United Airlines has banned emotional support animals under the age of 4 months from its cabins.
The stated reason for the rule, which went into effect on January 7, is “to further ensure the well-being of our employees and customers while accommodating passengers with disabilities.”
“Animals under the age of four months typically have not received the necessary vaccinations that help ensure the safety of our employees and customers,” United said.
“This is just another move in a long line of moves to restrict pets on aircrafts,” said Christopher Elliott, founder of consumer advocacy organization Elliott.org, in an interview with the New York Post. “Animals could go the way of peanuts on planes at some point in the future — ideally airlines do not want to have any animals in the cabin.”
United said it will also limit animals allowed on flights, banning all emotional support animals that are not dogs and cats. Service animals, which unlike emotional support animals are trained to assist a qualified person with a disability, are still accepted on flights as long as they are a dog, cat or miniature horse.
“The role pets play in society has really shifted in the past couple years,” Elliot told the Post. “When people think of pets as children, they will do anything to fly with them. But pets should really stay at home.”
The airline explained its reasoning this way on its web site: “To further ensure the well-being of our employees and customers while accommodating passengers with disabilities, we are expanding our existing policy regarding emotional support animals, service animals and in-cabin pets. Starting January 7, we will implement the following policy changes:
“We are limiting emotional support animals to flights under 8 hours. We have seen increases in onboard incidents on longer flights involving these animals, many of which are unaccustomed to spending an extended amount of time in the cabin of an aircraft.
“We will no longer accept kittens or puppies under four months of age as emotional support animals, in-cabin pets or service animals on any flight, regardless of length. Animals under the age of four months typically have not received the necessary vaccinations that help ensure the safety of our employees and customers.
“We are limiting acceptance of emotional support animals to dogs and cats. Additionally, we are limiting acceptance of service animals to dogs, cats and miniature horses.
“We will honor reservations made prior to January 3 under the previous policy with the approved documentation, if required. We will continue to support customers with disabilities including those traveling with service or emotional support animals through our 24/7 Accessibility Desk, which is in place to provide service and care for our customers. And we will continue to support veterans in their travel needs and make every accommodation to ensure their experience with us is as comfortable and efficient as possible.”
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