United Airlines joins Delta in banning emotional-support puppies and kittens

Key Points
  • United Airlines is banning emotional-support puppies and kittens under four months old.
  • The new rules follow similar changes at rival Delta Air Lines.
  • The changes come after passengers and crew members complained about animals soiling cabins and biting.
A dog is seen on the lap of its owner in a plane in Chiba, Japan on January 27, 2017.
Richard Atrero | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

United Airlines will no longer accept emotional-support kittens and puppies under four months of age and will ban emotional-support animals outright on long flights as it tries to crack down on soiled cabins and biting incidents that have harmed passengers and crew.

The Chicago-based airline joins rival Delta Air Lines in tightening its rules. Delta took the lead in banning young puppies and kittens last month.

Airlines have been tightening restrictions after a surge in emotional-support animals on flights. Passengers in recent years have brought animals other than dogs and cats — including a turkey, a pig and a duck — on board as emotional-support animals. United last year denied boarding to a passenger traveling with a peacock as an emotional-support animal.

Support and service animals fly free of charge and without a carrier under the 1986 Air Carrier Access Act. But passengers and crew members have complained about animal allergies, dirtied cabins and aggression from the animals.

Airlines are rethinking their emotional-support animal policies
Airlines are rethinking their emotional-support animal policies

United is also limiting emotional-support animals to dogs and cats, which will be banned on flights longer than eight hours.

"We have seen increases in on-board 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," United said in a statement.

Additionally, only dogs, cats and miniature horses will be allowed on board as service animals.

The changes take effect on Jan. 7, but United said it would honor reservations made by Jan. 3 with the old rules.

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