Southwest Limits Emotional Support Animals to Only Dogs and Cats
Southwest Airlines announced new changes to its emotional support animal policy on Tuesday.
The low-cost carrier is limiting emotional support animals to only cats and dogs, and they must remain on a leash or in a carrier at all times. Customers will also be limited to one emotional support animal each.
The new changes will take effect on September 17 and can now be found on Southwest's disability policy page on its website.
Any passenger traveling with a cat or dog as an emotional support animal will still be required to "present a complete, current letter from a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional on the day of departure," a statement from the airline said. The airline will also only accept dogs, cats and miniature horses as trained service animals, a policy which it says follows guidance from the US Department of Transportation.
"For the health and safety of our Customers and Employees, unusual or exotic animals will not be accepted" as trained service animals, Southwest's statement said. Passengers on other US carriers have tried to pass off everything from peacocks to ducks as emotional support animals.
Additionally, the Dallas-based airline is formalizing its acceptance of psychiatric support animals. "Southwest informally accepted PSAs as trained service animals in the past and the airline is pleased to formalize the acceptance of this type of service animal based upon Customer feedback," the statement said. Psychiatric support animals are trained to perform a task or work for a person with a mental health-related disability.
The new policy from Southwest follows many airlines instating similar changes — Delta, American, United, JetBlue and Alaska have all similarly tightened their rules for emotional support animals this year.
The airline does note that any animal that "engages in disruptive behavior" can be denied boarding. Southwest grappled with this issue earlier this year when an emotional support dog bit a young girl on board a flight in February.