American Airlines changing standards for emotional support animals


American Airlines is setting some new ground rules on emotional support animals, barring companions like spiders, hedgehogs, goats and snakes from taking flight.

Since more passengers are bringing pets with them for emotional support, American is clarifying what kinds of animals are allowed on board for that objective. However, miniature horses that have been properly trained as service animals are an exception.

Starting on July 1, the airline will tighten its requirements on which animals can come into the cabin. Last year, more than 750,000 emotional support animals were transported by US carriers, The Dallas Morning News reports. From 2016 to 2017, American alone saw a 40 percent spike in passengers traveling with service or support animals.

Delta Airlines and United Airlines also announced updated policies this year regarding what animals the airlines will allow in the cabin as emotional support for passengers. "Unfortunately, untrained animals can lead to safety issues for our team, our customers and working dogs onboard our aircraft". Owners must also vouch for the animal and that it won't have disruptive behavior such as growling or lunging at fellow travelers. Both airlines started requiring those flying with emotional support animals to sign a form that their animal is well behaved, in addition to asking for a letter signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional that certifies the passenger needs a comfort animal. But the animals, like service animals for the blind and others who are physically disabled, fly in the cabin for free, instead of being stowed and costing a fee of about $125 on most airlines, which may explain their massive popularity.

The airline said it met with a number of disability groups to get their input before making the changes, including My Blind Spot, an organization that works to make environments more accessible to everyone, regardless of disability.

Air Canada says it only accepts dogs as emotional support or psychiatric service animals. "Incidents when people try to pass off their pets as support animals are going to be reined in".

Even with the paperwork, some animals are off limits entirely because they pose a safety or public health risk.