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Prohibitions Grow for Emotional Support Animals

American Airlines will join Alaska Airlines in a ban on allowing emotional support animals in its cabins.  The change does not apply to certified service dogs or to dogs and cats that are small enough to be in crates that fit under the seat in front of you.  The policy shift follows a final ruling on the subject by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).  

On Tuesday, American Airlines announced changes to its policies and procedures for travel with emotional support animals and service animals.  American is cracking down on emotional support animals traveling in aircraft cabins.

United States-based airlines are embracing the new DOT final ruling.  It will see the practice of untethered and poorly trained animals traveling in airline cabins in the United States end.  The final ruling means only bona fide trained dogs can travel as service animals.  The DOT ruling notes the use of service dogs is not restricted to passengers with physical disabilities.  Bona fide psychiatric service dogs will also remain okay to fly.

On Tuesday, American Airlines announced changes to its policies and procedures for travel with emotional support animals and service animals.  American is cracking down on emotional support animals traveling in aircraft cabins.

According to the DOT, the carriage of animals in airline cabins has long been controversial and was open to abuse.  The Department of Transportation said it received more than 15,000 comments on the matter before its ruling.

The policy change will put an end to practices such as a rabbit flying business class to Japan; miniature horses hitching a ride across the country; and opossums jetting to Texas for a family Thanksgiving get-together.

American Airlines said, “The DOT’s new rule defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.  When the rule goes into effect on January 11, American will no longer authorize new travel for animals that do not meet that definition, such as emotional support animals.  Existing bookings involving emotional support animals will be honored through February 1, when the airline’s new policies go into effect.”

Beginning February 1, American Airlines will ask passengers needing to travel with a service dog to complete a DOT form attesting to the dog’s behavior, training, and health.  That form will need to be submitted electronically 48 hours before travel unless travel is booked within the 48-hour window. American Airlines will issue an authorization to travel for the service animal.  The authorization will be valid for 12 months or until the expiration of the dog’s vaccines – whichever is sooner.

“We’re confident this approach will enable us to better serve our customers, particularly those with disabilities who travel with service animals, and better protect our team members at the airport and on the aircraft,” said American Airlines’ Jessica Tyler.