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Delta: Support and service animals are wreaking havoc in the sky

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

Service animals are meant to comfort their owners. But it appears they’re causing chaos on commercial flights.

In light of increased incidents on its aircraft, Delta Air Lines announced new procedures and updated requirements for customers traveling with service and support animals. The company believes that some travelers have been trying (and succeeding in) to board flights pets under the guise of support animals.

Delta’s aircraft carry 700 service animals daily or 250,000 every year, according to the company.

Citing “comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more,” Delta says consumers have been abusing the privilege and definition of a service animal on their travels.

This has led to an 84% increase in reported animal incidents since 2016, ranging from urination to a full-fledged attack by a large dog. Last year, specifically, employees noted more “barking, growling, lunging and biting” from service animals.

“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 U.S. air travel,” said John Laughter, Delta’s senior vice president of corporate safety, security and compliance.

THE CHANGES

While customers will still be able to travel with service and support animals for free, they will have to show proof of health or vaccinations two days prior to their Delta (DAL) flight.

This certificate requires a consultation with your veterinarian and the cost of vaccines, which can cost up to $200 if the animal’s shots aren’t up to date, according to VetInfo.

Individuals traveling with psychiatric service and emotional support animals will also need to show a signed document that confirms their animal can behave. Delta claims the new requirement intends to prevent untrained pets from attacking working service animals.

The U.S. Department of Transportation states that animals engaging in disruptive behavior like barking, snarling or jumping on other passengers without provocation won’t be accepted onto flights.

But the ruckus has gotten so far out of hand that airlines like Delta are creating their own guidelines, which go into effect on March 1.

Melody Hahm is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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