Airlines change policy about emotional support animals

Passengers will be required to provide additional documentation when bringing a support animal when flying with Delta or United Airlines.

Posted: Mar 1, 2018 7:13 PM
Updated: Mar 1, 2018 7:24 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- A new policy on bringing support animals on planes went into effect Thursday for Delta and United Airlines. 

The airlines have seen a rise in incidents involving animals who aren't properly trained. United Airlines reported they have seen a 75 percent increase year after year in the number of passengers bringing service animals on board. Delta Airlines reported an 84 percent increase in reported incidents. 

The new policy is an attempt to reduce some of the incidents, especially since some people have been trying to fly with animals like turkeys, snakes, possums and other animals, passing them off as support animals. 

Now, to bring a support animal on one of those airlines, passengers must provide signed documentation the animal is properly trained and doesn't pose a risk to other passengers. Additionally, they must be able to prove the animal is up to date on all vaccinations. 

"I mean if you have people coming on with things they don't really need, what is going to happen to the ones who do need them," said Gayle Hickam, a passenger at the Eugene Airport. "Pretty soon they won't allow any animals back on and then what are they going to do. So yeah, I think the documentation is a good idea."

Erycka Organ with Lane Independent Living Alliance said the new policy could make it more difficult for people who need support animals to fly with them, but she agrees this is a necessary change.

"It's unfortunate that it's come to this but its been such a widespread problem of people trying to pass off their pets as service animals or emotional support animals," Organ said. "You can buy a little certification card and vest online with no questions asked, that doesn't necessarily mean that animal is a legitimate service animal."

In a statement, United Airlines said, "We know that some customers require a service or emotional support animal to assist them through their journey, and we strive to provide the best possible service to everyone traveling with us."
United Airlines added the policy change does not apply to service animals. 

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