Delta is changing its approach to in-cabin service and support animals. Beginning March 1, owners will be required to show proof of their animal’s health or a vaccination record at least 48 hours before a flight, and to sign a document asserting the animal is well behaved. The current requirement calls only for a letter by a doctor or mental health professional.
American and United airlines are reviewing their policies.
According to the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines must allow service and support animals in the cabin free of charge. This is important for those who have a legitimate need, such as veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and children with autism.
But posers should keep their pooches at home.
I first wrote about the rising number of dogs on airplanes in a column in June. The next day, a man on a Delta flight was bitten in the face by a fellow passenger’s Lab mix, which was sitting on the owner’s lap. In November, a dog bit a woman in the leg while she waited to check into her JetBlue flight.
Who belongs in the doghouse over this issue? Top on my list is anyone who passes off a family pet as a support animal because they want to save money and hold Fido on their lap (most airlines charge $125, one way, to bring a small pet on board and require it to remain in a carrier under the seat).
Other culprits are therapists who may sign letters verifying the need of emotional support without due process. I’ve seen online sites that promise to generate a letter within 48 hours, for a fee, should you and your pet qualify after a brief chat with a therapist.
Delta, which carries 700 service or support animals daily, has seen dogs bite, bark, urinate and defecate in the cabin. Complaints about animals has gone up 84 percent since 2016. The policy change support’s Delta’s “top priority of ensuring safety for its customers, employees and trained service and support animals,” a news release reads.
Contact Travel Editor Kerri Westenberg at email@example.com.