American Airlines makes changes to emotional support animal policy

Posted at 12:32 PM, May 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-15 14:32:49-04

American Airlines announced changes to its emotional support animal policy, updating behavior requirements and restrictions on the types of animals accepted on flights. 

This is following a number of other airlines who tightened up their policies in regards to passengers flying with support animals earlier this year. United Airlines recently changed its policy after a woman tried to bring a peacock on her flight, according to 9News Denver. Delta said its policy changes came after thousands of animals were reportedly misbehaving on flights, even biting passengers. 

American reported experiencing an increase in customers who are transporting a service or support animal on board, reporting more than 40 percent from 2016 to 2017.

The airline met with a number of disability groups, including American Association of People with Disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Council for the Blind and My Blind Spot, to get their input before making these changes, according to a statement. 

Some of the changes include emotional/psychiatric support animals meeting specific requirements in order to fly, like being able to fit under your feet, or under the seat. American says emotional support and service animals cannot block aisles, occupy a seat, or eat from tray tables.

Restrictions on acceptable animal behaviors and animal types were also outlined in the updated policy. American Airlines says the animals must be properly trained to behave in public, including being on a lease or harness and in the control of the passenger at all times. Certain behaviors will not be tolerated, like growling, biting, or jumping.

American Airlines listed a number of animals that won’t be permitted as service or emotional support animals due to public health risk and/or safety:

  • 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)
  • Any animal that is unclean / has an odor

"We support the rights of customers, from veterans to people with disabilities, with legitimate needs for a trained service or support animal. Unfortunately, untrained animals can lead to safety issues for our team, our customers and working dogs onboard our aircraft," said the airline. 

These changes will be effective July 1, 2018. For the full updated policy, click here