“We support the rights of customers, from veterans to people with disabilities, with legitimate needs for a trained service or support animal,” American Airlines said in a press release. “Unfortunately, untrained animals can lead to safety issues for our team, our customers and working dogs onboard our aircraft.”
Emotional support animals provide comfort to those suffering from emotional or psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression and panic attacks. They’re typically allowed to fly on planes for free if they meet certain requirements.
The use of such animals on flights has ballooned in recent years. American Airlines said that between 2016 and 2017, the number of customers transporting service or support animals aboard their planes rose by more than 40%.
Now, the airline is cracking down.
Passengers with a support animal have always had to provide a letter from their mental health professional. But the airline said it will be stricter about contacting these professionals well in advance of flights, in order to verify their notes.
Owners had been allowed to fill out paperwork the day of their flight, or even at the airport, a spokesperson for American Airlines said.
Fliers also now have to sign new behavioral guidelines for their animals. The form mandates that emotional support animals be kept on a leash or harness throughout the flight, and says that the animal can be denied travel if it exhibits “any severely aggressive behavior.”
Additionally, American Airlines now says that some animals are off limits entirely because they pose a safety or public health risk.
This includes not only insects, goats and hedgehogs, but also ferrets, spiders, and non-household birds, like chickens and hawks. Unclean animals, or animals with an odor, are banned, too.
Miniature horses, meanwhile, remain okay, so long as they’re properly trained as service animals.