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No Goats, Spiders Or Sugar Gliders: American Airlines Draws Line On Emotional Support Pets

Markus Luck
Flickr Creative Commons

Starting July 1, American Airlines passengers cannot bring their goats or hedgehogs, spiders or sugar gliders, or any creatures with tusks, horns or hooves on board as service animals or for emotional support.

The Fort Worth-based airline on Monday issued stricter guidelines regarding emotional support or psychiatric service animals, which provide comfort to people suffering from extreme anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Now, passengers traveling with support animals have to fill out paperwork 48 hours in advance. American Airlines will double check with mental health providers to validate requests. The airline says it will have procedures in place to accommodate last-minute bookings.

Airlines have experienced a jump in customers who are bringing a service or support animal on board — American says the number increased more than 40 percent from 2016 to 2017. Last year, more than 750,000 emotional support animals were transported by U.S. carriers, The Dallas Morning News reports. Other airlines, like United and Delta, have also updated their animal policies in recent months.

Since more passengers are bringing pets with them for emotional support, American is clarifying what kinds of animals are allowed on board for that purpose.  

The following animals are banned from flying on American Airlines according to its revised policy:

  • Amphibians
  • Ferrets
  • Goats
  • Hedgehogs
  • Insects
  • Reptiles
  • Rodents
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Sugar gliders
  • Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game birds, & birds of prey)
  • Animals with tusks, horns or hooves (excluding miniature horses properly trained as service animals)
  • Any animal that is unclean / has an odor

Emotional support animals that are permitted have to be able to fit at your feet, under your seat or in your lap. They can’t block aisles or occupy a seat or eat from tray tables. And they must be trained properly and leashed at all times. If your pet growls, bites or attempts to bite or jumps on or lunges at people, he or she can’t stay on board. Owners could face fees, too.
Before making its policy changes, American says it met with several disability groups to get their input, including the American Association of People with Disabilities, Paralyzed Veterans of America, American Council for the Blind and My Blind Spot.

The airline produced a video outlining the changes, which you can watch below or read more about here.