New Delta Airlines Requirements for Service Animals: What Does This Mean for Service Animal Handlers?

Traveling is going to get a little bit more difficult if you are an individual that travels with a service animal.  This week Delta Airlines announced new requirements for travelers traveling with trained service animals including additional paperwork and registration requirements.  

The Facts

Beginning on March 1, 2018, passengers traveling with trained service animals will be required to have a Veterinary Health Form completed by their animal’s veterinarian as well as a Trained Service Animal Request form.  These items must be submitted to Delta online a minimum of 48 hours prior to the flight time and date.

According to Delta Airlines these new changes are as a result of an 84% increase in incidents involving inappropriate behavior from animals on flights including urination, barking and aggressive behavior.  Additionally, many passengers have taken advantage of the Air Carrier Access Act by flying with untrained Emotional Support Animals including turkeys, sugar gliders and snakes.

How Will This Impact Individuals with Disabilities?

If you are an individual with a disability traveling with a trained service animal, you will have to begin planning a little further in advance for your animal to join you on your trip.  I would recommend obtaining a signed Veterinary Health Form at your animal’s annual check up each year.  If you make a habit of having this form completed annually, you will always have an up to date form for any last minute travel plans as the form is valid for 1 year at a time.  Additionally, if possible I would recommend avoiding last minute flights with Delta Airlines as you could face a situation where your service animal is not able to travel with you as a result of this new policy.

What is the Long Term Impact of This New Policy?

Unfortunately as more and more individuals have taken advantage of the loopholes in the laws surrounding the use of service and emotional support animals, landlords, businesses and airlines have seen an increase in negative incidents and fraud.  The laws can be very vague in regards to documentation requirements and oftentimes place businesses in an uncomfortable situation when determining if a service or emotional support animal is legitimate.   

This new policy places all legitimate service and emotional support animal handlers on an even playing field.  If you are an individual who legitimately requires the aid of the service or emotional support animal on the flight then it should not be any trouble providing the documentation that is being requested by Delta Airlines.  Yes it is a nuisance and an extra step for those of us who really should be allowed to have our animal on the flight, however until stricter legislation is passed on the national level people will continue to take advantage to get their untrained emotional support animal or pet a free ride on the flight.

These extra requirements may steer those who do not have a legitimate reason for an animal on the flight to other airlines and it may minimize the negative incidents on Delta Airlines.  Additionally this new policy, if proven to be effective, could ultimately lead to a broader adoption of this policy across other airlines.

The Bottom Line

The reality is that this entire fake service and emotional support animal thing is getting out of hand.  It is far too easy to order a “service animal” vest online and download a fraudulent service animal certification.  Many pet owners simply want to be able to take their animal anywhere, and they do not stop to think of the long term negative impact on individuals who have legitimate service animal needs.  

Over the past few years when visiting public establishments I have been increasingly questioned about the legitimacy of my guide dog Weston.  He is well behaved, well groomed and he wears a harness at all times when he is in public, but business owners have seen so many poorly behaved and untrained animals in their establishments that they now must ensure that only legitimate animals are allowed in in an effort to protect their property and customers.

When I first read the new Delta Airlines policies I was at first angered and annoyed that I would have to jump through so many hoops to travel with my service animal.  After processing the information for a bit, however, I realized that this policy was not put into place to restrict legitimate service and emotional support animal access on the flight.  The spirit and intention behind this new policy is to prevent fraud and abuse of the law and to allow for those of us who need our service animals fair and equitable treatment and access.

What do you think about this new policy?  Drop a comment below and let’s have a lively discussion.

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