Passengers traveling with emotional support animals on Alaska Airlines will need a little more support for their status, as the carrier revises its rules due to some of the animals becoming unruly.

The airline announced its new policy, which becomes effective May 1, in a Thursday statement.

Support animals will remain free to bring on board, but passengers will need three forms which will be available April 30 on the airline’s website: a mental health form with approval from a doctor or mental-health professional for use of the animal, an animal behavior form accepting liability for injuries or damage it causes and an animal health advisory form. All three must be filed with the airline at least 48 hours before a flight.

Some emotional support animals won’t be accepted at all starting next month, ranging from hedgehogs, ferrets and rodents to non-household birds, goats and most animals with tusks, horns or hooves.

A list of emotional support animals not accepted on Alaska Airlines flights starting May 1, 2018. (Credit: Courtesy Alaska Airlines)

Airline spokesman Tim Thompson said Thursday afternoon that the number of emotional support and psychiatric service animals Alaska flies has sharply risen in recent years to about 150 per day – some of which have been causing problems.

“We have had animals that have lunged at passengers, have attacked other service animals, have attacked employees as well,” Thompson said. “On a daily basis we receive at least one report involving missing or incomplete documents, training or behavior issues involving one of these animals.”

The changes are meant to ensure that emotional support animals have the same ability to safely interact with traditional service animals, like dogs for the blind and visually impaired, for which the airline’s rules remain unchanged.

“We’re bringing untrained pets on board an aircraft," Thompson said. "Even though they have a little vest on, they’re not trained properly to be on board an aircraft.”

Thompson couldn’t say how much of the rise in emotional support animals might involve people looking to get around the airline’s $100-per-flight fee for carrying pets, although the problem isn’t unique to Alaska.

“It’s hard to say how much that has increased or how much abuse is in the system, but I think across all of the airlines we have seen an increase in the number of animals that are not trained properly,” Thompson said.

The airline’s new policy is in line with other national carriers which have implemented rules governing emotional support animals, according to Thompson, including United Airlines and Delta.

Emotional support animals that don’t have paperwork filed in advance or fail to comply with the new rules will be subject to Alaska’s policy for regular pets.

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