The 411 on Flying With Emotional Support Animals

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Emotional Support Dog; Photo Credit: Helicon Filter/Ввласенко

Those meeting planners and attendees who turn to animals in their time of travel stress may have to rethink their emotional support system.

A recent rise in passengers taking advantage of the lax rules regarding flying with emotional support animals has led airlines to enforce stricter guidelines as to what animals passengers can and cannot bring on the plane. In mid-January, Delta announced tighter restrictions due to an “84 percent increase in reported animal incidents since 2016.” United also followed suit, with American Airlines being the most recent to ban untrained animals that could pose a safety or public health risk, effective July 1. That means amphibians, goats, hedgehogs, snakes and spiders no longer make the cut.

What You Need to Know

Now, attendees are left wondering what animals can still fly under the new emotional support guidelines. At the very least, all domestic carriers require a signed medical or mental health professional document that provides proof of their licensing and states that you have a psychological need to fly with the animal. While each carrier has different policies, here are the updated requirements for traveling with a pet on specifically American Airlines, the latest to join in on the restrictions:

For Service Animals: For flights more than eight hours, documentation is required stating your animal won’t need to relieve itself or can do so in a way that won’t create a health or sanitation issue.

For Emotional Support Animals: If your ticket was issued on or after July 1 of this year, you need three forms to fly with an emotional support animal. The first document includes the medical professional document. The second involves filling out a behavioral guidelines form stating that your animal meets all the restrictions. The third is the same animal sanitation form required for service animals on flights more than eight hours.

Of course, you’ll have to visit each airline’s website to see their specific restrictions, all require the animal to fit under the seat in front of you or on your lap, and it cannot block the aisle, nor can you book an exit row.

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