AVMA, United reach agreement on form for assistance animals

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The AVMA, with support from the AVMA PLIT, took action when United Airlines announced a new policy requiring a veterinarian's signature vouching for the health, behavior, and training of psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals flying with United passengers.

Nose of a United Airlines jetThe AVMA had concerns with United's Veterinary Health Form, including concerns about potential liability risks for veterinarians. The AVMA reached out to United and worked with the airline on revisions. United officials later posted a new form on the airline's website that reflects alternative language developed by the AVMA and the AVMA PLIT, the Trust that provides professional liability insurance and other coverage for veterinarians.

The new form must be completed by a licensed veterinarian. It includes the statement: "At the time of this physical examination, the animal appeared to be free of infectious or contagious diseases that would endanger other animals or public health." The form asks if the animal is current for rabies and distemper vaccinations, if applicable.

The form also asks if the animal's owner has represented to the veterinarian that the animal has or has not bitten, scratched, or otherwise injured or attacked any person. If the animal has done so, the form asks for a description of the situation leading to the injury.

The AVMA is contacting the nation's other major air carriers to ensure that veterinarians have input into any requirements the carriers might be considering for transporting psychiatric service and emotional support animals.

The AVMA offers resources at http://jav.ma/animalassist about the types of service and support animals, the legal context for the use of these animals, and preventing fraudulent representations of pets as assistance animals.

Related JAVMA content:

Delta Air Lines implements new rules for assistance animals (March 1, 2018)

Supporting real assistance animals (Sept. 15, 2017)