American Airlines Brings In Stricter Rules For Emotional Support Animals

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It’s not hard to find a frequent flyer who thinks that a large percentage of animals who are allowed to fly inside an aircraft cabin because they’re categorized as an ’emotional support animal’ are bogus and, based on recent trends, it would appear that the US airlines concur.

Delta led the way back in March 2018 when it brought in new regulations governing emotional support animals and other airlines like JetBlue and United joined in too…as did American Airlines.

Since then Delta has felt the need to update its rules once again (apparently it wasn’t obvious that Pit Bulls shouldn’t be allowed to be classified as an emotional support animal) and now American is having another go at curbing the number of fake, untrained and/or dangerous support animals people are bringing (or trying to bring) onboard its aircraft.

From 1 April 2019 (11 months since American last updated its Emotional Support Animal rules) the following new rules are being put in place:

  • A traditional service animal may be a dog, a cat or, in some limited circumstances, a miniature horse.
  • Emotional support animals are limited to either a dog or cat only
  • A customer may only bring one emotional support animal onboard aircraft.
  • American will require a Veterinary Health Form, along with immunization details, for emotional support animals.
  • Animals under four months of age will no longer be permitted to travel as service or support animals.

American has provided a link (here) where flyers can find details regarding all of these updated changes and forms as well as its advanced notice and pre-clearance policy.


I have to admit that I thought (incorrectly) that American had brought in some of these rules last year as a number of them are in line what Delta introduced in March 2018.

Still, better late than never and I can’t blame American (or any other airline) for taking these measures.

People will always push the boundaries of the rules and lot of people have been making the most of the airlines’ emotional support policies to avoid having to pay to have their pet flown to wherever they’re going.

I have no doubt that the are a lot of nervous flyers (or people with other valid medical reasons) who need to have an emotional support animal with them but a lot of people are just cheapskates with no consideration for their fellow passengers.

You only have to look at the list of exclusions JetBlue felt it had to publish last year to see what people were trying to bring onboard:

  • Animals with tusks
  • Hedgehogs
  • Ferrets
  • Insects
  • Rodents
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Sugar gliders
  • Reptiles
  • Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game bird, & birds of prey)

Animals with tusks??!! really??!!

Bottom Line

Sadly the cheapskates and charlatans have made things harder for those with a genuine need of an emotional support animal….but I also think that a lot of those with a genuine need for such support contributed to the stricter rules.

A number clearly failed to consider their fellow passengers often enough to speed up the introduction of these rules – do people you really need to get their support from a spider or a snake? Surely it must be possible to find something a little less polarizing to give someone comfort.

It will be interesting to see where these rules lead us and if they’ll really curb the cheapskates or not – Personally I think the fakers will just find a way to cheat these rules too as they’re just that cheap.


  1. Why not require a veterinary certificate that the animal is safe to travel on planes and among crowds and in airports? Then add a requirement that the owner have a $1 million dollar liability policy for the animal. This should weed out all but the most determined abusers of the system.

    • I believe that the veterinary certificate is already needed on some airlines…but somehow people circumvent that issue if it stands in their way.

      The latter may work in theory…but I suspect it wouldn’t be long before we had a lawsuit claiming some sort of discrimination (why should people who can’t afford the policy but need the support animal be excluded from flying?).

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