Delta Air Lines implements new rules for assistance animals

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Delta Air Lines announced Jan. 19 that the airline is requiring advance documentation for service and emotional support animals, effective March 1.

"This comes as a result of a lack of regulation that has led to serious safety risks involving untrained animals in flight," according to an announcement from the airline.

According to the announcement: "Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more. Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs. Delta has seen an 84 percent increase in reported animal incidents since 2016, including urination/defecation, biting and even a widely reported attack by a 70-pound dog."

In compliance with the Air Carrier Access Act, Delta provides in-cabin travel for service and support animals without charge. The airline does not accept exotic or unusual service or support animals. 

Starting March 1, Delta will require that customers traveling with a service or support animal submit the airline's veterinary health form or a vaccination record 48 hours in advance. Customers with a psychiatric service animal or emotional support animal still will need a letter prepared and signed by a physician or mental health professional and additionally will need to sign a form stating the following:

  • I confirm that this animal has been trained to behave in a public setting and takes my direction upon command.
  • I understand that if my service animal acts inappropriately, that it will be considered not acceptable for air travel and will be denied boarding or will be removed from the aircraft.

At press time, United Airlines announced that it also is implementing new rules for assistance animals.

Related JAVMA content:

Supporting real assistance animals (Sept. 15, 2017)