Alaska Airlines updates emotional support animal policy after 'steady increase in incidents'

Alaska Airlines updates emotional support animal policy after 'steady increase in incidents'
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Alaska Airlines announced new guidelines on emotional support animals in response to what the company says has been a "steady increase in incidents,” including bites.

The new policy, which goes into effect on May 1, will require travelers wishing to bring an emotional support animal to provide the airline with behavioral documents for the animal as well as a signed letter from a medical professional prior to the flight.

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It will also ban amphibians, goats and animals with hooves, tusks or horns, except for miniature horses, which are recognized as service animals under federal law.

The policy changes only apply to animals used for emotional, psychological, cognitive or psychiatric issues, not to service animals like guide dogs, which are certified and used for physical disability assistance.

Ray Prentice, director of customer advocacy for the airline, told The Associated Press that “most animals cause no problems.”

“However, over the last few years, we have observed a steady increase in incidents from animals who haven’t been adequately trained to behave in a busy airport setting or on a plane, which has prompted us to strengthen our policy,” Prentice said.

The airline is not the first to institute a stricter policy on emotional support animals as they become more popular. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines made similar changes earlier this year.