Airline group seeks to limit all 'emotional support' animals to just dogs

An airlines group representing nine major carriers has asked the Department of Transportation to limit the type of emotional support animals allowed on flights to just dogs.

Airlines for America, which represents major companies like American Airlines and Southwest, wrote a report to DOT earlier this month, requesting stricter policies for emotional support animals.

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The airlines group argues that the number of incidents involving emotional support animals has only grown in recent years — American Airlines saw a 40 percent increase of support animals onboard between 2016 and 2017 — and that the reported incidents of emotional support animals “urinat[ing], defecat[ing] and biting” has also increased.

“Airlines have become increasingly concerned that untrained service animals pose a risk to the health and safety of its crew members and passengers,” the airlines group states in the report.

The group also criticizes current the regulations, which it claims people are exploiting by using “websites offering certificates of psychological need for essentially any applicant who pays a small fee” and “presenting untrained animals that are essentially just pets” as emotional support animals.

Airlines for America asked the department to limit emotional support animals to trained dogs that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In March, Delta Air Lines mandated passengers to submit documentation that their animals had been trained to behave in a public setting and required service animals to be checked in at the airport counter. Last week, Delta updated animals policy and now bans all “pit bull type dogs” from planes.

In May, American Airlines banned hedgehogs, ferrets and goats from planes.

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Airlines are not the only ones that are frustrated with the current policies about emotional support animals. Airports are also trying to limit the types of animals allowed.

Airports Council International-North America, the membership organization which represents and advises most U.S. airports, is urging the Department of Transportation to clarify its rules about what animals can be recognized as emotional support animals.

Portland International Airport has already announced new rules requiring animals to be kept in carriers or on short leashes, with a possible fine of up to $250 if violated, USA Today reported.