New airline regulations come into effect for emotional support pets

NEW YORK — Top airlines are taking a stand to when it comes to emotional support pets flying on their planes.

Delta and United Airlines are rolling out stricter protocols to make sure travelers’ dogs, cats and even ducks are not running wild during their flights.

The policy change arrives in response to the increase in the number of animals in the cabin and as well as the number of on-flight incidents with these animals.

Sara Nelson, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants, said the amount of injuries among passengers and other animals has increased with the amount of animals boarding the plane and the Department of Transportation needs to take switch action on this issue.

"We’ve had animals bite flight attendants, passengers and other animals," she said, "If the DOT doesn't act, the needs of those who need service animals will be interrupted."

Starting Mar. 1, the airlines will require owners to show proof of their animal’s health or vaccinations at least 48 hours before a flight.

Owners of psychiatric service animals and so-called emotional-support animals will need to sign a statement vouching that their animal can behave. But owners will be on the honor system — they won't have to show, for example, that their dog graduated from obedience school.

John Laughter, Delta's senior vice president of safety and security, said there are insufficient rules in place to screen animals for health and behavior issues. He said Delta sought a balance "that supports those customers with a legitimate need for these animals" while maintaining safety.

Delta, the second-biggest U.S. airline by revenue, said it transports about 700 service and support animals every day, nearly 250,000 per year. More than two-thirds are emotional-support animals. That does not include animals for which owners pay a fee to keep in a carrier under their seat during flights.

Associated Press contributed to this report.