Addressing a growing controversy in the travel world, Fort Worth-based American Airlines has updated its policies and procedures regarding service animals and emotional support animals, with one proviso being that miniature horses are now on the list.
In the past few years, more animals have been brought on flights by customers claiming that their pets are emotional support animals. American saw an increase of more 40 percent from 2016 to 2017, and one site says that the number has soared by 56 percent in the past year.
Southwest Airlines laid down some ground rules in 2018, declaring that only dogs and cats can fly as emotional support animals. No more insects, hedgehogs, or goats. You must leave "Mr. Roachy" at home, no matter how comforting it is to have him by your side.
Service animals are a different category, and one in which miniature horses have become increasingly popular. They're said to be able to serve as guide animals and offer mobility assistance.
American surveyed 10,400 team members and 18,000 customers about these issues and used their feedback to enact these new policies. The results of this survey, along with additional comments from the airline, were submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
These rules are effective for travel on or after April 1:
- A traditional service animal may be a dog, a cat or, in some limited circumstances, a miniature horse.
- Emotional support animals are limited to either a dog or cat only; a customer may only bring one emotional support animal onboard aircraft.
- Animals under four months of age will no longer be permitted to travel as service or support animals. Animals under this age usually have not received the necessary vaccinations that protect team members and customers.