Delta 'enhances' rules for support animals after animal incidents spike

Posted at 9:48 AM, Jan 19, 2018

Delta announced Friday morning the company will increase regulations after the company reported an 84 percent spike in animal-related incidents since 2016. 

Incidents included urinating, biting and increased aggression, according to a company news release

The company also linked to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution about a customer who was mauled by a 70-pound support dog. The man received 28 stitches, according to the report.  

“The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel,” John Laughter, Delta’s senior vice president for Corporate Safety, Security and Compliance said in the news release. “As a leader in safety, we worked with our Advisory Board on Disability to find a solution that supports those customers with a legitimate need for these animals, while prioritizing a safe and consistent travel experience.”

The new rules will require all customers traveling with a service or support animal show proof of health and vaccinations 48 hours in advance. The rules also require passengers bringing such animals to have a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional.

Rules also require those with psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals to provide a signed document confirming that their animal can behave to prevent untrained, sometimes aggressive household pets from traveling without a kennel in the cabin.

Delta estimated that 700 service or support animals fly on company flights daily and about 250,000 such animals fly with Delta annually. 

Customers have tried to fly with turkeys, possums, snakes and other animals, the company confirmed Friday. 

"Delta Air Lines is taking steps to further protect its customers, employees and service and support animals by implementing advance documentation requirements for those animals," the news release stated. "This comes as a result of a lack of regulation that has led to serious safety risks involving untrained animals in flight." 

Animal law experts agree the problem of fake service dogs on flights has increased because federal law has few restrictions or mandatory checks.

"The problem is that other people have figured out that the requirements that have to be shown to take advantage of the law are so modest that they're able to slip themselves in if they're willing to be dishonest about what they're doing," David Favre, who teaches at Michigan State University's College of Law, said.

A November 2017 investigation discovered 19 states have put laws on the books to help prevent incidents of people lying about their dog being a service dog or emotional support dog.

The investigation uncovered only one incident in Nebraska where a man was fined $50.