The colorful era of emotional support animals in plane cabins has come to an end.
The Transportation Department has approved a request by airlines to ban “emotional support animals” from its cabins, after several years of increasingly sitcom-like levels of absurdity. Trained service dogs will still be allowed to fly uncaged.
Dogs. Not cats. Not peacocks. Not squirrels. And, no, not even miniature horses.
Airlines have been clamping down on their uncaged animal policies for years, and the pandemic likely hastened the end of people bringing a cuddle buddy on board with them.
Of course, passengers who insist they need a critter to help them fly are still permitted to bring small animals on board in a carrier that fits under the seat. That usually is accompanied by a $125 fee each way on many major carriers.
Many passengers took advantage of the emotional support animal policies, resulting in a sharp rise in onboard incidents. Delta tells the Wall Street Journal that it saw an 85% increase in incidents—ranging from customers and staffers getting bitten to animals pooping in the plane—from 2016 to 2019.
A Department of Transportation study found that emotional support animals were responsible for a sizable number of those incidents, which led to the ruling.
In 2019, over 1.1 million passengers boarded with an emotional support animal, often rather ludicrous ones, forcing airlines to issue guidelines that banned things like amphibians and animals with hooves, tusks, or horns.