United Tightens Rules on Emotional Support Animals

Jan 4, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

United has announced that effective Jan. 7 there will be new rules on emotional support animals. The new policy seems to be a carbon copy of the one Delta enacted only a couple of months ago.

The new policy will set a flight time limit of eight hours for emotional support animals. United is also limiting support animals to cats and dogs over four months of age.

2018 was the year of the emotional support animal for airlines. United says they saw an increase of 75% just in 2018. United also had one of the most publicized emotional support animal incidents of the year when a woman attempted to board a United flight with a peacock.

With all the new regulations and tightening of policies by airlines, it’s important to understand the difference between a Service Animal and Emotional Support Animals. Both types are clearly legally defined by Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, otherwise known as the ADA.

The ADA defines a service animal as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” Examples include guide dogs, SSigDogs — which are specially trained to assist people with Autism — and seizure response dogs.

Title II and III specifically limit the service animal definition to dogs, it does however make allowance for the use of miniature horses that been trained for specific tasks. United’s policy for service animals does still allow passengers with service horses to fly. Service animals are normally easy to spot as they generally have vests that show tags stating the they are a “service animal.”

A man walks with his service dog in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
Service dog. Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Emotional support animals are defined by the ADA as animals that “provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias, but do not have special training to perform tasks that assist people with disabilities.” Animals in this classification are often referred to as therapy animals like those you might encounter in hospitals that visit patients. The big difference here is that these animals aren’t trained to preform specific tasks for their handlers. It’s normally a simple process to get an animal classified as an emotional support animal, where as service animals often have months of specialized training.

The Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines allow both types of animals. However the ACAA does not require airlines to accommodate animals other than dogs and allows each airline to set its own policy around other emotional support animals.

It would seem that even with the airlines cracking down, the trend of people bringing animals into the cabin under the “emotional support” umbrella won’t be going away any time soon.

Featured Image by United.

H/T: ABC News and adata.org

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.