Delta’s New Rules Make It Harder to Fly With Support Animals

Flying with an animal on one of America's biggest airlines is about to become a much bigger hassle. On Friday, Delta announced that it will soon implement a strict set of "enhanced requirements" for customers traveling with service or support animals, and will now not only demand proof that animals are healthy and up to date on vaccinations, but that they can also behave

Under the new rules, which go into effect on March 1, all customers traveling with a service or support animal will need to provide "proof of health or vaccinations 48 hours in advance," according to a press release. To prove their animal can behave during the flight, they'll also need to provide a signed "Confirmation of Animal Training" document to Delta's Service Animal Support Desk via the Delta website at least 48 hours in advance. These are in addition to the current requirement, which stipulates that passengers must provide documentation signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional that their non-human companion in question is in fact a service or emotional support animal.

The new, significantly stricter regulations are in response to an uptick in on-board incidents involving psychiatric service and support animals on the airline in recent years. Since 2016 alone, Delta has seen an 84% increase in reported animal incidents, according to the press release. Those have included everything from urination/defecation, biting, and even one attack during which a passenger was pinned against the window and brutally bitten in the face by a 70lb dog sitting in the lap of another passenger in the same row.

The airline reportedly carries approximately 700 service animals every single day, or nearly a quarter of a million per year. It also reports that passengers have attempted to board with all sorts of rather, uh, unconventional service animals -- from turkeys and gliding possums, to snakes and spiders -- abusing the "true intent" of existing rules. Presumably, adding a little more red tape to the process should cut down on all the madness.

So, if you've been putting off enrolling Fido in obedience classes, now may be a good time to sign him up.

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.