Delta Air Lines will soon ask for more information about the service and emotional support animals travelling with passengers, before deciding whether the pet can fly with its owner.

According to a report released on the airline’s website, the above decision was taken due to low levels of regulations which had resulted in serious safety risks for the passengers involving untrained pets traveling on the flight. 

The report further stated the new guidelines will be applicable from March 1. According to the guidelines, a passenger, if traveling with a service or a support animal, would be required to provide proof of health checkups or vaccinations of the animal two days before the flight. 

The new guidelines also add a component to an existing law, which requires the passenger to show a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional. But, the new guideline will require the passengers traveling with emotional support and psychiatric service animals to provide a document which would assure their pets can behave well on board the flight. This was done to stop untrained and aggressive household pets from traveling without kennels that ensure the safety for other passengers. 

Senior Vice President of Delta Air Lines Corporate Safety, Security and Compliance John Laughter said, “The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel.” 

“As a leader in safety, we worked with our Advisory Board on Disability to find a solution that supports those customers with a legitimate need for these animals, while prioritizing a safe and consistent travel experience,” Laughter added. 

This decision by Delta Air Lines was not taken without reason. According to a report by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in June 2017, a man traveling in Delta Air Lines was attacked by an emotional support dog on board the flight. 

According to the attorney of the victim, the latter wasn’t able to escape the situation as he was sitting in a window seat. The victim, Marlin Jackson, was traveling to San Diego, while his fellow passenger, Ronald Kevin Mundy Jr., was sitting in the middle seat with his dog on his lap, the report said. 

The attorney, J. Ross Massey of Birmingham law firm Alexander Shunnarah & Associates, in a statement said, “According to witnesses the approximately 50-pound dog growled at Mr. Jackson soon after he took his seat. ... The dog continued to act in a strange manner as Mr. Jackson attempted to buckle his seatbelt. The growling increased and the dog lunged for Mr. Jackson’s face.”

“The dog began biting Mr. Jackson, who could not escape due to his position against the plane’s window,” the statement added. 

Massey stated Jackson, as a result of the incident, received facial wounds which required 28 stitches. 

Laughter said, “We are committed to consistently improving our policies, prioritizing the safety of all Delta customers and employees,” as stated by the report on the airlines’ website.  “We have received extensive customer feedback through calls, emails and social posts — many from among those within the disability community — urging Delta to take action.”

With regards to the new guidelines, Laughter added, “This new policy is our first step in better protecting those who fly with Delta with a more thoughtful screening process.”