hopeful that a return to that time when there were
few reasons to dread a trip to an airport or boarding a plane will
once again be on the horizon for guide dog users and all people with
disabilities who rely on service animals for independence and safety.

“None of the proposed regulations – not even the one that would
require a guide dog owner to arrive at an airport an hour ahead of
flight time so as to allow airline personnel to pre-board owner and
dog first — as especially onerous,” says Charles Crawford of Silver
Spring, MD, the organization’s Director of Advocacy and Legislative
Affairs. “It is reasonable to expect guide dogs to be well behaved,
under their owners’ control, well groomed, and up-to-date with shots
and health certifications. GDUI applauds these common-sense approaches
which reassure guide dog owners of having to do nothing more than is
already expected of them in order to bring their dogs into public
spaces, as well as airline staff and personnel, and members of the
general public who will be their, and their guide dogs’ flying
companions.”

Guide Dog Users Inc., (GDUI), is the leading membership-driven
organization of guide dog handlers in the United States. Members, most
of whom are blind or visually impaired, rely on guide dogs for
independence and safety. GDUI strives to promote civil rights and
enhance the quality of life for working guide dog teams. Drawing on
the experiences and varied knowledge of its members, GDUI provides
peer support, advocacy and information to guide dog users. In
addition, GDUI works with public entities, private businesses and
individuals to ensure that guide dog users enjoy the same rights to
travel, employment, housing, and participation in all aspects of daily
life that people without disabilities take for granted. The collective
knowledge and experience of GDUI’s members drives constructive
dialogue, breaking down barriers, and opening doors for men and women
who live and work proudly and independently partnered with
well-trained guide dogs. GDUI is an affiliate of the American Council
of the Blind (ACB).