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American Airlines banning emotional-support animals

American Airlines banning emotional-support animals
© Greg Nash

American Airlines on Tuesday announced that it would be banning emotional-support animals on its flights after the Department of Transportation issued new rules regarding service animals last month.

Jessica Tyler, president of cargo for American Airlines, said in a press release, “Our team is motivated by a purpose to care for people on life’s journey, and we believe these policy changes will improve our ability to do just that.”

“We’re confident this approach will enable us to better serve our customers, particularly those with disabilities who travel with service animals, and better protect our team members at the airport and on the aircraft,” she added.

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On Dec. 2 the Department of Transportation issued a final rule that defined service animals as a dog “that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” 

The new rules also stated that “carriers are not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets.” However, "psychiatric service animals" can be treated as service animals.

American Airlines stated that it will no longer authorize travel for animals who do not meet the new definition beginning on Jan. 11, though flights that have already been booked with service animals will be honored until Feb. 1. Animals that previously qualified as emotional-support animals can be treated as pets and can travel as carry-on or cargo pets if they qualify as such.

“Starting Feb. 1, to ensure accessible travel for individuals with disabilities while protecting the safety and well-being of customers and team members, American will ask customers traveling with service animals to complete a DOT form attesting to the dog’s behavior, training and health,” said the press release. The form must be submitted 48 hours before the flight unless there is not enough time and the authorization will last for one year.