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Delta cites safety in tightening rules regarding service and support animals

FILE - In this April 1, 2017 file photo, a service dog strolls through the isle inside a United Airl
A service dog strolls through a plane while taking part in a training exercise at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

Delta Air Lines will start asking fliers who travel with service and emotional support animals to provide paperwork on their animal’s health and behavior at least 48 hours before their flight.

Delta already required fliers traveling with emotional-support animals to provide a letter from the passenger’s health professional or doctor attesting to the person’s need for a comfort animal. Now fliers also must sign a document saying the animal will be well-behaved and nonaggressive in the cabin, and provide proof of health and vaccinations at least 48 hours ahead of the trip.

The airline also will create a service animal support desk to verify that the flier’s documentation for his or her animal has been received and to confirm the flier’s reservation to travel with the animal.

The new rules go into effect March 1, according to an airline announcement issued last week. The change in rules arose “as a result of a lack of regulation that has led to serious safety risks involving untrained animals in flight,” the statement said.

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In June, a Delta passenger’s 70-pound emotional-support animal bit another passenger and caused severe injuries to his face, media reports said. Reports of incidents (including urination and defecation, and biting) involving service and support animals during flights have increased 84% since 2016, the statement said.

The Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines to allow service animals to travel with passengers with disabilities. Delta and other airlines provide travel for service and support animals for free; they are not required to be kenneled.

Fliers who pay to take their pets on board — that is, not as service or support animals — must keep them kenneled in flight.

The National Federation of the Blind based in Baltimore said the new rules were troubling, especially the requirement that guide dog users submit paperwork 48 hours in advance, the organization said Tuesday.

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Such a requirement would preclude blind people with guide dogs from flying for medical or family emergencies, the federation’s statement said.

For more information, go to Delta’s Service and Support Animals web page.

Also, the Transportation Security Administration provides online tips on traveling with service and support animals on all airlines.

travel@latimes.com

Twitter: @latimestravel


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