Delta Cracking Down On Service, Support Animals
It may soon be a little harder to fly with a service or support animal as one of the nation’s largest airlines looks to weed out incidents of biting, urination and other misbehavior on its planes.
Delta Air Lines said this month that it will implement a new policy for travelers flying with service or support animals starting March 1.
The move comes in response to a growing number of untrained animals wreaking havoc on the carrier’s planes, the airline said.
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“Delta has seen an 84 percent increase in reported animal incidents since 2016, including urination/defecation, biting and even a widely reported attack by a 70-pound dog,” Delta said in announcing the change. “In 2017, Delta employees reported increased acts of aggression (barking, growling, lunging and biting) from service and support animals, behavior not typically seen in these animals when properly trained and working.”
Under the new policy, travelers with a service or support animal must provide proof of health or vaccination at least 48 hours before their flight. In addition, those with an emotional support or psychiatric service animal will need to supply a doctor’s note and sign a document attesting that their animal can behave.
Delta said travelers bring some 700 service or support animals on its planes each day, or roughly 250,000 each year. In addition to dogs, customers have sought to bring comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and other animals aboard, the airline said.
“The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel,” said John Laughter, senior vice president of corporate safety, security and compliance at Delta.
The new procedures will help ensure the safety of Delta’s staff and customers while also protecting trained animals who are assisting those with disabilities, the airline said. They were developed in consultation with Delta’s Advisory Board on Disability, which is comprised of advocates and flyers with various disabilities.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said it is aware of the changes at Delta and will monitor the implementation to make sure that the rights of people with disabilities who rely on service animals are upheld.
“Under DOT’s current rules implementing the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines are required to accommodate passengers with disabilities who depend on the assistance of service animals within limits,” the agency said in a statement. “In enforcing the requirements of federal law, the department is committed to ensuring that our air transportation system is safe and accessible for everyone.”
Ultimately, Delta may not be the only airline to set tougher standards. American Airlines said it is also considering additional requirements for travelers with service or support animals and United Airlines said it is reviewing its existing policy.
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