Southwest Airlines to begin new pet policy on Sept. 17

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Southwest Airlines is rolling out a new policy when it comes to emotional support animals.

The changes are designed to make the policies easier for customers to understand and will go into effect on September 17, the airline said.

“We welcome emotional support and trained service animals that provide needed assistance to our customers,” said Steve Goldberg, senior vice president of Operations and Hospitality. “However, we want to make sure our guidelines are clear and easy to understand while providing customers and employees a comfortable and safe experience.”

Southwest officials spoke to advocacy groups that represent customers with disabilities in order to make the new guidelines.

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs):

  • ESAs will be limited to only dogs and cats
  • ESAs will be limited to one per customer
  • ESAs must remain in a carrier or be on a leash at all times

Customers traveling with ESAs will still need to present a complete, current letter from a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional on the day of departure.

Trained Service Animals:

In alignment with recent DOT guidance, Southwest will accept only the most common service animals like dogs, cats, and miniature horses. For the health and safety of our customers and employees, unusual or exotic animals will not be accepted.

“Well, airports are not the best place for exotic animals and I feel more comfortable without having snakes and birds and all kinds of stuff [on a plane],” said passenger Rodney Cummings.

United Airlines stopped a passenger from bringing a peacock on a flight in early 2018.  The passenger claimed the peacock was an emotional support animal.

Other U.S. carriers have recently enacted similar policies.

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