United to ban emotional support pets on flights over 8 hours

Posted: Updated:

United Airlines has released new guidelines for bringing animals on to United flights.

Under the new rules: Emotional support animals will not be allowed on flights over eight hours, kittens and puppies under 4 months old will no longer be accepted on any flights, emotional support animals will be limited to dogs and cats, and service animals will be restricted to dogs, cats and miniature horses.

The new rules sound like a good idea to Janice Wolfe, who has and trains service dogs. Wolfe says that emotional support animals have grown in popularity over the years and require no training.

“We were just walking, I was using [my service dog] for mobility. I was holding onto her and I came around a blind corner at the airport and a dog lunged out,” Wolfe says.

But psychotherapist Maria Elena Misito says that many people need these emotional support animals and that it may make traveling more difficult for them.

"The people that have emotional support dogs suffer from anxiety, depression or many other disabilities,” she says.

Misito says that there has been an increase in misuse of the term emotional support animal, which is in turn hurting her patients.

"There’s a lot of fakes out there that are saying that these dogs are needed and they're not,” she says.

Misito and Wolfe say that they hope for clearer guidelines for these types of pets in the future so that both sides can benefit.

"I want everybody to bring their dogs on to planes and into places to help them to feel better and to have that comfort,” says Wolfe. “I just don't want you to ruin it for the people who really need a service dog."

United Airlines says they will honor reservations made before Jan. 3 so long as the passenger provides the appropriate paperwork.

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