Southwest Limits Emotional Support Animals; The Debate Continues

Published: 08-29-2018
As Southwest moves to limit emotional support animals, the debate rages on.

While the Internet was practically created to share cute dog and cat videos, airplanes have a more complicated relationship with our furry friends. With the rise of emotional support animals, more airline passengers have been bringing pets and support animals on-board without paying additional fees.

As the use of emotional support animals has grown, so has their variety. Some passengers have tried to bring on emotional support peacocks, snakes, and even penguins.

This has drawn serious criticism about what defines an emotional support animal and if the idea has any legitimacy at all. On one United Airlines flight, an emotional support animal had its own emotional support animal.

As a result, Southwest Airlines has announced new rules for emotional support animals. As of September 17, 2018, only one dog or cat, either in a carrier or on a leash, is allowed per customer.

Emotional support animals differ from service animals. Service animals are trained for specific tasks to assist humans, and they fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Emotional support animals are not trained, nor are they covered by the ADA.

As more is understood about mental illness, however, airlines and other businesses have tried to become more accommodating. While research has proven that pets have a positive benefit to your health and mental wellness, the actual research on, specifically, emotional support animals is mixed.

The research into animal and human bonding and interactions is still young, but it has huge ramifications for airlines. Especially as airlines stretch or limit their definitions of what constitutes an emotional support animal.

What do pilots think about emotional support animals? Are they helpful in calming passengers and ensuring a better trip? Or are they a nuisance?

Join the conversation here on Airline Pilot Forums.

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