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Stacey Leasca
February 01, 2018

It’s been a big week for emotional support animals.

First, Delta Air Lines announced it would be tightening its restrictions on comfort and service animals beginning March 1. Those restrictions, Delta said, include requiring those traveling with emotional support or service animals to attest to the animal’s training and fill out paperwork 48 hours in advance of their flight.

Next came the peacock incident. In case you missed this feathery tail, a woman attempted to board a United Airlines flight at Newark Liberty International Airport along with her “emotional support” peacock. And although the passenger said she purchased an extra ticket for her bird, the airline refused to let it board the plane.

Following that peculiar incident, United announced it will join Delta in tightening its animal restrictions.

According to USA Today, the airline was already reviewing its emotional support policy since late last year after it experienced a 75% increase in emotional-support animals on flights and “a significant increase in onboard incidents.” According to Charlie Hobart, a United spokesman, the number of comfort animals flying on the airline increased from 43,000 in 2016 to 76,000 in 2017.

The peacock was just the icing on the cake that it needed to cement its new policy.

“The old policy was in place and that policy prevented Dexter the peacock from boarding the aircraft. The policy worked as intended,” Hobart told USA Today. “With all of the commotion regarding the peacock, that has sort of crystallized to our employees and customers why we need to further enhance this policy.”

Hobart added that the airline’s new restrictions on emotional support animals will go into effect on March 1, the same day as Delta’s.

Those restrictions, according to United’s site, will “require additional documentation for customers traveling with an emotional support animal. Currently, customers must provide 48 hours’ notice to the Accessibility Desk and a letter from a licensed medical/mental health professional. For travel on or after March 1, customers will need to also provide a veterinary health form documenting the health and vaccination records for the animal as well as confirming that the animal has appropriate behavioral training.”

The airline noted that the additional information and forms will be available for travelers soon. The airline importantly added that the process for trained service animals, which differ from emotional support animals, is currently not changing.

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