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American Airlines joins other carriers in adding restrictions for 'emotional support' animals

American Airlines joins other carriers in adding restrictions for 'emotional support' animals
A new kid at the East Africa Refugee Goat Project in Salt Lake City on March 24. American Airlines had adopted new restrictions on animals that can be brought into an airline cabin. Goats, snakes, hedgehogs, ferrets and insects are banned. (Trent Nelson / Associated Press)

Forget about bringing your goat on an American Airlines flight for emotional support.

The world's largest carrier announced Monday that it was joining several other airlines in adopting new restrictions for passengers who bring animals into the cabin of a plane.

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Citing a 40% increase in passengers bringing animals into the cabin, the Fort Worth-based airline adopted a set of rules that require new documentation for passengers with animals and establish an outright ban on several types of creatures, including hedgehogs, goats, ferrets, chickens, birds of prey and snakes.

Federal law allows passengers to bring animals into the cabin that provide emotional support or assistance to fliers with disabilities free of charge. Such animals can sit at the feet or on the laps of the passengers.

Small pets that are not service or emotional support animals can be transported in containers that fit under the airline seat. Larger animals must be shipped in carriers that are placed in the cargo hold.

In the last few months, several major carriers have reported a surge in animals brought into commercial airline cabins, resulting in animals urinating, defecating, biting, barking and lunging on planes. A Delta passenger was mauled by a 50-pound dog on a flight from Atlanta to San Diego last year.

American Airlines' new policy takes effect with tickets issued on or after July 1. Passengers must fill out a form 48 hours in advance that lists the name and contact information of a mental health professional who will attest that the passenger needs to travel with an emotional support animal. American Airlines reserves the right to contact that mental health professional.

Also, the new form requires the passenger to assure the airlines that the animal will not block the seats or the aisles of the cabin, will not threaten the health and safety of other passengers and will not defecate in the cabin during the flight.

Other airlines such as Delta and Alaska have also added rules that require passengers to submit documents ensuring that their animals are healthy, well trained and being brought on board at the direction of a mental health professional.

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