SEATTLE - Alaska Airlines announced Tuesday that it will no longer allow emotional support animals on its flights just weeks after the U.S government tightened its definition of service animals allowed on planes.
Starting Jan. 11, the airline will only allow service dogs "which are specially trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability" aboard, the airline said in a statement.
Under Alaska's new policy, the airline will only accept a maximum of two service dogs per guest in the cabin and it will "include psychiatric service dogs."
Prior to boarding, guests will be required to complete a DOT form online at the airline's website, declaring "that their animal is a legitimate service dog, is trained and vaccinated and will behave appropriately during the journey."
Orlando, emotional support animal, ESA. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
If flights are booked more than 48 hours prior to travel, guests will be required to submit the completed form via email. If a flight is booked in under 48 hours prior to travel, guests must submit the form to the customer service agent at the airport.
Ray Prentice, director of customer advocacy at Alaska Airlines, said the change will help to reduce "disturbances onboard, while continuing to accommodate our guests traveling with qualified service animals."
Earlier this month, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced it will no longer require airlines to make the same accommodations for emotional support animals as is required for trained service dogs. The agency had formally ruled that only dogs can fly as service animals, and companions that passengers use for emotional support don’t count.
The government agency revised the rules partly because passengers carrying unusual animals on board "eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals." It also cited the increasing frequency of people "fraudulently representing their pets as service animals," and a rise in misbehavior by emotional-support animals, ranging from peeing on the carpet to biting other passengers.
"Although emotional support animals and other pets are not service animals, the rule does not prohibit their transport," the agency said.
Instead, it will be left up to airlines on whether they choose to transport them as pets "pursuant to its established policy."
Alaska will continue to accept emotional support animals under its current policy for any reservation that is booked prior to Jan. 11 for flights on or before Feb. 28, 2021.
After Feb. 28, emotional support animals will no longer be accepted for travel.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.