Southwest Airlines to tighten service animals policies

The carrier will allow only the most common service animals – dogs, cats, and miniature horses

American carrier Southwest Airlines is the latest to come up with stricter rules of taking emotional support and service animals on board their planes.

The airline will limit emotional support animals to cats and dogs only — Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock Southwest Airlines to tighten service animals policies
The airline will limit emotional support animals to cats and dogs only – Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock

Starting on 17 September, the airline will limit emotional support animals to cats and dogs, with one animal being allowed per passenger only. Passengers travelling with such animals will have to present a complete, current letter from a medical doctor or licensed mental health professional on the day of departure.

The carrier will also limit trained service animals.

“In alignment with recent guidance issued by the Department of Transportation, Southwest will accept only the most common service animals – dogs, cats, and miniature horses. For the health and safety of our customers and employees, unusual or exotic animals will not be accepted,” the airline said in a statement.

Passengers travelling with service animals will have to provide verbal assurance that their companion is a trained service animal.

Southwest will also allow fully-trained psychiatric support animals which are individually trained to perform a task or work for a person with a mental health-related disability. Based on customer feedback, the carrier will recognise them as trained service animals.

“We welcome emotional support and trained service animals that provide needed assistance to our Customers,” said Steve Goldberg, senior vice president of Operations and Hospitality.

“However, we want to make sure our guidelines are clear and easy to understand while providing customers and employees with a comfortable and safe experience.”

“The ultimate goal with these changes is to ensure customers travelling with service animals know what to expect when choosing Southwest,” said Goldberg.

“Southwest will continue working with advocacy groups, employees, customers, and the DOT to ensure we offer supportive service animal guidelines.”