Southwest Airlines changes service, emotional support animal policy

DALLAS -- Southwest Airlines has updated its policies regarding traveling with emotional support or trained service animals, effective September 17.

Beginning on that date, customers traveling with Emotional Support Animals (ESA) will need to "present a complete, current letter from a doctor or licensed mental health professional on the day of departure," according the Southwest Airlines.

ESAs will be limited to cats and dogs only and the animal must remain in a carrier or be on a leash at all times.  Each customer will only be allowed to travel with one ESA at a time.

In regards to Trained Service Animals, Southwest says that "in alignment with recent Department of Transportation guidance, we will only accept the most common service animals—dogs, cats, and miniature horses. For the health and safety of both our Customers and Employees, unusual or exotic animals will not be accepted."

Southwest says that they are continuing their policy in which a customer with the disability must be able to provide credible, verbal assurance that their animal is required for travel.

Additionally, Southwest will formally recognize trained Psychatric Service Animals (PSAs) as trained service animals beginning September 17.  PSAs are trained to work with  person with a mental-health related disability.  Like other service animals, customers traveling with PSAs will need to provide credible verbal assurance that the animal is required for travel.

Southwest says that have informally accepted PSAs in the past, but they are "really pleased to formalize this type of service animal for our customers."

More information on Southwest's new policy here.