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Southwest bans emotional support animals in cabins

The decision follows policy changes made by the Department of Transportation

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Photo (c) JodiJacobson - Getty Images
Southwest announced Monday that it will no longer accept emotional support animals on flights beginning March 1. The company’s decision is in line with new regulations from the Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding trained service animals and emotional support animals. 

Late last year, the DOT reversed a rule that provided significant room for interpretation on what could be considered an emotional support animal. Some airlines claimed that passengers were claiming that their pet was for emotional support in order to avoid pet fees.

"We applaud the Department of Transportation's recent ruling that allows us to make these important changes to address numerous concerns raised by the public and airline employees regarding the transport of untrained animals in the cabins of aircraft," Steve Goldberg, Southwest’s Senior Vice President, Operations and Hospitality, said in a statement. 

Trained service dogs allowed

Going forward, the airline says it will only accept properly trained service dogs in cabins. 

"Southwest Airlines continues to support the ability of qualified individuals with a disability to bring trained service dogs for travel and remains committed to providing a positive and accessible travel experience for all of our Customers with disabilities,” Goldberg said.

Service dogs that will be allowed on flights will have to be trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities including “ a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability,” Southwest said. 

“Only dogs will be accepted (including those for psychiatric service) — no other species will be accepted as a trained service animal,” the airline added. 

Travelers who want to bring their non-service dog or cat on board as a pet will be required to pay a fee, and the animal must be kept in a carrier that fits under their seat. Southwest is reportedly the last major U.S. airline to ban emotional-support animals following the DOT’s policy change. 

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