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2018 is not a great year if you’re an emotional support animal. Southwest, American, Spirit, JetBlue and even Royal Caribbean have all clamped down on emotional support animals, but it’s Delta that has thrown down the hardest. Back in March, the airline began requiring that all passengers traveling with a support or service animal provide additional documents, outlining the need for the service animal as well as proof of the animal’s training and vaccinations, 48 hours prior to departure.
Several months later, it increased restrictions once more, limiting passengers to “one emotional support animal per flight” and forbidding “pit bull type” dogs altogether. This week, it’s taking yet another step by banning all emotional support animals on any flight longer than eight hours, while banning all emotional support animals under four months of age, regardless of flight length.
Delta’s updated policy follows an “84% increase in reported incidents involving service and support animals” between 2016 and 2017, including “urination/defecation, biting and even a widely reported attack by a 70-pound dog.” Delta asserts that the “updated support and service animal age requirement aligns with the vaccination policy of the CDC, and the eight-hour flight limit for emotional support animals is consistent with the principles outlined in the US Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act.”
The new limits take effect on Dec. 18, 2018, though customers with tickets purchased prior to Dec. 18, who have already requested to travel with an emotional support animal will be allowed to travel as originally ticketed. Regardless of booking date, emotional support animals will not be accepted on flights longer than eight hours on or after Feb. 1, 2019.
Earlier this year, the Association of Flight Attendants surveyed 5,000 flight attendants across 30 airlines on the impact of ESAs. The survey revealed that 61% of flight attendants said onboard emotional support animals have caused some sort of inflight disturbance, with more than half describing these disturbances as aggressive or threatening behavior by the animal.
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