Delta Air Lines has announced a new policy that requires people with service animals to provide proper documentation, proving that their animals are both healthy and trained, enabling them to fly. This must be provided 48 hours before the scheduled flight’s departure.

Delta has said that two-thirds of the alleged service animals on their flights are designated as emotional support dogs — over 160,000 emotional support dogs a year flying with their owners. Last June, a large 70 pound dog was reported to have bitten another passenger in the face. They have recently had a significant surge in complaints ranging from attacks to dogs urinating or pooping in the cabin — a clear indicator that many of these dogs have not been trained to any kind of standard required for service animals, including legitimate emotional support dog standards.

As the “service dog” loophole has become more popular, Delta has noted a rise of incidents with dogs by 84% in 2016, which is exactly what led to this change in policy.

This is yet another example of why unnecessary service animals threaten to severely damage the service dog industry as a whole. While many of these people innocently just want their dogs around them, or want the ease of travel without having to coordinate a dogsitter or another form of transportation, many are not aware of the damage their actions have on say, guide dogs for blind people or support dogs for people with crippling PTSD.

Let’s say an emotional support dog has not been trained to an acceptable, certified standard (though their owner swears up and down they’re a “good dog”). They go with their owner to a restaurant and, for whatever reason, they feel threatened or even just nervous or uncomfortable. Maybe they don’t bite anyone, but they bark and bark, or they pull at the leash when people pass by. The owner might see this and shake his head or roll his eyes, and it may get to a point where that owner treats every incoming service dog with a level of skepticism — even toward the people who really need them. Now those people are having to defend themselves and their legitimate service dog unnecessarily.

This is happening all over the country as people continue to convince others and themselves that they need a service animal of some kind when they really don’t. Those who DO need service animals depend on those dogs to function, but many are willing to risk that simply because they want their own dog around them more.

Delta Air Lines is another such business that has begun to respond and restrict the travel of some such dogs, and they are likely not the last business and/or airline to do so. As the unnecessary service dogs or unnecessary emotional support dogs continue to permeate the industry, those who depend on service animals with their lives will continue to suffer for it.


Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.

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