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Southwest Airlines will not accept “unusual or exotic animals” as trained service animals. (GETTY IMAGES)
SOUTHWEST AIRLINES IS cracking down on what kind of service animals it will allow passengers to bring on planes.
The airline announced on Tuesday that is has updated its policies regarding emotional support animals. According to a statement from the airline, it will only allow passengers to bring one cat or one dog on board its planes beginning September 17. Each passenger is limited to one emotional service animal and they must be kept in a carrier or on a leash at all times.
Passengers traveling with a support animal must show a current, complete letter from a doctor or licensed mental health professional on the day of their departure.
The airline hopes its updated policy will “give our customers clearer guidelines about the types of animals that can travel on our planes.”
“Our updates are based on a careful review of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) recent enforcement guidance and feedback we received from our customers, employees and several advocacy groups and animal-related organizations,” the statement reads.
In addition to emotional support animals, Southwest Airlines “will only accept the most common [trained] service animals – dogs, cats and miniature horses.” Passengers traveling with trained service animals must provide “credible verbal assurance that the animal is a trained service animal,” according to the airline.
“For the health and safety of both our customers and employees, unusual or exotic animals will not be accepted,” the statement says.
The airline also outlines acceptable behavior of these animals, expecting service and support animals to be trained properly to behave in public and to be under control of their handler at all times. Southwest states that animals engaging in aggressive behavior, such as scratching and growling may not be allowed on the plane.
The new enforcements come after a recent string of people attempting to bring unusual service and support animals on board planes. In January, a passenger attempted to bring a peacock onboard a United Airlines flight as an emotional service animal. However, the airline turned the animal away, telling NBC News that the peacock “did not meet guidelines for a number reasons, including its weight and size.”
In 2016, a woman took a turkey on board a flight as her emotional support animal.
Southwest Airlines is not the first to make changes to its support and service animal policy. Delta introduced “enhanced requirements” earlier this year, and United Airlines updated its policy as well.