Delta sets new rules for service and support animals after safety risks on flights with untrained animals

NOW: Delta sets new rules for service and support animals after safety risks on flights with untrained animals

(CBS 58) -- Delta Airlines is making it harder to bring service and support animals onto planes.

They say it comes after several incidents last year, including a passenger who was bitten.

Those new regulations will require a signed document confirming the animal can behave, a letter saying the animal is in good health within 48 hours of the flight, and for emotional support animals -- a signed letter from a healthcare professional.

Some are hoping this weeds out legitimate support dogs from just regular pets.

Molly Johnson has registered therapy dogs. On a plane, Therapy dog Fitzgerald would have to fly in the cargo area. Only service and emotional support animals can fly with passengers for free and they're not required to be caged during the flight.

As a professional trainer, Johnson says she regularly sees support dogs who aren't legitimate on planes.

"I applaud Delta for doing this, I think it's fantastic. I am tired of seeing people misrepresent their animals for their convenience," said Molly Johnson, Owner of Canine Comfort.

The stricter rules come after Delta Airlines says lack of regulations has led to safety risks on flights with untrained animals.

Veterinarian Pete Gaveras agrees there should be regulation, saying sometimes animals fly without issues but sometimes they don't.

"There are circumstances where it may not be the case. I've heard of a recent situation where a person was bitten on a plane," said Dr. Peter Gaveras with the Silver Spring Animal Wellness Center.

Since 2016, Delta has seen an 86% increase in animal incidents including animals urinating, biting, or showing acts of aggression.

Psychotherapist Alex Luber says people with conditions like chronic stress and severe anxiety could legitimately need support animals but says it would take many sessions for a health professional to determine that. Something that he says doesn't always happen because of illegitimate websites and calls that make it easy.

"It's just making it easier for someone to phone up a therapist, get a quick note, and you get a free pass," said Alex Luber, with Elle Studio and Wellness.

"People with legitimate needs and services, it makes it infinitely more difficult for them to gain the access that they need," said Johnson.

Delta's stricter rules will start in March.

The airline says they fly 700 service or support animals every day. 

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