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American Airlines announces changes to emotional support animal travel policies

Customers traveling with service animals will be required to fill out a DOT form 48 hours before a flight that attests to the dog’s behavior, training, and health.
Credit: AP
An American Airlines Boeing 737-823 lands at Miami International Airport, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Airplane passengers will soon be required to follow new rules if they plan to bring their dog on board.

Fort Worth-based American Airlines announced Tuesday it will be implementing changes to its policies regarding travel with emotional support animals and service animals. 

American said the new policies are intended to support customers with disabilities and the service animals that travel with them.

The policies will align with regulations recently issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation. 

The DOT issued a final rule on Dec. 2 that aims to settle years of tension between airlines and passengers who bring their pets on board for free by saying they need them for emotional support.

Under the final rule, a service animal is a dog trained to help a person with a disability. 

Under DOT's new rule, a service animal is now defined as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability.

The new rule will go into effect on Jan. 11. Once it does, American said it will no longer authorize new travel for animals that do not meet that definition. 

However, any existing bookings that include emotional support animals will be honored through Feb. 1, when the airline’s new policies go into effect, officials said. 

Customers traveling with service animals will be required to fill out a DOT form 48 hours before a flight that attests to the dog’s behavior, training, and health. 

American said the form will be available on its website in the coming days.

The airline said a service animal’s authorization will be valid for one year or until the expiration of its vaccinations.

Animals that no longer qualify as service animals may travel as carry-on pets or as cargo pets, as long as they meet the requirements, American said.