American Airlines updates its emotional support animal policy


Miniature horses properly trained as service animals are still in the clear though. However, emotional support and service animals can not take up a seat or block an aisle. But it is concerned that untrained animals pose a safety risk to crews, passengers and other working animals on a flight.

Under American's new guidelines, insects, hedgehogs and goats join a list of restricted animals that includes amphibians, ferrets, reptiles, rodents, snakes, spiders, sugar gliders, non-household birds, animals with tusks, horns or hooves, and animals that are unclean or have an odor.

"American, like other airlines, has experienced an increase in customers who are transporting a service or support animal onboard our aircraft-more than 40 percent from 2016 to 2017", it said in a statement.

American will also require those flying with an emotional support animal to submit a form at least 48 hours before their flight that is signed by their licensed mental health professional and that states their recognized mental or emotional disability and why they need the animal.

Starting on July 1, the airline will tighten its requirements on which animals can come into the cabin.

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American Airlines is setting some new ground rules on emotional support animals, barring companions like spiders, hedgehogs, goats and snakes from taking flight.

This means that the artist, Ventiko, who tried to bring an emotional service peacock onto a United Airlines flight earlier this year at Newark Liberty International Airport would have similar luck at American Airlines. While it now intends to to enforce the existing 48-hour advanced notice and pre-clearance policy, the airlines said, it also will have procedures in place for emergency travel booked within 48 hours of departure.

"This is not going to change the policy for those of us who are dependent on our trained, well-behaved service animals", he said.

In developing the changes, the airline said it met with such organizations as the American Association of People with Disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Council for the Blind and My Blind Spot. None of the restrictions affect American's service animal policy, which specifically applies to animals that are trained to assist people with disabilities. Owners must also vouch for the animal and that it won't have disruptive behavior such as growling or lunging at fellow travelers.