Delta Cracks Down On Emotional Support Animals

Filed Under: Delta

There’s no denying that many people take advantage of the generous emotional support animal policies in the US. It’s quite easy for people to claim that their pets are actually emotional support animals, as a way of circumventing rules prohibiting pets.

There’s no place this is more obvious than on planes. In addition to people pretty frequently bringing their dogs on planes, we’ve seen all kinds of other animals brought on planes, including ducks, pigs, etc. It looks like one US airline is cracking down on this loophole.

Delta is adding new restrictions for those traveling with emotional support animals as of March 1, 2018. They report that they carry about 700 emotional support animals per day, or about 250,000 annually. Here’s how Delta describes the problem, as they see it:

Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more. Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs. Delta has seen an 84 percent increase in reported animal incidents since 2016, including urination/defecation, biting and even a widely reported attack by a 70-pound dog. In 2017, Delta employees reported increased acts of aggression (barking, growling, lunging and biting) from service and support animals, behavior not typically seen in these animals when properly trained and working.

Delta has announced that they’re taking further steps to protect their customers, employees, and service animals, by implementing new advance documentation requirements for those animals.

As Delta describes it, this “comes as a result of a lack of regulation that has led to serious safety risks involving untrained animals in flight.” Here’s what Delta is changing as of March 1, 2018:

Traveling with a trained service animal

  • Customers traveling with a trained service animal will be required to submit a signed Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record (current within one year of the travel date) for their animal to Delta’s Service Animal Support Desk via at least 48 hours in advance of travel.

Traveling with an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal

  • Customers traveling with an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal will be required to submit a signed Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record (current within one year of the travel date), an Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animal Request form which requires a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, and a signed Confirmation of Animal Training form to Delta’s Service Animal Support Desk via at least 48 hours in advance of travel.

Delta is creating a special service animal support desk for customers traveling with service and support animals, in light of these new regulations.

Will Delta completely eliminate “fake” service animals with these new policies? Absolutely not. But they’re creating barriers that will certainly reduce the number of people who take emotional support animals on planes.

I can see both sides here:

  • On one hand I find the abuse of emotional support animal policies in the US to be ridiculous, so I commend Delta for actually trying to enforce the intent of the rules
  • At the same time I do love dogs, so I don’t blame people for wanting to travel with their four-legged family members; in many cases a generous interpretation of the emotional support animal policies is the only way for them to do so

What do you make of Delta cracking down on emotional support animals? Would you like to see other airlines follow Delta’s lead?

  1. I have a dog. I love my dog. However, my dog is not a human and he is not a member of my family. He is a pet I own. Pets don’t belong on planes. Why people can’t figure this out is beyond me. (I am not talking about a legit service animal like a seeing eye dog.) People acting like dogs are their “kids” and members of their family is exactly the problem.

  2. Maybe, cause it’s OK that they do that but I mean it wasn’t only for security, maybe a little bit marketing goes in that.

  3. Seriously – if you can’t fly without any type of animal, stay home and pop them pills. Animals in hold.

  4. It’s about Fing time airlines start doing that.

    @THEsocalledfan I wish all pet owners had the same approach as you do.

  5. IMHO people have just taken advantage of this rule. I personally know inflight employees who have emotional support animals. They go to some website and get the credentials. It has gotten out of control. It is about time this has been regulated in some way.

  6. Good for Delta. Untrained animals have no place on a flight, and calling them service animals is rather insulting to real service animals who achieve very high levels of training.

  7. This would be much easier if we had a certification system for good/trained dogs. I’ve been on a couple flights with good dogs who behaved super well and it was a great time (they mostly slept for the duration of the transcon flight when they weren’t getting pets.

    That said, too many people bring on their tiny barking rats or out of control animal on the plane and it’s downright unpleasant. Then again, people bring their howling, screaming infants onboard too.

  8. I applaud Delta for taking this action. Having sat next to a college student who brought her 120lb Malamute as a faux support dog (she bragged about how easy it was to get the vest and lead during the flight) I personally experienced the significant inconvenience that having a large, untrained, and anxious animal on my feet, lap, and in my face during an already hot summer flight between Orlando and Atlanta. I nearly had a panic attack during a 30 minute ground stop during a pop up thunderstorm as both the dog and I overheated and became increasingly uncomfortable. Getting off the plane and heading to a business meeting I looked down to see that my pants were covered in fur and slobber. If you want to take your pet on the plane follow the rules, pay the fee, and put them in a proper carrier. Stop this widespread scam!

  9. Time for AA and United to copy Delta again and get with this. Crack down on the “fake” service animals.

  10. That is why they are my favorite airline in the US. Most emotional animals inside the cabin are just fake emotional animals. Kudos to Delta.

  11. Every time I fly on VX, there’s a “Service Animal” with its’ owner taking up two rows of seats at the gate area as their pet play area…

    Good thing DL is actually putting some barriers around it.

  12. @ Alpha — There actually is a program for that, but it’s completely voluntary:

    In San Diego there were several apartment and condo buildings that would accept any dogs, provided they have a CGC certification. I thought that was a much better approach than regulating dogs by size or breed, and agree it would be nice to see airlines do something similar.

  13. Took JetBlue/JB flight last yr whereby pax boarded 3 dogs in coach. Flight was delayed to allow time to find willing 2 other pas who would allow dog under seat since only 1 dog fit for 1 seat. Situation escalated when pax escorted dogs into toilet. Toilet had to be shutdown shortly after. When asked, JB FA said their hands were tied. I applaud DL.

  14. On a recent flight from SAN to SFO a pax boarded with a LARGE dog that would obviously not fit under the seat or for that matter would encroach on the neighboring seat’s leg space. The flight crew with help of ground staff attempted to move the pax to another row that had two empty seats. Pax refused. Then is got a bit heated. The Pax started shouting at the crew that they and the airline discriminated against people with disabilities etc etc. During the flight the dog barked a lot and the pax did nothing to stop the barking. Interestingly the dog collar did not have any tags on it indicating tit was a service dog…..yet the airline allowed it on board.

  15. Fuck these people and their support animals. I bet every one of them is poor. I once moved cross-country with two cats. Needed to fly them one way. So I paid the fees, put one in cargo and one under seat in front of me. What’s the problem with that?

    By the way I had an upgrade to F, so the cat with me enjoyed shrimp salad on the way.

  16. Also, one time I flew on a Lufthansa A340 in F. Configuration was 1-2-1. I was in a window, and the guy next to me had the two middles to himself. He also had a little white dog. During boarding I could see the purser was worried about dog behavior. She spoke to the PAX, who said “don’t worry, he travels like this all the time with no problem.” Purser said OK, but if the dog causes ANY problems for other PAX, he will have to be put in his kennel under seat.

    Dog sat under seat for take off, then got out and sat in the empty seat next to the guy the whole trip. Just ONCE he made a little peep, and the guy (half asleep) invited dog into his lap. Dog jumped over and was quiet.

    What a good little first class doggy.

    The big barking/slobbering dogs in coach should have their owners shot.

  17. Great news Only cats and dogs with proper documentation sd be carried
    Why are Americans the only ones who believe pigs , turkeys , chickens and spiders are Emotional Support Animals. They are not !

  18. Great change, I’ve worked places where we were unable to even question if a service animal was legitimate because we were afraid of lawsuits. So when the tiny dog riding in the cart started barking all through the building, we weren’t able to say anything.

    There are ways to fly with our pet if you must, there are needs for support animals, but I really rather not sit next to a emotional support rattlesnake

  19. I have seen people stop in the airport to let their dogs pee on the rug,then calmly move on.they fly with big dogs on their laps,apparently the rule about dogs in carriers being stowed under the seat in front of them has gone out the 4 year old grandson is afraid of dogs,and had to endure a 4 hour flight with a dog on the plane barking the whole time.the poor little boy was so scared he was husband is allergic to cat dander and some dogs.when we tried make sure our flight wouldn’t have any animals,we were told that if there are animals on the flight,then we could find a different flight.dont they do peanuts free flights?but no guarantee of an animal- free flight?

  20. About time. I am a dog owner and dog lover, but I am more a lover of responsible adult rational behavior. Honestly, if you are blind or have a legit medical need – bring the dog. But this “support dog” bullshit?? So can I have a support hooker service me during the flight? That would make me much less anxious to fly. I’ll get a note. If you can’t get on an airplane without your animal just stay home or drive. We don’t live in the Sahara where we need to travel with packs of animals.

  21. Not usually a fan of Delta, but I agree with them. A family member who was abused has an emotional support animal and I hate the thought of anyone questioning the legitimacy of this person bringing their TRAINED dog with on a plane. I’ve witnessed this law being abused many times. Most recently was about a year ago when a pax insisted her lab was an emotional support animal, but kept jumping on pax in the same row when snacks were served and tried to crawl around under the seats to get crumbs from other pax. A fellow pax got so fed up she called out the abusing pax, who admitted she just didn’t want to pay the pet fee. There were several fingers hitting the FA call button to turn her in!

  22. Snakes and planes just don’t go together… Did people not see that movie with the dude from the capital one commercials?!

  23. This is a much needed change. ESA are simply bullshit. There is NO place on a plane for an untrained animal. What happens in the case of an emergency, turbulence etc?

    Even more concerning is how they act around other passengers and truly trained service animals. I feel especially bad for passengers who have and need these trained service dogs. They shouldn’t have to put up with this bullshit.

    Way to go Delta!

  24. I’m allergic to cats. Does anyone know what would happen if I was on a plane and someone boarded with their cat? If I were to speak up, would I have to change seats? Would that person have to change seats? Would the cat owner and cat be bumped to another flight?

  25. Completely agree with how crazy this has gotten. There are legitimate reasons for an emotional support dog (e.g. Veterans suffering from PTSD), but most passengers I see are clearly taking advantage of loop hole. The airlines really created these problems. This follows along the same lines of carry-on luggage. Charging pet fees that equal or exceed the cost of a coach seat ticket. $125 each way for an animal, in a carrier, stored under seat is crazy and has stimulated passengers to work around the charge. Same thing we saw develop with carry-on luggage. Airlines increased fees, stimulating passengers to work around by carrying-on more baggage and slowing boarding.

  26. About time, because I feel discriminated that my Emotional Support Elephant isn’t allowed on board, and now I don’t have to sue…

  27. Bout damn time. Hope other carriers follow suit.

    Don’t know how many times meals at restaurants have been ruined when the “emotional support” dogs of two different patrons start barking at each other. Have never heard a seeing eye dog bark in my life.

    Turkeys? Spiders?

  28. Long-time lurker here.

    I have to applaud Delta on this. I have a service dog myself (fully trained, certified, etc.). I always contact the airline well in advance and provide all requested documentation.

    ESAs in my experience are, for the most part, garbage. I’ve had FAs tell me it’s SO obvious from looking at my service dog and the “ESAs” around them which one is legit. But of course the FAs can’t do jack about it because the airline will get sued into oblivion…and probably lose! I’ve yet had to have a FA do anything other than fall over themselves in making sure there’s plenty of space for my dog (who usually just naps anyway – she’s figured out that planes = nap time!).

    Sure, I don’t like that I now have to include additional documentation in a 48h window (though I completely understand why!), but if it’ll cut down on the idiocy I have to put up with, I’m all for it. Now only if airlines could start enforcing Delta-like rules for lounges. It drives me INSANE when I have a yapping little rat distracting my dog in a lounge; it certainly isn’t her fault that she’s distracted – she’s trying to keep me from tripping over the f’ing little rat while also trying to stay away from it! And don’t even get me started on what some of these “ESAs” do around the food stations…….!!!!!!!

    And FWIW, I’ve stopped counting the number of times I’ve had people tell me to my face that I’m faking it too (not necessarily just in airports, etc). Even after I show them my documentation card. Why, yes, my dog is so legit that she comes with her own ID/”professional association” card! It even has a phone number you can call to confirm that she’s legit and request additional documentation from – with my permission, of course. And of course I always make sure to travel with up-to-date vet information, contact #s, etc, even if it’s just a domestic hop. Sorta like taking your kid abroad, from what I’ve been told.

    Get rid of the stupid rats and 500lb animals that take up all the space on the plane! And while you’re at it, get rid of the 500 websites that sell “credentials” even though I know there’s a snowball’s chance of that happening.

  29. I applaud Delta. These insensitive people who bring non-service “support” animals are trying to avoid the fee. But the airlines are making out like bandits for the dogs that are not “support” dogs. A small dog counts as the PAX’s carry-on, takes up the carry-on space under seat and yet the airplane charges almost half the price of a ticket. For example, my niece has 11pd dog who fits in carrier under seat. Airline charges $150 and he counts as her carry on and she can only bring on small personal item. If the animal does fit under the seat in front of the PAX in a carrier (and stays in the carrier at all times) then I don’t understand the charge.

  30. @ Jennie — That’s a good point. When I flew home with a new puppy I had to pay $125 to put her under the seat in front of me (where she was a perfect passenger for the short flight). That didn’t require any extra labor or incur costs for the airline, yet I could have checked three bags for free. If the fee were more reasonable, maybe more people would pay it and follow the rules rather than going the fake-ESA route?

  31. If I ever traveled with my dog, you can bet your ass she’s traveling in the cabin with me.

    Until you can guarantee me that some minimum-wage, “I finished the 8th grade and don’t take crap from nobody,” asshole isn’t going to leave her crate on the tarmac in 120-degree heat during a 30-minute smoke break, there’s no way in hell she’s going in the hold. No way in hell. I’d sooner travel by ocean on a cruise line that has proper kennels.

  32. Good going Delta! Dogs, cats and other animals don’t need to be in the people area. AA and UA please follow Delta’s lead.

  33. “I bet every one of them is poor.”

    “Until you can guarantee me that some minimum-wage, “I finished the 8th grade and don’t take crap from nobody,” asshole…”

    LETS ALL HOPE THAT postters like these dont have jobs that cause them to interact with other human beings!!!!!!!1!1!!!!

  34. Why can’t a child be an emotional support animal?
    Passenger: When my child is away from me, I get severe anxiety. Therefore, my child must fly free as an emotional support animal. Where’s my free seat?

    Air Canada has long had requirements slightly stricter than Delta and Canada is a left leaning country.

    Delta’s new requirements are a minimum and not overly bureaucratic. In contrast, some passengers have abused the rules, sometimes preferring fraud over paying the animal fee.

  35. Anyone who tries to stop me boarding with my emotional support giraffe is going to be entering a world of pain.

  36. I THOUGHT OF A LOOPHOLE!! I am sure others will exploit it.

    Delta agent: Is that an emotional support animal?

    Delta Fraudster: “A trained service animal merely needs a vaccination record, unlike an emotional support animal. Therefore, I claim my pet tiger is a trained service animal. I will sue you if you ask for an explanation.”

  37. Why don’t delta ask for a training certificate for the working animals, but do for the emotional support turkey crowd? Here, disability dogs MUST be registered, harnessed, on a lead, collar, ID tag/chip, and have a jacket displaying they are a service dog, if they are to be allowed in shops, restaurants etc. Why can’t Delta just ask for that?

  38. There are differences between service animals and comfort animals: A service animal will have been through an extensive training program. Comfort animals are not regulated, the owner simply declares they have a need and there is no vetting or screening process, a statement is sufficient, no medical documentation necessary. So the issue is really the lack of governance related to comfort animals. Delta’s approach may cut down on the abuse by virtue of throwing some hurdles in the way but it can’t eliminate people taking advantage of the lack of regulation.

  39. @n The Americans with Disabilities Act forbids such intrusions. Although it does open the door to abuse, it would be draconian to require disabled people to present papers everywhere they go to enjoy their right to equal access.

    “Q7. What questions can a covered entity’s employees ask to determine if a dog is a service animal?
    A. In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.”

  40. @n Additionally there is no requirement that service animals be *certified* trained. Disabled people have the right to train their own service animals rather than pay exorbitant sums to others to do it for them.

  41. I don’t see it as draconian really. There’s too much abuse. It’s no different to asking for the owner’s ID and boarding pass.

  42. Should a disabled person need to present special papers every time they enter a hotel, restaurant, grocery store, gym, beach, sports stadium, public transit etc.? If they go for a jog and want to grab a coffee on the way home should they need to carry a sheaf of papers in their athletic shorts? What if they trained their service dog themselves at home? Should they need to pay for special certification or disclose their medical condition to any front-line employee who asks?

    Our built world is already designed in a way that mostly ignores disabled people’s needs, things have improved with the ADA, but implementing more barriers is not just.

  43. @BrewerSEA:

    I understand your sentiment and generally agree that the world is already far more difficult for differently-abled persons. What I think you’re forgetting, though, is that elevators and ramps and most other accessibility options don’t (or rarely) infringe upon others, whereas animals absolutely can whether intended or not. One ESA versus 10 (arbitrary number) other pax on a plane who are allergic is what we’re talking about here. I can certainly tell you as someone allergic to – but very much fond of – cats, that my swollen eyes and stuffy nose and scratchy throat are not worth the preponderance of phony ESAs out there. At the risk of sounding heartless, nobody’s disability should needlessly or recklessly foisted upon others.

  44. BrewerSEA, absolutely they should. This could all fit on a card the size of an ID or drivers license if necessary. I had to carry around plenty of papers in the army, including while exercising (ID card, ID tags, physical training profile if you were injured and could not run or do regular push-ups/sit-ups, and had to carry a lot more shit when deployed. This is not to establish the US military as a baseline for what the standard should be, but illustrate that it can rather easily be done). Besides, a majority of employees at the places you listed would not even ask if the animal was well-trained; if it behaved like an out of control feral animal, it should be well within the establishments’ rights to demand verification that the offending animal has a necessary right to be there, or ask it to leave. Many disabled and minorities are at a disadvantage, no doubt–this does not permit the trampling of the rights of others. The goal is to find the most reasonable and least intrusive option for all parties.

  45. EVERY PET is an emotional support animal. Let’s be honest about it. The only reasons to justify having a pet are emotional.

    I FULLY applaud Delta for cracking down on this, although I’d like to see emotional support animals removed entirely. I have no problem with true SERVICE animals, like trained golden retrievers for monitoring seizures and such. Those are vetted and highly trained animals, to the point that you’d never even know they are present. Delta has been my office’s #1 choice for domestic flights for the past 5 years. Looks like they’re making the right decisions to get the business for the 6th year in a row.

    Remember, ADA covers SERVICE animals, not “emotional support animals.”

    BTW, Fido isn’t going to be putting your oxygen mask on you when the plane loses pressurization, the masks drop, and you go into a full blown panic attack. If you’re that unstable, you need a HUMAN companion who can take care of you.

  46. I am highly allergic to dogs and cats and according to the ADA with medical documentation that is also a disability. My need to breath and not have to use my Epi pen on a plane is just as important as a truly certified animal and more important than one that is not. I am so happy they are cracking down on this. I have had to move seats and when you are on a small plane with recirculating air it is still an issue. The other issue that people don’t talk about is that if that animal spend hours in a seat it leaves dander and saliva that contains allergens that also cause issues.

  47. It’s still too easy to get a note from a online vet. I know people who paid $100 to get a fake note from a vet online and now travels with her cat for at no additional cost. $100 once Sure beats the $150 delta charges each way.

    Sad how people abuse anything and everything.

  48. What the last few commenters are getting is what has the technical term of “conflicting access needs” – someone with a disability absolutely has the right to a seeing eye dog, a dog who warns them of seizures, a dog who helps with PTSD, etc, while someone who is highly allergic to cats/dogs to the point of requiring hospitalization/an epi pen has the right to fly in a plane and be able to breathe. I have asthma and am allergic to cats and dogs, so I absolutely understand that, but at the same time, absolutely understand the need for service animals. It’s a tricky case with no ideal solution, but obviously a huge step is cracking down on the fake emotional support animals.

    I’m really happy that Delta is taking these steps, because it protects those people with disabilities who truly do need their service and support animals. I am, however, saddened by the amount of ableism in some of these comments. There are absolutely individuals out there who need emotional support animals – individuals who have PTSD, who have had an abusive childhood, who have severe anxiety. It’s absolutely not fair to tell those individuals to stay at home and pop pills. These individuals’ disabilities are as valid as the more traditional ones you’re probably used to seeing, such as blindness. These individuals absolutely have a right to exist in society, to travel to visit their family, and to leave their house. As someone who has been on anxiety medication, it, like any other medication, has its limitations. If a support animal can help them leave their house and be self-sufficient, I am absolutely in support of it. Yes, I think documentation of some sort should be required to prevent abuse, but it is absolutely unjust to demand individuals who need support animals just don’t leave their house.

  49. I fly First Class (I pay for it, not freeloading upgrades)
    Lady in Bulkhead of Steerage behind us had full size Labrador Dog.
    The dog squirted diarrhea during the last half of the flight.
    Flight Attendants were patiently providing paper towels and plastic garbage bags to this obnoxious uncouth passenger.
    The smell was really bad.
    The two times we flew with our sweet well-mannered poodle in a carrier, it concerned us that she whined a bit before settling down for the rest of the flight. (and we gladly paid $150 each way to fly her)

  50. My boss just googled someone that was able to write a letter stating his two dogs are support animals for about $150. He is happy he doesn’t have to pay the fees and he is not poor whatsoever, makes a huge executive salary. I’m a dog lover and have dogs of my own so don’t mind if they are well behaved, it’s the abuse that’s not good!

  51. @Brewersea, I’m not putting a barrier there. If the dog is trained by the owner, then it is not a registered service animal. Note the REGISTERED, I never said about training. Also, I am not in America. I did say “here”, but never specified where “here” is.

  52. This is very sad I always travel with either my emotional support goat or giraffe
    This will be crippling without my fresh support goat milk onboard properly warmed by the flight attendants
    Mandatory that I arrive at my destination sane and not crack up without their assistance
    I will have my shrink immediately sign the paperwork to get my support family animals on board
    Shameful it’s had to come to this

  53. Totally agree with Delta. The real problem is that some bloggers (that’s you TPG) tell their readers how to register their pets as fake support animals (that’s ‘Miles’) .

    Pets belong in carriers in the hold. When I travel with a pet (once) it travels in a carrier in the hold and that was because of a three year overseas posting. Nobody needs their pet on a weekend flight or holiday. Imposing on other passengers is just bloody selfish or the behavior of ‘entitled millennial’s’.

    Had a real bad experience on Condor in Premium Economy – two very large passengers had a large dog and wanted more space so tried to get upgraded to J. While they were trying this on they kept kneeing me in the back. It was a 10 hour flight so I luckily convinced the FA to upgrade us (for a fee) so they could have ‘more room’.

  54. @mark

    “I fly First Class (I pay for it, not freeloading upgrades)””

    Are you a moron???!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!! Because you sound FUCKING MORONIC!!!!!!!!!!


    Now go blow Donadl DRUMPF!!!!!!

  55. Amusingly, when I came to this post, there was one of those “register your service animal” ads at the top.

  56. There are millions of passengers who have severe allergic reactions to animals, especially to dogs and cats. In the name of “health support”, or “life support” (!), can the airlines decide who enters the cabin– humans or animals if they cannot occupy the same space ??
    I have had dogs. I loved them very much. But animals do NOT belong on airplanes!! I also have severe asthma when exposed to certain dogs and cats, but not others (strangely).
    If an allergic person dies of asphixiation because of an animal the airline has allowed onboard, are they liable for the death?

  57. Oh.. and… a service dog for a blind person…. on an airplane??? where ya gonna go ?!? If you need guidance within the confines of the metal tube you are whizzing through space in, you can signal a flight attendant. They also help you get on and off the plane. Then your dog can meet you at the baggage claim.

  58. Amtrak considers “comfort animals” as pets and requires that comfort animals follow the pet guidelines including being under 20 pounds. There is $25 fee.
    I think the airlines should do the same and allow only true service animals onboard for no fee and no size limit. All the other animals would be considered pets.

  59. Thank god somebody is finally addressing this. It has gotten out of control. Since when is a dog entitled to more rights than me? And a bigger issue how is this safe when most of the fake service animals I see are huge dogs that don’t fit under the seat and therefore would be a barrier in an evacuation? It has literally turned into a circus. At what point is an animal just too big? Just entitled bullshit and is quite unfair to the legit service dogs that are highly trained and working.

  60. If a real doctor issues a letter for the ESA and it’s a reasonably small size, that should be enough. Requiring health records is a chore but 48 hours ahead is a burden. Delta is also thinking revenue here.

    Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is a very real thing, especially for many war veterans. This dismissal of it a hoax is mean. The airline has reason to be sure it’s not a hoax and to require vaccination records be carried…..not provided 48 hours ahead. This is going to cause a lot of trouble at the airport if they enforce it. On the other hand, requiring it be a small dog is reasonable.

    I enjoy when small dogs are on flights because they relieve a lot of the boredom and stress in the airport.

    But babies ! Get them off planes !

  61. This emotional support animal garbage has gone way too far. Airlines should drastically curtail this practice to only 100% legitimate circumstances and people who seek to game the system should face repercussions.

  62. I was on a recent Delta flight and had paid extra to sit at the bulkhead. I am on the aisle. A young lady gets on with her dog and sits at the window. Another lady is in the middle seat. The ladies dog then lays at my feet and I cannot stretch out. Hmmm, I thought there was a problem with blocking the foot space with luggage. I guess dogs do not count. The flight attendants ALL commented on how cute the dog was. I was out of luck to complain. I was afraid the young lady might go bonkers if I said anyting since this most have been an emotional support dog. I wrote Delta, but never got a reply.

    Delta may have a policy, but it will backfire on them.

  63. Always carry a packet of very goof chili powder (or even pepper packets) and if you end up in emotional my ass animals in your row, be liberal in pouring the content on floor in and around you.

    Call FA and ask for change in seat assignments or even better off…take next flight.

    Read about the comfort moron sob story on web and rest assured, that animal would never step inside another flight.

    Delta/United/American/Airlines…hire me. I will take care of your emotional support animals crap for good

  64. There are service animals and pets. Want to take your pet to Aruba? Pay the fee.

    BTW: Anyone noticed that this is only an issue in the US!?

  65. Always carry a packet of very good chili powder (Eau De Chili parfum) and if you end up in emotional animals in your row, be liberal in pouring the content on floor, in and around you.

    Call FA and ask for change in seat assignments or even better off…take next flight.

    Read about the comfort moron sob story on web and rest assured, that animal would never step inside another flight.

    Delta/United/American/Airlines…hire me. I will take care of your emotional support animals crap for good

    I know of few places in Asia where your pet would certainly be treated as delicacy….heheheheh

  66. It’s about time! Another factor that was not brought up is that there are many people who are allergic to animals, especially cats. About 15% of the population has some degree of allergy to them. Some are severe. It doesn’t matter if “kitty” is crated and under your seat. If the allergic passenger nearby goes into respiratory distress, there will be huge legal problems for that passenger who brought the cat aboard.

  67. It’s good that they are trying to do something about pets being passed off as emotional support aminals, but this policy goes too far. It is totally unacceptable to be asking for documentation for trained service animals. I am blind, use a guide dog, and travel at least monthly. This policy effectively bans me from last minute travel on Delta because I would not be able to provide the documentation with 48 hours notice. It this policy isn’t changed, I will be flying other airlines even though I have status on Delta.

  68. My problem here is with people who knowingly abuse the existing laws just to bring pets places where pets aren’t allowed. I would compare this to wheelchair accessible parking spots:
    there are severe penalties for parking in one without a valid placard/license plate. Otherwise any person who doesn’t feel like walking an extra 50 feet could take up those spaces to the detriment of people who actually need them. I think a similar system needs to be in place for animals. There needs to be a regulated process for acquiring some type of ID tag or card or something to keep people from abusing ADA laws. I just dont see how we cant have that type of system including severe consequences for fraud. This would also protect the privacy of individuals with legit medical needs as all they need to do would be display their Id tag/card and not be asked questions about their personal medical conditions. The same way a store owner can’t ask about why a person parks in the disabled parking spot in front of their store.

    I dont see why this isn’t implemented. And yes, there will still be some abuse but I think it would drastically reduce it.

  69. ESAs are a joke. 90℅, including “PTSD” are bull.

    With that said, many dogs behave better than humans. We have Chinee who allow their children to defecate in the aisle. We have Latinos who walk around during taxiing. We have Indians who will unilaterally change seats with you and refuse to move. Arabs smoke in spite of the well-known ban, etc.

    In some cases a well trained dog is preferable.

  70. I’ve been asked to write these letters and generally decline (wrote documentation for one person, about 10 years ago). The privilege has been abused and I’m glad it’s being addressed by the airlines. The fake letters, fake certification, fake vests need to go.

    One partial solution (no perfect one with the competing needs) is to take a page from parity health care law/policy — certain diagnoses (visual impairment, hearing impairment, PTSD) would be covered by a service animal (that category can absorb comfort animal class for mental/emotional disorders. The service animal has to be certified/trained. If “self trained,” they need to pass a certification/behavioral test and size restrictions.

    I love dogs!! But the huge dogs, poultry, etc. need to go in an appropriate (temperature, sound muffled, etc.) area of the plane. And spiders/snakes? GMAFB!!!!

  71. Bottom line: The little dogs can stay; Delta just wants $150 out of the owner.

    Since the pup has to fit in a container which goes under the seat in front of you, they basically are charging $150 for your “personal item” if there’s a pup inside.

    All about revenue.

  72. Why do you think hotels and airplanes charge extra for ‘well behaved’ pets?

    Because there is a huge cost in cleaning up the mess of those pets that have “accidents”.

    If a puppy poops on the rug that hotel room is out of service for perhaps up to a week. And you can bet your bottom dollar that the owner would insist on another room after the pet poops.

    Defecation/urination on an airplane also requires a great deal of clean-up – at the time en-route and after the aircraft lands.

    They should make it $1000 to keep the herd off the plane.

  73. This is almost entirely a US issue

    I love dogs and cats, however that’s where it should be limited too subject to the correct validated documentation if they are to be accepted in the cabin.

    We all know counterfeit documents can be obtained easily nowadays but airline employees can’t police that

    Almost 20 % of the US population suffers or will suffer from some sort of mental disorder ( although sadly this must be similar worldwide ). Statistics show 27% see a psychiatrist 70% take some sort of medication But the majority don’t have an issue when travelling

  74. Selfishness? Probably. People who have “Emotional Support” animals strongly believe that they need “Emotional Support” airline travel. Where does this conviction to “me, me, me” end?

    Delta has got my support when it comes to cracking down on people who believe that they have a right to some extra “free” service regardless any inconvenience to their fellow travellers.

  75. Pets can have passports — my friend has a show dog that flies around the world to compete. Why not add a notation on it if they are a certified service dog? No sheaf of papers to carry around — just a goverment-issued passport.

    Lucky, write a follow-up to this in 1 year to see how the number of “support animal” boardings are on Delta after the new rule. I bet it will drop by at least 75%, showing how many weren’t legit in the first place.

  76. I was on AA flight a few months ago where a large dog was allowed to sit in the aisle next to the first row of coach during the entire trip—including take-off and landing. The dog was well behaved, but this was a major inconvenience to the passengers and an obvious safety risk and FAA violation. The FAs were unsympathetic to my concerns, and I got the typical corporate line in response to a complaint I filed with customer service, who probably agreed with me but could never admit it. So I agree that this is a good move by DL.

  77. I think the airlines should retrofit their planes so I can travel with my emotional support elephant. Last time I booked a basic economy for $39 they told me my elephant won’t fit under the seat in front of me. So I had to hold it on my lap.

  78. Kudos to Delta for finally doing something that is bothersome to many!
    I am allergic to dogs and cats. Never once was I informed an animal was traveling on my flight. Where are my rights?
    I often wondered if I had told Delta that I was extremely allergic, would they ban pets on my specific flights, much like they do peanuts if someone had an allergy?

    Great job Delta!

  79. While I see both sides of the issue, and ultimately this has to be judged on a case-by-case basis, the requiring of documentation does raise some HIPAA/privacy issues. If a passenger shows up with a support animal at an airport with an emotional support dog, the law explicitly prohibits the airline employee from probing or questioning the disabilities.

    Also, while no question that there are people who will abuse the system, that is not a reason to dismantle a policy that works for many.

  80. Also, how much of this is about the bottom line? Not to sound cynical, but is Delta more concerned about people bringing too many emotional support animals on board, or that they are bringing them as emotional support animals and not paying for them?

  81. This entire issue INFURIATES me! That people are abusing the system is very frustrating to those of us who actually NEED an ESA. I moved far from family for work about a year ago, and without the ability to take my ESA with me I could never see my family. Contrary to several posters I read here, I do not want to have to drug myself up in order to take a flight. I hate medications, both the way they make me feel and the chance for addiction.
    I, unlike others, took the proper steps to get my pet certified. I went to my doctor, asked for a letter, and got all my information on Doctors Letterhead with a Doctors signature.
    So essentially these fraudsters make it harder for me to fly with my ESA.
    All that being said, I don’t fly Delta, so I wouldn’t have first hand experience. I fly JetBlue. When I requested my ESA status with Jetblue I was sent an email with the required documentation I would need. The letter also explained I would need to check in with the desk upon arrival and show my ESA letter. Delta might have thought they were making it easier on flyers with ESA’s, but in reality they made the rules so loose that people got away with murder. Now, they have to go the opposite in order to correct their first mistake.

  82. The ADA does not apply to commercial airlines:

    “37. Do commercial airlines have to comply with the ADA?
    A. No.  The Air Carrier Access Act is the Federal law that protects the rights of people with disabilities in air travel….”

    The Air Carrier Access Act provision about service animals can be found at 14 CFR 382.117. “Must carriers permit passengers with a disability to travel with service animals?”

    This regulation specifies what airlines are allowed to ask/require, and states that airlines are never required to accommodate certain unusual service animals (e.g., snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders), and gives guidelines about other unusual or exotic animals.

  83. I was on a Delta flight recently where there was an emotional support dog with a group of children and their parents. The family paid for an economy seat and had the dog on the seat. The dog was very well behaved and the children treated their dog properly. The dog wore a vest to show he was an “emotional support dog.” They were warned by the flight attendant that the dog belonged under the seat and were told that they understood they paid for a seat for the dog, and that she personally did not mind, but some flight attendants would enforce the rules. One reason why Delta has had to implement this is because of cases like this or even more extreme. It harms people who really do have support animals for legitimate purposes such as for sight or for deafness. Emotional support is just a way to get your pet through and has gone too far. It is about time that we put some control to this crazy behavior. Often times people do things without considering others around them.

  84. I was initially concerned that this would cut into the free rides I’ve been getting for Fido. But unlike almost all the commentators, I actually read your article and looked up the forms on Delta. Most of them probably only looked at the headline, then jumped to the comments to complain about the huge dog/cat dander/baby crying on their last flight.

    The new rules state-

    1) an immunization record- check, Fido’s got a little book with all his stamps

    2) an Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animal Request form – looked at this and pretty much the same as what I already got over the Internet

    3) a signed Confirmation of Animal Training form – this had me worried, because Fido is practically untrainable- dumb as a rock! But I looked at the Delta form, and it basically asks me to sign at the top, and check a box saying he’s trained.

    So really the only new requirement is the necessity of sending it all in 48 hours in advance- easy for me because I only bring Fido on vacations. Too bad this policy only really screws people like Mike, who has a real disability and needs his seeing eye dog – no more last minute business trips for him!

    And yes, s.b. Brown, Mike needs to bring his seeing eye dog With him where ever he goes, even on the plane. I did get a kick out of Venkys suggestion for Chili powder, though. It reminded me of my last flight where I was sitting next to a sanctimonious jerk like him and sb. When they weren’t looking, I sprinkled exLax over their dessert (who can tell with United food?!) Rest of the flight, they were up and down every half hour! it was all I could do not to burst out laughing every time they ran down the aisle! Good thing I got the window seat.

  85. @BrewerSEA:
    I just want to say I’m not being argumentative, I’m just respectfully giving my perspective.

    One important thing to note. Support Animals are not covered under the ADA.

    There is a difference between a service animal and a support animal. A service animal is an animal that is trained to assist a person in some way. Like if someone has seizures, is blind, deaf, or has a physical problem like being confined to a wheelchair, a paraplegic, missing a limb, etc. A service animal is trained to HELP that person. They can pick up items, guide someone, alert them when a seizure is imminent, move them through congested areas where they could be knocked down, etc. Like you said, they can ask per the ADA if the animal is a service animal for a DISABILITY (support animals are not for disabilities) and what service the animal provides. With those questions they establish if it is a support animal or a service animal. If it is a service animal, no additional documentation is needed.

    A support animal does nothing for the person but offer them comfort and make them calmer. The ADA doesn’t cover support animals. Acceptance is something that is up to the business itself and support animals are not supposed to be taken into restaurants or places selling food. Delta isn’t requiring any additional information for a service animal. The reason they’re asking for the documentation for a support animal is there is nothing physical the dog does for the person so it is easy to say they are a support animal when they’re really not. So for people with disabilities that require a service dog, nothing has changed. But for people who have been playing the system to take their pets along, this is putting a large roadblock in their way.

    And just as an FYI, I have a support animal. I am terminally ill and have pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs. not the regular kind) Rheumatoid Arthritis, severe Lupus, and severe Gastropareisis. I keep my 5 pound trained and certified dog with me because he keeps me calm so I don’t pass out due to oxygen deficiency. And quite honestly he just keeps me in a better frame of mind with everything that I’m dealing with. I carry his paperwork with me along with a business card and billing statement from my psychiatrist so they know he’s not a fake. That being said when I was last at the Mayo Clinic a person claiming their Husky puppy was a support animal was dragging him across the lobby while he was pooping. He spread crap in a 10 foot swipe and she was still dragging him when I stopped her and told her. This is in a place where people are horribly sensitive to sites and smells and whose immune systems are shot. I said all that to say this, even having a support animal, I fully agree with Delta toughening restrictions. If your dog is legitimate, it’s not something you mind. Its only when you’re being dishonest that you mind being questioned.

    And by the way, I wasn’t “yelling” when I wrote in caps. I was just trying to emphasize. I respect everyone’s opinion on here. Everyone is entitled to what they believe. I just wanted to share my perspective. 🙂

  86. It’s not fare to the people with real esa’ s or service dog to have to take that extra step because of people who fake it and I believe my esa should be able to travel with me and I pay my fee just like everyone else so it’s not fair to say I shouldn’t travel when I have family in a different state and like to see them my esa helps calm my anxiety down with its presence and she givegives me something to live for just because others don’t understand that depression is real doesn’t mean we with real problems and difficulties should suffer I don’t think this is a good thing all this is going to accomplish is making people hate them and not fly with them they are going to loose customers

  87. Honestly, every single animal I have ever seen on any flight was BETTER BEHAVED than most Human Children are on flights… its a shame that just because the ESA pets may not all be the “typical pet” (Dog or Cat) that they are automatically judged in a negative light. I can understand when its an oversized animal or if the animals size, carrier, health, or behavior endagers the animal or persons on the aircraft… but if the animal is well behaved and the appropriate size, in good health, in the appropriate carrier, safe and responsibly handled by the owner than I see no issues with any ESA / Service Animal / or everyday pets flying with their owners. It eases stress on the animal having the pet parent present during the ride and eases stress on the owner. (not worrying and wondering about what kind of shape they may recieve the animal in if it flys in cargo or worrying about if its even still going to be alive upon arrival) To the people on here saying pets dont belong planes … well people weren’t meant to fly either but we do … and lets all get real … people get pets for different reasons… some for need and assistance and others just for companionship… either way life happens… people move or accept job opportunities overseas … or their families move overseas or several states away … there are tons of scenerios and reasons that a pet may need to travel with its owner and sometimes driving may not be an option or perhaps not as good of an option for relocating the owner and pet. The drive might hinder and stress both the animal and animal parent for longer periods of time (sometimes even days) and may require spending countless hours in a car where as a quick flight with the owner might be the healthier option for both pet and parent. It could be anything, but my point is life happens… and humans and animals both Live and Die on this planet together … so cant we all just get along and fly the friendly skies together peacefully? I know for me I would rather sit by someones animal on a plane anyday over someone with a toddler thats kicking the seat and whining and crying the whole flight.

    Delta personally I think animals on planes are a great thing and that you should be encouranging it Not discouraging it. If you really think about it you could make allot of money if you pioneered the first Owner/Animal flights and designed a fleet of planes with sitting areas designed for both pet and owner comfort. Americans spend around $58 billion each year just on their pets and one thing all responsible pet owners care about is pet safety and spending trying to fit in spending healthy quality time with their pets into their busy routines… Every pet owner I asked said they would prefer to have their pet in flight with them over having their pet in cargo for lots of different reasons. So if you offered a bonding time experience for pet and pet owner in flight while they are traveling for whatever reason you could easily suck up a piece of that 58 billion dollar pie … I’m just saying … think outside the box Delta … because I would buy a ticket for that trip

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