United Tightens Emotional Support Animal Policy Following Peacock Incident

Feb 1, 2018

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Just four days after denying boarding to a peacock at Newark International Airport (EWR), United Airlines has announced tighter policies regarding emotional support animals, effective March 1, 2018.

United saw a 75% increase in travelers with emotional support animals in 2017 compared to the previous year, according to the Chicago Business Journal.

The carrier isn’t the only airline formulating stricter policies: Delta also tightened its policies on January 19, after seeing an 84% spike in passengers traveling with emotional support animals.

Emotional support animals fall into a gray area between household pets and service animals, with very little formalized regulation regarding their designation and certification standards.

As of the time of this writing, United’s service animals selector page still allows service animals and emotional support/psychiatric assist animals including, but not limited to, dogs, miniature horses, monkeys, cats and birds. The website does state that rodents, reptiles, snakes and ferrets aren’t allowed in the cabin of the aircraft for any reason.

But the Service Animals section on United.com now includes this alert at the top of the page:

Beginning March 1, 2018, United will require additional documentation for customers traveling with an emotional support animal. Currently, customers must provide 48 hours’ notice to the Accessibility Desk and a letter from a licensed medical/mental health professional. For travel on or after March 1, customers will need to also provide a veterinary health form documenting the health and vaccination records for the animal as well as confirming that the animal has appropriate behavioral training.

Additional information and forms will be available soon, so please continue to check united.com if you have upcoming travel with an emotional support animal. The process for trained service animals is currently not changing.

The documentation needs to be on official letterhead, dated within the past twelve months, and must include the name of the licensed mental health professional or medical doctor who has treated the passenger for mental or emotional disability. The letter must state that the customer has a mental health-related disability and that traveling with the emotional support animal is necessary for either the customer’s mental health/treatment, or to assist the customer with their disability. Finally, it must further affirm the person making the statement is licensed, and the passenger is under their care.

Emotional support animals also need to carry health and vaccination forms, and the animal’s veterinarian must state in writing that there is no reason to believe the animal will cause disruption of airplane service, nor threaten the health or safety of other passengers. The owner must also provide written confirmation that the emotional support animal is trained to behave properly in public settings, and take full responsibility for the animal’s behavior.

Featured photo by JodiJacobson/Getty Images


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