Stricter Requirements for Emotional Support Animals By JetBlue Airways

JetBlue Airways now requires all passengers traveling with emotional support animals and psychiatric service animals to provide documentation of proof of health or vaccinations a minimum of 48 hours in advance of the departure of a flight effective as of Sunday, July 1, 2018 — and emotional support animals are limited to only one per passenger.

Stricter Requirements for Emotional Support Animals By JetBlue Airways

For new flight reservations which are booked on or after Sunday, July 1, 2018, passengers who travel with emotional support and psychiatric service animals must submit three completed documents via e-mail message or fax to JetBlue Airways:

  1. Mental Health Professional Form — This is a letter issued by a mental health professional or medical doctor approving the use of an emotional support and psychiatric service animals.
  2. Confirmation of Animal Behavior — A signed affidavit affirming the emotional support or psychiatric service animal is trained to behave in public and that the owner accepts all liability for any injuries or damage to property.
  3. Veterinary Health Form — Documentation is required stating when your animal was last examined by a veterinarian.

A Trend in the Commercial Aviation Industry

JetBlue Airways follows the lead of Delta Air Lines — and then United Airlines and Alaska Airlines and American Airlines — in being prompted to strengthen its policies pertaining to passengers who travel with emotional support animals.

Although most animals do not cause problems, the changes were derived by JetBlue Airways to ensure a safe environment for all passengers and were developed based on a number of recent incidents over the most recent few years during which the inappropriate behavior of emotional support animals has impacted and even injured employees, other passengers and legitimate service animals, as caused by what is described as a steady increase in incidents from animals who have not been adequately trained to behave in a busy airport setting or aboard an airplane.

The changes do not apply to the policy of JetBlue Airways pertaining to traditional service animals.

Owners and handlers are required to keep animals traveling with them under their control at all times; and all animals must behave well in a public setting.

Animals Which are Not Permitted to Travel on JetBlue Airways

JetBlue Airways accepts only dogs, cats, and miniature horses as emotional support animals; and does not accept the following exotic or unusual animals to be misidentified as emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals:

  • Animals improperly cleaned and/or with a foul odor
  • Animals who appear to be in poor health
  • Animals with tusks
  • Hedgehogs
  • Ferrets
  • Insects
  • Rodents
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Sugar gliders
  • Reptiles

A Reminder of the Definitions of Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals

The official definition of a service animal — according to the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice of the United States pertaining to the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA — is as follows:

Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability. Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

This definition does not affect or limit the broader definition of “assistance animal” under the Fair Housing Act or the broader definition of “service animal” under the Air Carrier Access Act.

Some State and local laws also define service animal more broadly than the ADA does. Information about such laws can be obtained from the State attorney general’s office.

Additionally, service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered — unless these devices interfere with the intended work of the service animal or the disability of the individual prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.

An emotional support animal is a companion animal which provides therapeutic benefit to an individual designated with a disability — such as depression, bipolar disorder, panic attacks or anxiety as only a few of many examples. While only dogs — and, in a separate provision which need not be discussed here, miniature horses — can be officially designated as service animals, emotional support animals can also be cats and other animals as prescribed by a physician or other medical professional if the owner of the animal has a verifiable disability in accordance with federal law of the United States.

In order to prevent discrimination by commercial airlines — based both within and outside of the United States — against passengers on the basis of physical or mental disability, the Air Carrier Access Act was passed by the Congress of the United States in 1986; and here are where complaints may be registered against an airline via the official Internet web site of the Aviation Consumer Protection and Enforcement division of the Department of Transportation of the United States.

Employees of airlines are limited by law to the questions they are permitted to ask owners of animals brought aboard airplanes. Only two questions may be asked by employees of an airline — or of any other company, for that matter pertaining to service animals…

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

…and when the service an animal provides is not obvious, an employee of an airline or other company cannot do the following actions without violating federal law:

  • Ask about the nature of the disability of the person
  • Require medical documentation
  • Require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog; or
  • Ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task

Official Policies of Airlines in the United States

A commercial airline is permitted to require a passenger traveling with an emotional support animal provide written documentation that the animal is an emotional support animal — unlike for a service animal. A fee does not apply to service animals of passengers with disabilities — not even on airlines such as Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air, which are known for their proliferation of ancillary fees.

Here is a list of airlines with links to their official policies pertaining to animals:

Summary

“Expect other airlines to eventually follow the lead of Delta Air Lines and implement similar policies” is what I wrote in this article pertaining to similarly stricter requirements for emotional support animals by Delta Air Lines on Friday, January 19, 2018 — but one difference is that service dogs are also included in the updated policy with Delta Air Lines; whereas the policy for service dogs remains unchanged with United Airlines, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines.

I believe that what JetBlue Airways, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines are implementing is a step in the right direction; but although the new requirements may mitigate the number of passengers who attempt to cheat the system — which is not fair to passengers who have legitimate service dogs or emotional support animals — the effort will not be enough to eliminate them, as those passengers who are determined to fraudulently pass their pets as legitimate service dogs or emotional support animals will continue to do so to save money.

I have written extensively over the years pertaining to service dogs and emotional support animals in the form of articles posted here at The Gate — including:

Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

One thought on “Stricter Requirements for Emotional Support Animals By JetBlue Airways”

  1. Jet Blue Airways needs to review its guidelines. The management should think of the mental health of the patient and the ordeal he/she is facing. The Airlines crew can verify the credentials at the time of boarding & security check. Moreover, the law requires only an ESA letter from a reputed mental health specialist like My ESA Doctor. A passenger possessing this letter should be allowed to board without requiring any other letter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *