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New Rules for The Carriage of Emotional Support Animals in the USA and the corresponding Consequences for ESAeurope

The following article, published in a well-known travel blog, clearly shows that there is also a lot of change in the United States in terms of the transport of emotional support animals. Unfortunately not for the better, as the acceptance of emotional support status is significantly reduced when we talk about airline acceptance and flight escort. The background is simply the abuse that was driven by the status “Emotional Support Animal”.

We in Europe have been faced with these restrictions for some time, because the status of the “Emotional Support Animal” is not defined by law. However, in Europe, as in the United States, we are talking about the acceptance of a service dog (including psychiatric service dogs). The question therefore arises for us as to how we can combine the topic of psychiatric service dog with the previous offer of the ESAeurope Card.

However, it seems clear that, unlike the pure Emotional Support Animal, a service dog must have a certain training and also examination in order to be recognized as such. We will therefore deal intensively with this topic in 2021 and we very much hope that in cooperation with TAT (Animals as Therapy) Austria we will soon be able to present an offer for an online training.

We would be pleased to invite you to a discussion on this topic and therefore leave the comment function on this article open. we will keep you informed about our next steps.

Team ESAeurope

Airlines Rules for Emotional Support Animals Have Dramatically Changed (in US)

The following article was written by Apeksha Bhateja | January 13, 2021 and published and published by FODORS Travel (Link: Airlines will now treat emotional support animals as pets.

For years, passengers have flown a host of pets as emotional support animals, including dogs, cats, pigs, and mini horses. With ambiguity around what an emotional support animal is (they were classified as service animals that were allowed on planes without any fee), airlines accommodated requests from fliers who asked their pet be flown with them to help ease anxiety and offer comfort, with a note from a mental health professional. Many have unsuccessfully tried to take their snakes, spiders, peacocks, and rodents with them.

Unlike service dogs, emotional support animals did not need to be trained, so airlines often dealt with urination and defecation onboard, while passengers were made uncomfortable by pets– there have been reported incidents of aggravated allergies and attacks.

Finally, in 2018, Delta spelled out what animals passengers could take (no rodents, insects, or goats), and required owners to show their proof of health, vaccination certificate, a letter from a mental health professional, and a signed document declaring that the animal would behave during the flight. American Airlines and United cracked down on therapy pets, too, and banned people from taking a menagerie with them.


The debate has been long-going with passengers arguing that unruly animals disrupt flights, and fliers take advantage of the rule to fly their pets for free, which is a disservice to those with disabilities who truly need service animals. Airlines have also pointed out that untrained pets can compromise the safety of an aircraft, and the variety that’s seen on board is difficult for the crew to manage. On the other hand, nervous fliers or those with mental health issues find it comforting to travel with their pets.

Airlines had the authority to refuse to admit aggressive animals that threatened the health and safety of others, but after more than 15,000 comments by airlines, individuals, people with disabilities, and airports, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) has revised its regulation.

In December 2020, the DoT announced that emotional support animals will no longer be considered service animals. In this new ruling, a service animal was defined as “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.” The agency also said that all the unusual animals that people have brought as emotional support pets have “eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals.”

On its heel came the news that airlines in the U.S. were changing their policies around emotional support animals—they would no longer be allowed in the cabin. Service dogs (including psychiatric service dogs), however, will continue to accompany passengers.

The DoT also makes it clear that passengers will have to fill out forms “attesting to a service animal’s health, behavior and training, and if taking a long flight, attesting that the service animal can either not relieve itself or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner.”

New Year, New Rules

Alaska Airlines was the first to declare the change in its policies following the DoT’s ruling. On December 29, the airline announced that “Effective January 11, 2021, Alaska will accept only service dogs that are trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability. Emotional support animals will no longer be accepted.”

Those currently booked for flights on and before February 28, 2021, will be able to take their emotional support animals with them. The airline also specified what passengers need to do to comfortably travel with their service dogs, including appropriate behavior (read here).

Just last week, American Airlines also joined Alaska as it aligned its policies with the DoT’s. Service dogs will be allowed on flight after authorization, while animals that previously traveled as emotional support animals may travel as cargo or carry-on pets. The new policies go into effect starting February 1.


Jessica Tyler, President of Cargo and Vice President of Airport Excellence for American said in the “We’reconfident this approach will enable us to better serve our customers, especially those with disabilities who travel with service animals, and better protect our team members at the airport and on the aircraft.”

In a press release shared by Delta, Allison Ausband—S.V.P., In-Flight Service, applauded the DoT’s new ruling. The Atlanta-based airline has banned emotional support animals, reporting that since 2016, there has been an 85% increase in incidents of defecation, urination, and biting. Their change, effective January 11, also includes the lifting of its ban on pit bulls—a bone of contention between the airline and the DoT—because the new ruling says airlines can’t refuse to transport a service animal because of the breed. With Delta too, passengers will need to fill out a form and the staff can still refuse to board a service animal that shows aggressive behavior.

In December 2020, the DoT announced that emotional support animals will no longer be considered service animals. In this new ruling, a service animal was defined as “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.”

So United Airlines was not far behind in sharing new service animal policies and informed that emotional support animals will be treated as pets. Service animals are allowed in the cabin and would need to be in control of their owners or handlers. Other guidelines include animal behavior, documentation, and seating. For those who have booked travels with an emotional support animal, United will honor bookings until February 28.

JetBlue has also confirmed that it won’t accept emotional support animals after February and passengers will have to bring them on board as pets.

So from next month, you will have to pay extra to bring their companions on board (Delta, American, JetBlue, and United charge ‘125 per carrier one way; Southwest charges .95). It’s estimated that airlines will make ‘59.6 million a year in pet fees with this new rule and it has already started a Twitter war. Pet owners criticized these policies in the wake of airline bailouts by the federal government and defenders sided with airlines, reminding travelers that they can still bring their pets on board by paying a fee.

Travel is unpredictable these days, so before you book your next travels, make sure you read these new emotional support animal policies to avoid more surprises (or expenses).

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