Ask the Captain: Will airlines ever adopt common-sense rules on emotional support animals?

Calling a family pet an emotional support animal is rife for abuse. If you need a support animal or blanket to feel secure while flying, it might be time to consider the train. How can we get the airlines and Congress to come up with common-sense rules?

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American Airlines ESA

American Airlines flight attendant bitten by emotional support dog, requires five stitches

The DOT (Department of Transportation) sought comments from travelers in 2018 and was flooded with replies, but so far no action has been taken.

“We need the (U.S.) Department of Transportation to take action now, so events like the one that happened yesterday do not continue to occur on our planes,” the statement said. “This is fundamentally about maintaining safety, health and security for passengers and crew, while ensuring accessibility for those who need it.”

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American Airlines is banning many puppies and kittens from flying as emotional support animals — but some miniature horses are still fine

Service animals have been limited to just dogs, cats and in special circumstances miniature horses. Emotional support animals have been limited to cats and dogs. Only one emotional support animal per passenger will be allowed. Animals under the age of four months have been banned from travelling as service and support animals

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New airline rules haven’t stopped an increase in pets, including emotional-support animals

Last year, the number of pets carried by U.S. airlines (usually for a fee in the cabin or cargo hold) increased 11% to 784,000, according to Airlines for America, the industry’s lobbying organization. The number of service animals increased 24% to 281,000, according to A4A. And the number of emotional-support animals leapt 56% in that one-year period, to 751,000.

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Airports join airlines in tightening the leash on animal travel

As had been widely reported, airlines have seen a sharp rise in the number of animals traveling on planes. Some are ticketed pets, but many are pets that have been flying for free thanks to loopholes in rules governing the transport of emotional or psychiatric support animals.

American Airlines reported a 40 percent increase in the number of service and emotional support animals on flights between 2016 and 2017. United Airlines cited a 75 percent increase year over year.

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So you want a letter saying you need a support dog on that flight? Here’s why a therapist might balk

“This thing has gotten out of hand,” said Jeff Younggren, a psychologist and clinical professor at the University of New Mexico, who has conducted several studies on the subject of emotional support animals.

The number of passengers flying with emotional support animals on the nation’s airlines has surged. United Airlines, one of the biggest carriers, saw a 75% increase last year compared with 2016. The trend has been accompanied by more incidents of animals urinating, defecating, biting, barking and lunging on planes. A passenger was even mauled by a 50-pound dog on a Delta flight last year.

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American Airlines tightens rules for support animals in-cabin

Emotional / psychiatric support and fully-trained service animals can fly in the cabin at no charge if they meet the requirements.

Animals must be able to fit at your feet, under your seat or in your lap (animals to be seated on lap must be smaller than a 2-year old child). For safety reasons, you won’t be able to sit in an exit row when traveling with your service or emotional / psychiatric support animal.

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