Don’t expect any in-air puppy cuddles on United Airlines flights.
The airline has updated its rules for flying with pets or emotional support animals in the cabin and banned puppies or kittens who are less than four months of age as support animals, in-cabin pets, or service animals. (Personally, I would love to see someone try to make the case that their four-month-old kitten is a service animal.) The airline is also banning all emotional support animals on flights longer than eight hours. The new policy goes into effect today, January 7, and comes weeks after Delta Air Lines made a similar change.
The rule change sounds heartbreaking since it means limiting the chance of stumbling into an inflight puppy party, but according to United spokesman Charles Hobart, it’s due in part to the fact that those adorable baby animals tend to not have the proper vaccinations. That said, even a vet’s note won’t get them onboard because the policy change is also due to a “greater instance of incidents,” aka animals “getting loose, urinating, defecating” with those little floofers–and even the most ardent pet lover may find those cuddly little cuties are not quite as cute after they piddle on your sock mid-flight.
United is also limiting the kinds of emotional-support animals allowed on flights to solely dogs and cats (yes, that means you, emotional support peacock), which Hobart points out are “the overwhelming majority of emotional support animals” anyway. As for service animals, aka animals that are specially trained to assist a qualified person living with a disability, they are still accepted on flights as long as they are a dog, cat, or miniature horse, the new policy said. The policy changes come as the airline tries to “accommodate passengers with disabilities while ensuring the well-being of our employees and customers,” Hobart said.
If you do plan to try and fly the friendly skies with your emotional support dog or cat, in March 2018, United followed Delta’s lead and began requiring 48 hours’ notice as well as “documentation from a medical professional and a veterinarian” and a sign-off saying the animal hasn’t shown any signs of “being disruptive.” (You can find United’s full emotional support and service animal policy here.)
That said, in the wake of last year’s tragic incident in which a dog died after being forced to ride in the overhead bin, United has been working with American Humane to make their flights safer for all pets in the cabin or riding in the cargo hold as part of their PetSafe program.