• Dr. Rhesa Houston

Delta updates comfort-animal policy to one per passenger - and no pit bulls


Today in #TheySaidThursday, Assistance Animals Consulting is highlighting a news story covered by USA Today, Delta updates comfort-animal policy to one per passenger -- and no pit bulls. In my work as a veterinarian, I am alarmed at the animals I’ve seen being represented as service dogs or emotional support/comfort animals for airline travel that have fear, stress or anxiety based aggressive behaviors expressed in the clinic during a physical exam.


In short, this article highlights the following:

  • Delta made additional revisions to its animal policy

  • The new revision limits emotional-support animals to one per customer and bans “pit bull type dogs” as either comfort or service animals

  • Animal advocates indicate Delta is practicing breed prejudice and its ban should be rescinded

  • Pit bulls as a breed are no more dangerous than any other type of dog breed

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act as a law indicates service dogs can be any breed, however this law does not specifically cover airlines

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act recognition of dogs and miniature horses as trained service animals

  • The Air Carrier Access Act as law for airline travel indicates service animals could fly in the cabin with passengers, as well as emotional-support animals, which assist passengers with mental-health issues

  • Some crew members and passengers suspect that travelers bring pets as comfort/emotional support animals to avoid fees

  • The variety of emotional-support animals exploded to include monkeys, pigs and ducks, these comfort animals, which didn’t require specified training, sometimes upset other passengers

  • Each of the major airlines recently updated animal policies on emotional-support animals

With this news story, I see the need for more education around animal behavior and temperament. Fear, anxiety and stressed based aggressive behavior can occur with any dog or cat regardless of size or breed. If Delta’s desire is to improve the safety of their employees and passengers from incidents related to animal aggression, a more comprehensive strategy addressing animal behavior is warranted. I also see the need for more uniformity between the The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, these laws were developed to protect people with disabilities using working animals. However, the laws should have consistent and uniformed verbiage no matter if the support animal is traveling on land or in air.


Safety is a top priority for assistance animals and their handlers. Working animals with improper training are a safety risk and liability to the handler, prescribing physician, and general public. These poorly trained animals can also be a public nuisance causing everyone to suffer. However, a well trained assistance animal enhances the handler's safety and the safety of the public.


At Assistance Animals Consulting, we are veterinarians, recognized experts uniquely qualified to serve the community by providing resources for education, behavioral understanding, and guidance regarding working animals. Our veterinarians are here to support you and specialize in evaluating any cat or dog being considered as an assistance animal for therapeutic purposes.


The veterinarians at Assistance Animals Consulting will provide professional guidance and direct patients/handlers towards reputable trainers. We collaborate with the trainers to evaluate the assistance animal to ensure it has been trained appropriately for its intended purpose.


Assistance Animals Consulting, we are here to support you. Our veterinarians can provide education and guidance on The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Air Carrier Access Act, the laws developed to protect people with disabilities using working animals.


Assistance Animals Consulting, we collaborate, evaluate, educate and advocate for successful human animal partnerships and interactions. Contact us to learn how we can support you.

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