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 Delta.com 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 Delta.com 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?