The days of the flying horse are ending as US carriers implement Department of Transportation rules allowing them to ban emotional support animals other than trained dogs from January 11.
The rules were changed after the situation in the US had reached bizarre levels with an increasing number of people boarding aircraft with small horses, peacocks, snakes and other animals they claimed were for emotional support.
Airlines believed many passengers were exploiting a loophole in federal regulations to avoid paying to transport their pets and had already moved to ban some animals after a series of incidents.
Late in 2020, the DoT changed the rules to allow airlines to refuse emotional support animals other than dogs.
Alaska Airlines and American Airlines are among the carriers to recently announce they would no longer accept emotional support animals other than service dogs specially trained to perform tasks for people with a disability. United, Delta, Hawaiian and JetBlue have also revised their policies.
“This regulatory change is welcome news, as it will help us reduce disturbances on board while continuing to accommodate our guests traveling with qualified service animals,” said Ray Prentice, director of customer advocacy at Alaska Airlines.
American’s president of cargo and vice-president of airport excellence, Jessica Tyler, said the new approach would enable the airline to better serve customers, particularly those with disabilities traveling with service animals, as well as better protect staff.
Under the revised policy, passengers will be required to complete a DoT form attesting that their animal is a legitimate service dog, is trained and vaccinated and will behave appropriately during the journey.
For reservations booked more than 48 hours prior to travel, guests must submit the completed form via email but the paperwork can be submitted at the airport if the booking is made less than 48 hours before departure.
American said that animals that previously traveled as emotional support animals and no longer qualify as service animals may travel as carry-on pets or in the cargo hold if they meet requirements.
Carry-on pets are restricted to cats and dogs, are subject to breed restrictions and need to be in a container that fits under the seat.