What do pigs, peacocks and the family dog have in common? They aren’t flying American or Alaska anymore.
These “comfort” companions are no longer equal to service animals, according to a change in U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, and airlines aren’t required to allow “emotional support” animals on flights beginning next week.
The creation of the new DOT rule was brought about by complaints from passengers with disabilities, misbehavior by emotional support animals and “requests to transport unusual species of animals onboard aircraft,” according to the DOT.
Pigs and peacocks are among the unexpected animals that have flown as emotional support animals.
American Airlines already has said it no longer will allow emotional support animals on board, and Alaska Airlines announced the same decision Dec. 29.
The DOT defines a service animal as a dog “trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability” – and that’s not Sparky, the family dog.
American addressed the rule change, saying it “will no longer authorize new travel for animals that do not meet that definition, such as emotional support animals.”
Emotional support animals have a checkered history of legitimacy.
They are prescribed by mental health professionals to help with comfort and support, but they are not required to have training in specific tasks, you know, other than being available for a snuggle.
The loose definition, which included no airline fees, allowed passengers to bring unqualified furry and feathered friends on board.
“We’re confident this approach will enable us to better serve our customers, particularly those with disabilities who travel with service animals, and better protect our team members at the airport and on the aircraft,” said Jessica Tyler, president of cargo and vice president of airport excellence for American, in a news release.