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Delta is cracking down on people who use fake emotional-support animals to let their pets fly for free (DAL)

Benjamin Zhang

AP/Branden Camp

  • Delta Air Lines is adopting stricter regulations for people who travel with service animals or emotional-support animals.
  • The airline says the new rules are in response to a rise in safety incidents involving untrained or improperly trained animals.
  • The stricter standards are designed to prevent people from using the airline's allowance of emotional-support animals to let their pets fly for free.

Delta Air Lines is adopting tighter regulations for passengers who travel with service animals or emotional-support animals.

Delta says the move is in response to an 84% increase since 2016 in incidents involving untrained or poorly trained animals, including incidents of animals urinating, defecating, or biting passengers or crew members — and one in which a passenger was mauled by an emotional-support dog.

"The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across US air travel," John Laughter, Delta's senior vice president for corporate safety, security, and compliance, said in a statement.

Beginning March 1, Delta will require all customers traveling with service animals to show proof of health or vaccinations for the animal 48 hours before flying.

Passengers traveling with emotional- or psychological-support animals must adhere to even stricter standards: In addition to health or vaccination records, Delta will require a signed letter from a doctor or mental health professional and a signed document confirming an animal can behave during a flight.

Delta says this is to prevent untrained animals from becoming a danger to passengers, crew members, and properly trained service animals in the cabin.

Service animals, which are trained to perform specific tasks to help people with disabilities, and emotional-support animals, which are companions that a professional has determined benefits a person with a disability, fly for free.

But because there are virtually no federal regulations governing emotional-support animals on commercial flights, people could, in theory, get their pets to fly free of charge by claiming they're emotional-support animals.

Delta's stricter guidelines are designed to help close that loophole and allow the airline to concentrate on customers with a legitimate need for these animals.

Delta says passengers have attempted to claim turkeys, gliding possums, snakes, and even spiders as comfort animals.

The airline says it will not allow hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, rodents, snakes, spiders, gliding possums, reptiles, amphibians, goats, non-household fowl (farm poultry, game birds, birds of prey, waterfowls), animals with horns, tusks, or hooves, and animals that are improperly cleaned or emit an odor.

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