Airline pet policies on flying with emotional support and service animals are changing, and now the Department of Transportation (DOT) is considering changes to the Airline Carrier Access Act (ACAA) in order to address the issues that airlines have recently been facing – lack of training, the use of false credentials and the variety of animal species whose owners claim protection under this legislation.
During the process of collecting public comment, DOT has permitted the airlines to specify what type of animals they will allow as emotional support animals and those they will not. An airline group, Airlines for America, is suggesting that service animals be defined as “trained dogs that perform a task or work for an individual with a disability,” which would eliminate untrained emotional support animals from flying under the ACAA.
Some of the other changes that are being considered include policies that would distinguish between different types of animals, whether or not that they will need to travel in pet carriers, whether to limit the number of animals allowed per passenger, and whether to require all service animals have been trained to behave in a public setting.
Currently, Title 14 Code of Federal Aviation Regulations § 382.117 dictates that the airline “must permit the service animal to accompany the passenger with a disability at any seat in which the passenger sits, unless the animal obstructs an aisle or other area that must remain unobstructed to facilitate an emergency evacuation.” What is unclear is the species of the animal protected by this legislation, the type of disability, and the amount of information that must be disclosed to the airlines. Because of these gray areas, many of these protections have been extended to those who may not not truly qualify for them.
For the purposes of this post, service animals are defined as animals who have been trained to assist physically disabled passengers suffering from mobility issues, visual impairments, seizures, hearing issues, issues resulting from diabeties or other physical issues. Emotional support animals are those who assist passengers with emotional, psychiatric, cognitive or psychological disabilities and have not received specialized training.
On all airlines, service animals should be fully trained, clearly identified and leashed or harnessed. They will sit at their handler’s feet without protruding into the aisle or causing other safety concerns. Service animals in training may or may not be accepted by an airline under these regulations. Trained service dogs accompanied by their trainers and being delivered to their owners also may or may not fall under these regulations depending on airline policies. Therapy animals, rescue dogs and dogs providing immigration services such as drug or bomb detection are not accepted under these regulations.
Emotional support animals are permitted to sit in their owner’s laps if small enough not to touch any part of the seat and do not interfere or prevent other passengers from using seat amentities. They should be socialized and trained to behave around other people and pets, especially in small confines. Their owners should travel with proper documentation clearly identifying their licensed physician or medical professional, stating that they have a documented condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders that necessitates that their pet travel with them and dated within a year of flight departure.
In both cases, animals are not permitted to sit in exit row seats. They are not permitted to fly in the seat next to their owner. They are not permitted to sit on the tray table. Owners should be prepared to demonstrate that they are prepared to handle the service/emotional support animal’s hygienic needs on flights over 8 hours in duration. Some airlines will require that a sanitation form is completed prior to travel.
Additionally, notification must be provided and permission granted in advance for countries that require that all live animals arriving by air to arrive as checked baggage or air cargo in the hold of the aircraft. (United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, India, New Zealand and others)
It is also important to note that both service and emotional support animals are subject to the same requirements when flying internationally as other animals of their species. Owners should be prepared to present rabies and health certificates and all other documentation required by the airline or their destination country upon check-in.
Here are some of the new (and old) regulations regarding service and emotional support animals. For the most part, regulations concerning service dogs have not changed. Note that we will make every attempt to update this post when regulations change. We will also be adding addendums to this post with regulations from other airlines.
As of July 10, 2018, Delta will no longer accept breeds included in the Pit Bull category as either service or emotional support animals.
Owners of trained service animals are encouraged but not required to provide a signed Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record (current within one year of the travel date) through a Service Animal Request form to the Support Desk via Delta.com at least 48 hours in advance of travel. As of December 18, 2018, puppies and kittens will not be accepted on Delta flights as service animals.
Owners of emotional support animals must submit an Emotional Support Psychiatric Service Animal Request form which requires a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, and a signed Confirmation of Animal Training form to Delta’s Service Animal Support Desk via Delta.com at least 48 hours in advance of travel. Additionally, a copy of vaccination records may be provided in lieu of the Veterinary Health Form as long as the vaccination dates and veterinary office information are included.
Only one emotional support animal per passenger is permitted. As of December 18, 2018, puppies and kittens under 4 months of age will not be accepted as emotional support animals. Also, emotional support animals will not be accepted on any flights over 8 hours in length.
The following animals will not be accepted as trained service or emotional support animals: hedgehogs,ferrets, insects, rodents, snakes, spiders, sugar gliders, reptiles, amphibians, goats, non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game bird, & birds of prey), animals improperly cleaned and/or with a foul odor, or animals with tusks, horns or hooves.
United will accept service animals in the cabin at no charge. No documentation is required; however, notice should be given as employees can provide any equipment you may need.
Owners of emotional support animals must submit documentation from a licensed medical/mental health professional, a Passenger Confirmation of Liability and Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animal Behavior and a veterinary health form completed by a licensed veterinarian at least 48 hours of travel. These forms must be submitted to the United Airlines Accessibility Desk by email (email@example.com) including first departure date and the flight confirmation (a six-character alphanumeric code) in the subject line. Pet owners must retain the original forms in their possession while traveling and be prepared to present them to airline representatives if requested. United will be contacting your mental health care professional to validate the documentation.
Service animals are accepted on American Airlines flights at no charge.
After July 1, 2018, American Airlines will require that owners of emotional support animals must provide their Special Assistance Desk with a Mental Health Professional Form, Behavior Guideline Form, and an Animal Sanitation Form (only required if your flight is scheduled to be over 8 hours) at least 48 hours before their flight. All documentation will be verified.
The following animals and birds will not be accepted as service or emotional suport animals on American Airlines’ flights: amphibians, ferrets, goats, hedgehogs, insects, reptiles, rodents, snakes, spiders, sugar gliders, non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game birds, & birds of prey), animals with tusks, horns or hooves (excluding miniature horses properly trained as service animals) or any animal that is dirty or has an odor.
Guide (service) dogs are accepted as long as they are clearly marked and remain leashed. Notification 48 hours in advance is required.
Air France will require that owners of emotional support animals provide notification at least 48 hours in advance by providing a medical certificate that is less than a year old. This certificate must be provided by a mental health specialist and attest that you have regular check-ups and need to be with your dog at all times. Air France will not accept dog breeds known as dangerous as service or emotional support dogs.
Service dogs (guide dogs, hearing dogs, diabetic alertdogs, seizure alert dogs) can fly in the cabin with their handlers on all flights that Lufthansa operates. For flights outside of the United States, a training certificate from a recognized training institute must be submitted in advance to the Lufthansa Medical Operation Centre via email or the Lufthansa Service Center. You will receive notice of approval from Lufthansa. Two copies of this form must be presented at check-in.
Lufthansa will only recognize emotional support dogs and only on flights to or from the United States. That means that, if you have a layover in a country other than the United States on your itinerary, your dog must fly the leg that does not involve the United States in a carrier in the cabin or in the cargo hold as checked baggage for a fee.
Within 48 hours of flight departure, your service or emotional support dog must be registered with the centers referenced above and a medical certificate issued by a licensed physician confirming the need for you to be accompanied by an emotional support dog must be presented. You will receive notification of approval from Lufthansa. Two copies of this form will be required at check-in.
All service dogs must be accompanied with an identification or card or other written document and be clearly identified. Notification must be provided a minimum of 48 hours prior to departure.
Emotional support dogs are recognized on flights to or from the United States and also flights with an Air-Canada operated flight through a US-based airline. Documentation for emotional support dogs must be provided to Air Canada reservations a minimum of 48 hours prior to departure and must include an original letter dated within the past year on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional treating the passenger’s mental or emotional disability recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Your professional’s license information must also be provided.
All service dogs must have been trained to assist a disabled person and certified by an organization that is a member of Assistance Dogs International or International Guide Dog Federation. Notification should be provided at least 7 days in advance. British Airways does not recognize emotional support animals.
Emirates will transport guide dogs for the blind in the cabin free of charge. Forty eight hour notice must be provided when traveling with a guide dog. Emotional support animals are not recognized.
Beginning July 1, 2018, required documentation for emotional support animals must be provided to JetBlue at least 48 hours prior to departure. This documentation will include: Medical/Mental Health Professional form issued and signed by a medical or mental health professional, Veterinary Health form completed and signed by your veterinarian and
Customer Confirmation of Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animal Behavior form completed by the pet owner.
Only one cat, dog or miniature horse is permitted per passenger.
Southwest Airlines will accept both service and emotional support animals in the cabin at no charge on domestic and international flights.
Dogs, cats and miniature horses who are trained to assist passengers with physical disability as well as dogs and cats who are trained to assist with mental disabilities are the only animals that will be accepted. As of September 17, 2018, other animals cannot be classified as either service or emotional support animals.
Passengers are encouraged to notify Southwest Airlines that they are flying with a service or emotional support animal. Owners should be prepared to produce evidence of their animal’s training when asked. ID cards and registry forms will not be accepted.
Both service and emotional support animals are accepted on Spirit Airlines flights at no charge.
Owners of service animals may/will be asked about the service that the animal provides.
All service and emotional support animals must display good behavior. They must fly at their owner’s feet or, in the case of emotional support animals, in their lap as long as they do not interfere with cabin operations. If the animal is larger, the passenger may purchase an extra seat to accommodate for their pet’s size.
The following animals are not accepted as emotional support animals: snakes or other reptiles, ordents, ferrets, sugar gliders or spiders.
Allegiant will permit services in the cabin free of charge if they provide identification cards, tags, or other written documentation; harnesses or markings on harnesses or the credible verbal assurances of the individual with a disability using the animal.
Within 48 hours of initial departure, the following documentation must be provided for emotional support animals: letter from a mental health professional (e.g., a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, or other medical doctor on their letterhead specifically treating the passenger’s mental or emotional disability). The letter must state that the passenger has a mental or emotional health-related disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fourth Edition (DSM IV), that having the animal accompany the passenger is necessary to the passenger’s mental health or treatment or to assist the passenger with his or her disability during the flight or at the passenger’s destination.
The letter must also state that the individual providing the assessment of the passenger is a licensed mental health professional and the passenger is under his or her professional care. Information regarding the licensing of the mental health professional and the state in which the professional is licensed is required.
Swiss Airlines will only permit emotional support animals on flights originating or terminating in the United States. For flights outside of the United States, ESAs may fly in-cabin if size permits or in the cargo hold at standard charges.
TAP Portugal Airlines
TAP Portugal Airlines accepts guide and emotional support dogs flying in the cabin with their owners at no charge. In either case, notification must be provided to TAP Portugal’s Service Center.
Guide dogs must be properly identified as service animals and with documented evidence that they have been officially trained and certified.
On flights to and from the United States, emotional assistance dogs weighing more than 8kg are accepted in the cabin. The maximum recommended weight and size is 40kg and 62cm in height (from the ground to the withers).
For flights outside of the United States, all emotional assistance dogs must fly in airline-compliant pet carriers and must not weigh more than 8 kg (17 lbs) including the weight of carrier. The carrier dimensions may not exceed 40 cm in length, 33 cm width and 17 cm height. (15 in x 12 in x 6 in) Soft-sided carriers are recommended to meet height requirements.
KLM will allow both guide and emotional support dogs to fly in the cabin at no charge. Other animals will be considered upon request; however, reptiles, livestock and insects will not be permitted. All animals must be leashed and guide dogs should be wear a harness or vest.
Owners of guide dogs need to submit this form to KLM prior to departure and bring original document with them.All guide and emotional support dogs must be presented at the check-in desk on the day of travel.
Owners of emotional support dogs must submit this form to KLM at least 48 hours prior to departure. A signed declaration from your physician or medical professional is required. The declaration should state that the passenger has a mental health-related disability listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV); that having the dog accompany the passenger is necessary to the passenger’s mental health or treatment, that the individual providing the assessment of the passenger is a recognized mental health care provider and the passenger is under his or her professional care, and the date and type of the health care provider’s registration and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.
KLM Cares can be contacted via phone, Whatsapp or other social media outlets for pre-travel notification.
Singapore Airlines will allow service and emotional support dogs to fly in the cabin at no charge on all flights where destination countries will allow pets to enter in the cabin. Dogs must fly at your feet without affecting cabin operations. Muzzles and leashes are not required but should be available.
All service dogs should be marked with a vest or harness or other items such as an identification card identifying it as a service dog.
If your dog is an emotional support animal, you must carry documentation on the letterhead of a licensed medical professional dated within the past year supporting the need for your ESA.
Owners of service and emotional support animals should contact Singapore Airlines at least 2 weeks prior to departure.
Aeroflot will permit guide dogs assisting physically disabled passengers to fly in the cabin at no charge. The passenger must present a proof of disability and a document certifying the dog’s training. If the working dog is a member of the Federal Executive Authority Canine Service, the passenger accompanying the dog must present a document certifying the special training of the working dog as well as a document proving that the passenger transporting the working dog is an employee of the Federal Executive Authority Canine Service.
Emotional support animals are not recognized.
Alaska Airlines will accept your service and emotional support animal without charge.
Passengers should inform the customer service representative when arriving at the airport that they are flying with a service animal. Service animals must fly at their handler’s feet and behave appropriately. Dogs, cats and miniature horses are accepted as service animals.
Owners of emotional support animals must submit 3 forms to Alaska Airlines at least 48 hours before travel: Animal Health Advisory Form, Mental Health Form and Animal Behavior Form.
Emotional support animals must be leashed or travel in an airline-compliant pet carrier, behave properly, be contained to the owner’s seat and not interfere with the adjacent passenger. Dogs and cats are accepted as emotional support animals. One animal per passenger.
Only service dogs and only cats and dogs can be transported as service or emotional support animals to Hawaii.
The following animals are not accepted as emotional support animals: Amphibians,Hedgehogs, Ferrets, Goats, Insects, Reptiles, Rodents, Snakes, Spiders, Sugar gliders, Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game birds, and birds of prey), Animals improperly cleaned and/or foul odor, Animals with tusks, horns, or hooves (except miniature horses that are trained to behave appropriately), any unusual or exotic animals.
Service animals being delivered to their new owner are accepted at no charge on domestic flights within the United States. Documentation must be available that training was successfully completed and they must be traveling with their trainer.
If your airline is not listed above, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.