According to the DOT regulation, which goes into effect on 11 January, airlines "are not required to recognise emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets”.
The airline’s policy will also begin on 11 January, with American stating that from that point it will no longer "authorise new travel for animals" that do not meet the DOT's definition of a service animal.
According to the DOT, a service animal is a dog, specifically, that is “trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability”.
With the new policy, American became the latest airline to implement the change, after Alaska Airlines also announced it will no longer accept emotional support animals on flights.
Delta has also changed its policy following the DOT regulation, introducing restrictions for emotional support animals.
According to American, existing bookings involving emotional support animals will be honoured through 1 February.
For animals that previously travelled as emotional support animals, their owners will still be able to travel with them as carry-on pets or cargo pets, according to the airline, as long as they meet the requirements.
Starting in February, the airline will also require travellers with service animals to complete a DOT form “attesting to the dog’s behaviour, training and health”, with the airline stating it will require the form to be submitted electronically 48 hours in advance of a flight.
Once a service dog receives authorisation, it will be valid for one year or until the expiration of its vaccinations, the airline said.
“We’re confident this approach will enable us to better serve our customers, particularly those with disabilities who travel with service animals, and better protect our team members at the airport and on the aircraft,” Jessica Tyler, president of cargo and vice president of airport excellence for American Airlines said.
The DOT first announced the updated service animal regulations in December, which came after some airlines reportedly expressed concerns that passengers were passing off pets as emotional support animals to avoid paying pet transportation fees, as well as reports of emotional support animals misbehaving.
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