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American Airlines tightens rules for travelling with emotional support animals

May 15, 2018 6:17 PM
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Amphibians, insects, rodents have been added to list of animals excluded by air carrier

If you're planning on travelling with your emotional support ferret, spider or snake, American Airlines says those animals are among several that will be prohibited starting July 1.

The carrier on Monday unveiled new rules for travelling with emotional support animals, including a list of critters that won't be permitted due to safety or public health issues. American said the list includes amphibians, insects, rodents and sugar gliders, which are hand-sized marsupials.

"We support the rights of customers, from veterans to people with disabilities, with legitimate needs for a trained service or support animal," the airline said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, untrained animals can lead to safety issues for our team, our customers and working dogs onboard our aircraft.

The company went on to say it, as with other carriers, has seen an increase in customers transporting a service or support animal on its aircraft — a jump of more than 40 per cent from 2016 to 2017.

The move by American follows changes introduced earlier this year by competitors Delta and United.

American also laid out rules for the behaviour of allowed emotional support or service animals, saying they must be trained to behave in public. If the animal exhibits growling, biting or attempting to bite, or jumping on or lunging at people, it will be treated as a pet and travellers will be charged applicable fees. American charges $125 US for a carry-on pet, and $200 US for a pet in checked luggage, according to the airline's website.

American will also require those flying with an emotional support animal to submit a form at least 48 hours before their flight that is signed by their licensed mental health professional and that states their recognized mental or emotional disability and why they need the animal.

In Canada, both Air Canada and WestJet permit travelling with emotional support animals, although with some conditions.

Air Canada says it only accepts dogs as emotional support or psychiatric service animals.

WestJet says it accepts dogs, cats, miniature horses, pigs and monkeys emotional support animals on its flights, subject to import and export conditions on international flights.

WestJet's website also says that other "unusual animals" may be accepted as an emotional support animal on a case-by-case basis, although snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents and spiders are not permitted due to safety or public health issues.

Both of the Canadian carriers say their require 48 hours advance notice and supporting documentation for flying with an emotional support animal.

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