Alaska Airlines Introduces Stricter Policies for Emotional Support Animals

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This was not a good year for pets on flights. From a string of tragic incidents to mixed up flights, airlines have been struggling to meet the standards when it comes to transporting animals. While pet airline travel is still an area that needs a lot of work and thought put into, it doesn’t mean that smuggling in your pet as a fake comfort animal on a regular flight is the solution to the problem. In fact, countless pet parents doing just that is what prompted most major airline companies to revisit their policies, latest of which was Alaska Airlines.

Beginning May 1, the Seattle based airline company will require passengers with emotional support animals to provide additional documentation. This will include “animal health and behavioral documents, as well as a signed document from a medical doctor or mental health professional, at least 48 hours in advance of departure”. And the stricter rules don’t end there: Alaska Airline announced which of the non-traditional therapy animals will be allowed on flights.

The list of animals that didn’t get the airline’s approval includes hedgehogs, ferrets, rodents, snakes, spiders, amphibians, goats, insects, and animals with tusks, horns or hooves. However, there’s an exception to the last group: trained miniature horses can be on this company’s flights.

Every day, around 150 emotional support and therapy animals use Alaska Airline’s services. To ensure both their safety and interest, as well as that of their other passengers, the company had to revise its rules. Up until now, the policies of most airlines were focused on traditional service animals, which allowed for irresponsible pet owners to find and exploit loopholes that allowed them to bring their pets to flights. Which often ended up in disaster: pets that are passed off as emotional support animals are not trained properly (sometimes not at all) and don’t know how to behave on flights. This often resulted in incidents with other passengers, real service animals, or sometimes even the staff on the plane.

Alaska Airline’s new policy regarding emotional support animals is supposed to put a stop to these issues. Hopefully, this means that airlines are taking the issues of pet ownership and real service animals seriously, and will work to improve the conditions of their airborne travels.