No doubt you know someone, or have set next to someone, or read an outrageous story about someone who has claimed their pet dog or, in some cases, pet turkey, monkey, snake, pig, parrot or miniature pony, is an emotional support animal that qualifies for a free, uncaged flight inside the cabin.
Sometimes it is true. There are some people whose ability to function depends on an animal. But in more and more cases, people who say they are flying with emotional support animals are simply trying to get around the airline fees for taking a pet on a plane.
Now Delta Airlines – and no doubt other airlines in a second – is saying no more. They’re changing the rules, they say, because all those fake emotional support animals have led to serious safety risks involving untrained animals in flight.
“Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more,” says Delta, “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 report an 84 percent increase in 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,” said Delta.
Here’s what’s changing as of March 1 on Delta. Expect other airlines to follow the herd.
In compliance with the Air Carrier Access Act, Delta provides in-cabin travel for service and support animals without charge.
The new guidelines, effective March 1, require that all customers traveling with a service or support animal show proof of health or vaccinations 48 hours in advance.
In addition to the current requirement of a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, those with psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals will also need to provide a signed document confirming that their animal can behave to prevent untrained, sometimes aggressive household pets from traveling without a kennel in the cabin.
“The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel,” said John Laughter, Delta’s Senior Vice President — Corporate Safety, Security and Compliance in a statement. “As a leader in safety, we worked with our Advisory Board on Disability to find a solution that supports those customers with a legitimate need for these animals, while prioritizing a safe and consistent travel experience.
Delta is setting up a Service Animal Support Desk for customers traveling with service and support animals. The desk will be where customers go to verify that the new documentation is received and confirm the customer’s reservation to travel with the animal, prior to arrival at the airport.
The carrier also made it clear that is will no longer accept exotic or unusual service or support animals, including:
- Sugar gliders
- Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game bird, & birds of prey)
- Animals improperly cleaned and/or with a foul odor
- Animals with tusks, horns or hooves.
About time, right??