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Posted: March 02, 2018

Delta’s new emotional support animal policy takes effect

Julio Cortez/AP
Delta Changes Rules For Emotional Support Animals

By Kelly Yamanouchi, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Delta Air Lines’ new tighter restrictions on emotional support animals and service animals took effect Thursday.

Atlanta-based Delta put in place the new policy effective March 1 after a passenger on one of its planes was attacked by a 70-pound emotional support dog last year. It also comes amid a rise in incidents involving animals in flights and a lack of certain regulations “creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel,” according to Delta.

Here’s how Delta describes its new policy:

Delta's updated policy

Any customer traveling with a service or support animal on or after March 1 will need to meet the new requirements as outlined below:

Traveling with a trained service animal

  • In some cases, customers with a trained service animal may be asked to show the animal's Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record or other proof that the animal's vaccinations are up to date. Customers are encouraged, but not required, to submit this form to Delta's Service Animal Support Desk via before traveling.
  • These customers can check-in via, the Fly Delta mobile app, airport kiosks or with an airport agent.

Traveling with an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal

  • Customers traveling with an emotional support animal or psychiatric service animal will be required to submit a signed Veterinary Health Form and/or an immunization record (current within one year of the travel date), an Emotional Support/Psychiatric Service Animal Request form that requires a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, and a signed Confirmation of Animal Training form. These forms are required and must be submitted to Delta's Service Animal Support Desk via at least 48 hours before travel.
  • These customers must use the full-service check-in process with an airport agent. 

>> Read more trending news 

Delta said it carries about 700 service or support animals each day, but not all of them are the real thing, as people try to fly everything from pigs to turkeys.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?


Julio Cortez/AP

Delta’s new emotional support animal policy takes effect

Julio Cortez/AP

Delta’s new emotional support animal policy takes effect

FILE - In this Saturday, April 1, 2017, file photo, a service dog named Orlando rests on the foot of its trainer, John Reddan, while sitting inside a plane.

Delta passenger bitten by emotional support dog couldn't escape, attorney says

The man mauled by an emotional support dog on a Delta Air Lines flight in Atlanta was attacked twice and could not escape because he was in a window seat, his attorney said Thursday.

>> Read more trending news

The passenger, Marlin Jackson, of Daphne, Alabama, had facial wounds requiring 28 stitches, according to attorney J. Ross Massey, of Birmingham law firm Alexander Shunnarah & Associates.

“It is troubling that an airline would allow a dog of such substantial size to ride in a passenger’s lap without a muzzle,” Massey said in a written statement. “Especially considering the dog and its owner were assigned a middle seat despite Delta Air Lines’ policies that call for the re-accommodation of larger animals.”

Jackson boarded the San Diego-bound flight on Sunday and went to the window seat. Passenger Ronald Kevin Mundy Jr. was already in the middle seat with his dog in his lap, according to the law firm.

“According to witnesses the approximately 50-pound dog growled at Mr. Jackson soon after he took his seat,” according to the firm’s statement.

“We expect airlines to follow procedures as required and verify any dogs travelling unrestrained in open cabin are trained for handling the large crowds and enclosed environments encountered on board an airplane,” Massey said in the statement.

“The dog continued to act in a strange manner as Mr. Jackson attempted to buckle his seatbelt. The growling increased and the dog lunged for Mr. Jackson’s face. The dog began biting Mr. Jackson, who could not escape due to his position against the plane’s window,” according to the firm’s account.

“The dog was pulled away but broke free from Mr. Mundy’s grasp and attacked Mr. Jackson a second time … The attacks reportedly lasted 30 seconds and resulted in profuse bleeding from severe lacerations to Mr. Jackson’s face, including a puncture through the lip and gum.”

Jackson was taken by ambulance to an emergency room for treatment, then took a later flight to San Diego, according to Delta. He plans to consult a plastic surgeon, the law firm said.

The firm is seeking information on Delta’s “compliance with policies for unrestrained larger animals within a plane’s cabin and the verification process of their emotional support animal training requirements.”

Delta declined to comment on the law firm’s statement.

The Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines to accommodate service or emotional support animals, within certain guidelines.

Delta’s website says, “A kennel is not required for emotional support animals if they are fully trained and meet the same requirements as a service animal.”

Efforts to reach Mundy, who was not charged, have been unsuccessful. A police report said Mundy was a military service member who “advised that the dog was issued to him for support.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation said it is seeking details about the incident. The DOT says airlines cannot require that service and support animals be carried in a kennel unless there is “a safety-related reason to do so.”Warning: Graphic images below:

  Delta tightens restrictions on emotional support animals

Emotional support peacock banned from United flight, even though it had a seat

Plenty of people need emotional support animals for all kinds of reasons and they are legally allowed to travel with those animals.

>> Read more trending news 

Airlines have allowed dogs, cats, pigs and even miniature horses to accompany owners on planes to various destinations, but United Airlines flat out refused to allow a woman to bring a service bird onto a recent flight.

This wasn’t some small canary in a cage, though. The passenger was trying to bring a large peacock in all its glory onto a flight at Newark Liberty International Airport and had even bought a second seat to accommodate the bird’s massive, colorful plumage, according to the airline blog Live and Let’s Fly earlier this week.

Pictures of the woman and her big bird at the airport popped up on Facebook, and someone even recorded her arrival at the airport.

United told Fox News that the woman knew ahead of time the peacock was not allowed on the flight, but she showed up with the bird anyway.

"This animal did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size," a United spokesperson said.

"We explained this to the customers on three separate occasions before they arrived at the airport,” airline officials said.

>> Related: Man goes through McDonald’s drive-thru on horseback

There have been complaints in recent months that some people have been violating the federal law that allows service animals on planes by bringing pets and trying to pass them off as therapy animals to avoid cargo fees.

Peacocks on a plane? Here's Delta's policy

After a passenger attempted to bring an emotional support peacock onto a plane only to be told by United Airlines that the peacock was grounded, you might be wondering what other airlines’ peacock policies are.

>> Read more trending news

Delta Air Lines is the dominant carrier in Atlanta, and it created an animal-related stir of its own recently by announcing tightened restrictions on emotional support animals.

We looked up Delta’s list of animals not permitted as trained service or support animals, which the airline says it disallows because “these animals pose safety and/or public health concerns.”

The list of prohibited animals includes “non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game bird & birds of prey).”

Peacocks may not fall under the categories of farm poultry, waterfowl, game birds or birds of prey. But they also may not be typical household birds.

(Hedgehogs, ferrets, insects, rodents, snakes, spiders, sugar gliders, reptiles, amphibians, goats, animals improperly cleaned and/or with a foul odor, and animals with tusks, horns or hooves are also not permitted on Delta as trained service or support animals.)

So we asked Delta about its peacock policy.

“We reserve the right to review each case,” Delta spokeswoman Ashton Kang said. “The list on is intended to provide examples of exotic or unusual animals but is not considered to be a complete and exclusive list.

“Peacocks would fall under the definition of exotic or unusual animals as per 14 CFR 382.117,” she added.

That federal regulation notes that airlines “are never required to accommodate certain unusual service animals (e.g.,snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders) as service animals in the cabin.”

It continues: “With respect to all other animals, including unusual or exotic animals that are presented as service animals (e.g., miniature horses, pigs, monkeys), as a carrier you must determine whether any factors preclude their traveling in the cabin as service animals (e.g., whether the animal is too large or heavy to be accommodated in the cabin, whether the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others, whether it would cause a significant disruption of cabin service, whether it would be prohibited from entering a foreign country that is the flight’s destination). If no such factors preclude the animal from traveling in the cabin, you must permit it to do so.”

The federal regulation also stipulates that whenever airlines decide not to accept an animal as a service animal, “you must explain the reason for your decision to the passenger and document it in writing. A copy of the explanation must be provided to the passenger either at the airport, or within 10 calendar days of the incident.”

Girl injured by emotional support dog while boarding Southwest flight

An emotional support dog injured a child who was boarding a Southwest flight from Phoenix Wednesday, just as some carries are tightening restrictions on passengers taking animals on planes.

>> Read more trending news

The dog was in the first row of seats with its owner, who warned the girl, who was about 6 or 7 years old, not to approach it, The Associated Press reported. The dog’s teeth scraped the child’s forehead and the girl was checked out by paramedics, according to the airline

The family remained on the plane. The man and his dog took a later flight. 

"During boarding of flight #1904 from Phoenix to Portland, Ore. Wednesday night, our initial reports indicate a support dog's teeth scraped a child's forehead as the young passenger approached the animal, causing a minor injury,” Southwest said in a statement. “EMTs evaluated the child, who was cleared to continue on the flight. The dog and its owner remained in Phoenix as the aircraft departed approximately 20 minutes behind schedule. As always, the safety of our Customers is our highest priority."

The incident comes as Delta and United Airlines are rolling out more restrictive policies for traveling animals.

While passengers can be asked for a note explaining the use of the animal, unlike service animals such as guide dogs, support animals do not need training. 

Delta and United have seen a rise in support animals on planes in the last year and are requiring more paperwork from owners.

A dog flying aboard a Delta flight bit and severely injured a passenger in June. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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