The Southwest Airlines announced on Tuesday that it will be enforcing new rules and regulations for customers who travel with emotional support animals.
Starting 17th of September, only one cat or dog will be allowed per flyer on the Southwest flights. The animals would be carried in a carrier or on a leash.
The Dallas based airline said that these updates are based on a careful review of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) recent enforcement guidance and the feedback they have received from their customers, employees, and several advocacy groups and animal-related organizations.
Southwest’s policy clearly differentiates emotional support animals from trained service animals. The emotional support animals provide support to people with mental disabilities and are not trained to perform a specific work or task. Southwest defines service animals as those animals which are individually trained to perform a task or work for a person with physical or mental disabilities.
Under the new guidelines, customers who want to fly with their emotional support animals should present the airline with a “current letter” from their medical health professional or a doctor on the day of their departure.
Also, the emotional support animal should at least be trained to behave appropriately with other passengers. If it is found that an emotional support animal can be of any trouble, it can be barred from boarding the flight.
The airlines feel that since most of the emotional support animals are not trained properly, they can create problems during flight. They are also hard to manage compared to the service animals. Hence they have to enforce these new regulations and limit them to only cats and dogs.
This new rule would make Southwest airlines the first carrier to limit the emotional support animals to just cats and dogs. However, it is not the first airlines which had to adjust its emotional support animal rules.
United American Airlines, Delta Airlines and JetBlue had made changes to their rules for carrying emotional support animals following separate incidents of nuisance caused by them. A dog had attacked a Delta passenger last year. A woman was denied boarding by the United Airlines as her emotional support peacock failed to meet the airlines’s guidelines.
It seems that it is not just the airlines which are making changes to their rules for emotional support animals. Very recently, Royal Caribbean also announced that emotional support animals would not sail onboard Royal Caribbean International ships with immediate effect.