Delta is Cracking Down On Fake Service Animals

by Anthony Losanno
Service Dog 2

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Service animals are meant to provide support and services for people with genuine needs (think those with visual or physical impairments). Over the past decade, this has expanded to include emotional support animals including pets dressed in cheap vests and collars purchased on Amazon. If you wanted to bring your pet and not pay a fee to the airline, the way to go was to claim that you were bringing a support animal. This wasn’t just dogs either. People carted on pigs, ponies, ducks, cats, and even a peacock. This policy was abused for many years and now Delta Air Lines is cracking down.

A post on Reddit calls out an incident last week at New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). It reads:

This morning at JFK while dropping bags, there was quite a bit of controversy at the check-in counter surrounding another passenger trying to pass off a Shiba Inu in a red Amazon vest as a service animal. According to the agent assisting us, turns out Delta is finally cracking down on on the “support animal” nonsense and only allowing trained service animals without charge/out of bags on flights. It seems some sort of actual Department of Transportation documentation is required as proof that your dog is a trained service animal, no longer a doctor’s note! And if you show up to your flight without this documentation trying to sign it on the spot, Delta will retroactively cross-check with DOT. Best part, if it turns out your pet dog is a fake service animal, you’ll be fined!”

Service Dog

According to the Delta’s website, the carrier allows service animals to travel onboard if the passenger has a disability. The airline also specifies that the only trained service animals allowed are dogs. Trained service animals are expected to be seated in the floor space below the seat or in a customer’s lap. Trained service animals and their associated items travel for free, but they cannot exceed the footprint of the passenger’s seat. The airline no longer recognizes emotional support animals as service animals. Support dogs will be charged as pets. Delta’s policy also requires customers flying with a trained service dog to complete the US Department of Transportation (DOT) relevant form.

Support animals and pets have created issues in the past with bites, scratches, and triggered allergies all being concerns. The airlines’ ban on emotional support animals only came into place once the US DOT stopped categorizing emotional support animals (ESAs) as service animals. This allowed the airlines to charge passengers for the transport of their ESAs as pets onboard or in the aircraft hold. This is a return to the former policy. Frontier Airlines and United Airlines have implemented similar policies.

Anthony’s Take: I love animals, but they all don’t need to be on planes. Trained service animals provide assistance to individuals who need them. Support animals and pets should remain at home as it’s stressful to the animals and often the people around them.

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derek July 8, 2023 - 8:06 pm

Too bad emotional support animals are not allowed. I wanted to see if a child would pass. Children are animals of the species H. sapiens. If they are missing, the parent becomes emotional. Therefore, children should fly free.

Christian July 9, 2023 - 12:06 am

The emotional support turkey was my favorite, both interesting and tasty.

I often disparage Delta but I have to give them major props on this one. Hopefully the other major airlines will quickly follow suit.

J.J. July 9, 2023 - 12:27 am

Maybe the human is the support animal for the dog and should be the one sitting on the floor 😉

Icarus July 9, 2023 - 4:19 am

It is almost always Americans. Rarely do you get this issue elsewhere, as more than half the population are seeing a psychiatrist or on medication.

Laslo To July 9, 2023 - 10:15 am

I identify as a support beast. Therefore, you must also identify me as such. REEEEE!

Julie McNeely-Kirwan July 10, 2023 - 4:13 am

Bravo. I have only flown with a dog once, when I was moving across country. I paid the fee and took the dog to the vet for the required check-up and used an airline carrier. But I knew someone who flew with her pet as an emotional support dog on a regular basis. Surprise, surprise, this woman also used a relative’s handicapped signage so she could park in handicapped parking spaces near restaurants. (She was not handicapped. ) Now, this was a nice dog. But it was not a trained service animal. There is always someone working the angles.

Mack July 20, 2023 - 9:27 am

We travel with our Shi Tsu often and he is a ESA! He provides comfort to us however the Airlines take advantage and charge outrageous fees! $125 per leg! For what? And they count as a carry-on! I know not all pets are as well behaved as ours but neither are most kids! Just look at the seating areas after kids deplane, it’s a disaster!


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