DALLAS — American Airlines is banning emotional-support animals in a move thatwill force most owners to pay extra if they want their pets to travel withthem.

The airline said Tuesday that it will allow animals in the cabin free ofcharge only if they are trained service dogs. The change takes effect Monday,although passengers who already bought tickets can fly with a companion animaluntil Feb. 1.

The move follows a similar decision by Alaska Airlines and is likely to becopied by other carriers. The U.S. Transportation Department cleared the wayfor the crackdown against companion animals last month.

American said passengers with a service dog will need to complete a governmentform vouching for the dog’s health, training and temperament.

Other animals, including dogs not trained as service dogs, will only be ableto fly in the cargo hold or a kennel that fits under a seat in the cabin.Either way, American will collect a pet fee ranging from $125 to severalhundred dollars.

Jessica Tyler, American’s president of cargo, said the rules will helppassengers with service animals and protect employees on planes and inairports.

The number of passengers flying with companion animals grew rapidly in recentyears, with some saying the animals helped them overcome anxiety and otherissues. Passengers only needed a note from a health professional, and acottage industry sprang up to provide those notes along with vests and otheraccoutrements for their animals.

Airlines and particularly flight attendants took a more critical view, sayingpassengers were exploiting a loophole in federal regulations to avoid petfees. In a few cases, including some involving serious injuries, companionanimals bit other passengers.

Last month, the Transportation Department settled the matter, siding mostlywith the airlines. It said carriers were free to ban any animal other thandogs formally trained to help people with physical or psychologicaldisabilities.

The department estimated that under the new rules airlines will scoop up $59.6million a year in pet fees.

Source: The Washington Post

Image: (Julio Cortez, File/Associated Press)

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