A couple of weeks ago Delta announced that they’d be updating their policy when it comes to emotional support animals. Airlines have seen a huge spike in the number of passengers traveling with emotional support animals, and they’re finally starting to crack down on this. United has announced that they’re following Delta’s lead and updating their policy on traveling with emotional support animals.
United says that this update is an effort to better balance protecting their employees and customers while accommodating passengers with disabilities. They claim that year over year they’ve seen a 75% increase in customers bringing emotional support animals onboard, and as a result they’ve seen a significant increase in the number of incidents involving these animals. They say that the DOT’s rules regarding emotional support animals aren’t working the way they’re intended to, which is why they’re changing their policies.
United arrived at their new policy based on working with their accessible travel advisory board, and based on receiving feedback from customers, flight attendants, pilots, employees with disabilities, and organizations representing passengers with disabilities.
Currently customers with emotional support animals must provide 48-hours notice to the accessibility desk and a letter from a mental health professional. Starting March 1, 2018, in addition to a 48-hour notice and an enhanced letter from a mental health profession, United will also require customers traveling with an emotional support animal to provide further documentation, including:
- The customer must provide confirmation that the animal has been trained to behave properly in a public setting and acknowledge responsibility for the animal’s behavior.
- The customer must also provide a health and vaccination form signed by the animal’s veterinarian. The veterinarian must also affirm that there is no reason to believe that the animal will pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others on the aircraft or cause a significant disruption in service.
United’s policy regarding service animals remains the same, and the airline continues to prohibit hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, rodents, snakes, spiders, reptiles, sugar gliders, non-household birds, exotic animals and animals not properly cleaned or carrying a foul odor, to be carried in the cabin.
As I said when Delta updated their policy, this won’t completely eliminate the number of people taking advantage of the emotional support animal system in the US. Even those who want to take their pets onboard as emotional support animals should be able to get a confirmation that their animal has been trained to act properly in public, and a health and vaccination form isn’t too tough to get either. However, by increasing the documentation requirements, it will certainly reduce the number of people who do so.
United is matching Delta almost exactly here. Both airlines are instituting new policies on March 1, 2018, and both are requiring additional documentation for those traveling with emotional support animals. My guess is that American will update their policy as well, which will make it more complicated to travel with an emotional support animal.
I’m curious to see to what degree this actually reduces the number of these animals on plans.
Do you think these new standards from Delta and United will lead to a huge decrease in the number of emotional support animals on planes, or no?