United is cracking down on people who use emotional-support animals to let their pets fly free

Getty Images/Scott Olson
  • United Airlines has adopted tighter regulations for emotional-support animals.
  • The new rules will take effect March 1.
  • Service animals are not subject to the new regulations.

United Airlines announced on Thursday that it would institute tighter regulations regarding emotional-support animals.

“In an effort to better balance protecting our employees and customers while accommodating passengers with disabilities, we are expanding our existing policy regarding emotional-support animals,” the Chicago-based airline said in a statement.

The new policy, which will take effect March 1, comes days after a passenger attempted to bring a peacock aboard one of United’s planes as an emotional-support animal. Delta Air Lines announced last week that it would also tighten regulations for emotional-support animals.

Passengers have used a lack of federal guidelines governing emotional-support animals on commercial flights as a loophole to allow their pets to fly free by claiming they’re emotional-support animals.

As a result, airlines such as Delta and United are moving to close this loophole with their own regulations.

United already requires passengers to provide 48-hour notice and a letter from a mental-health professional. Starting March 1, the airline will require 48-hour notice, an “enhanced” letter from a mental health professional, confirmation that the animal has been trained to behave properly in public, and an acknowledgment of responsibility for the animal’s behaviour. The airline will also require a health and vaccination form signed by the animal’s veterinarian.

According to United, customers whose documentation has already been approved will not be subject to the new policy. Any additional reservations will be subject to the new requirements.

Those travelling with service animals will also not be subject to the new regulations.

In addition, the airline also published a list of animals that have been barred from the cabin of its aircraft. The list contains hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, rodents, snakes, spiders, reptiles, sugar gliders, non-household birds, exotic animals, and animals that have not been properly cleaned or that carry a foul odor.

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