Southwest Airlines has long been among the most generous regarding animals on airplanes — emotional support, service animals or otherwise.
I’ll never forget the flight I took many years ago, from Portland International (PDX) to Palm Springs (PSP). The entire time, I could have sworn I heard a strange squeaking noise coming from right behind me. I chalked it up to some flap components or something in the cargo hold.
Low and behold the double take I had when, upon deplaning, I turn to find the woman seated behind me with a monkey in her arms.
Apparently, the commotion caused by people sneaking their housepets onboard as service animals has eroded even Southwest’s LUV for furry companions. The Dallas discount airline will join the rank and file on Sept. 17 when it severely restricts the admittance of emotional support animals onboard flights.
“In alignment with recent DOT guidance, Southwest will accept only the most common service animals—dogs, cats, and miniature horses. For the health and safety of our Customers and Employees, unusual or exotic animals will not be accepted.”
Passengers will only be allowed to bring one dog or cat onboard as an emotional support animal. The dog or cat must be in a carrier or on a leash. All passengers carrying service animals must have a valid notice from a licensed physician or mental health professional and present it to the airline on the day of departure.
Southwest will formalize its acceptance of formally trained psychiatric support animals (previously they were informally admitted, just as emotional support animals were).
As for other trained service animals, Southwest is including miniature horses alongside cats and dogs allowed to accompany those with a disability.
“As is the case today, the customer with the disability must be able to provide credible verbal assurance that the animal is a trained service animal,” Southwest’s communication department offers.
Airlines including Southwest have suffered increasing reports of problems with emotional support animals. An emotional support dog bit six-year-old girl aboard a Southwest flight in Februray.