Support our mission
 
Bailey, an emotional support animal, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio in June 2021. Emotional support animals are now counted as pets on Air Mobility Command flights, meaning they count toward the maximum of two animals that can travel on the Patriot Express with authorized passengers.
Bailey, an emotional support animal, at Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio in June 2021. Emotional support animals are now counted as pets on Air Mobility Command flights, meaning they count toward the maximum of two animals that can travel on the Patriot Express with authorized passengers. (Eric White)

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Emotional support animals are no longer a recognized category on Defense Department flights, including the Patriot Express, and must fly as pets at their owners’ expense, Air Mobility Command officials said.  

Under new regulations that went into effect last week, only cats and canines will be transported as pets on DOD flights, and only dogs are recognized as service animals, which can fly for free in the passenger cabin. 

The section on emotional support animals was removed when the rules were updated in December by the Transportation Department. They were implemented on U.S. commercial flights at the start of this year, but AMC needed time to update the DOD instruction, command spokesman Capt. Frederick Wallace said in an email Monday. 

Prior to the rule change, emotional support animals were considered service animals for the purpose of air travel, even though they don’t go through the rigorous training a service animal does. 

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Corey Klucker, 721st Aerial Port Squadron, places a cat on a conveyor belt outside the passenger terminal at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in May 2020. A rule change implemented in August 2021 by Air Mobility Command allows only cats and dogs to be transported as pets on Defense Department flights, including the Patriot Express.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Corey Klucker, 721st Aerial Port Squadron, places a cat on a conveyor belt outside the passenger terminal at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in May 2020. A rule change implemented in August 2021 by Air Mobility Command allows only cats and dogs to be transported as pets on Defense Department flights, including the Patriot Express. (Taylor Slater/U.S. Air Force)

Passengers wishing to travel with an emotional support animal only needed to provide a document from a licensed health professional that said the traveler has a mental or emotional disability and needed the animal during the flight or at their destination. 

Traveling with a service animal, on the other hand, requires passengers to submit a signed statement prior to departure, detailing the training the dog received, attesting that it is in good health and pledging to keep it under control and prevent it from relieving itself in the plane or the terminal, according to a Pentagon memorandum announcing the rule change. 

Before the changes, some air passengers flew — or tried to fly — with emotional support animals such as horses, hamsters, pigs, ducks, turkeys and an anteater. 

One passenger was turned away from a New Jersey airport in 2018 after showing up for a United flight with an emotional support peacock, according to media reports at the time. 

It was unclear whether anyone had tried to fly with emotional support animals other than dogs or cats on DOD flights prior to the rule change. 

Diesel waits in his kennel inside the passenger terminal at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Friday, May 29, 2020, before boarding a Patriot Express flight bound for Baltimore, Maryland. Emotional support animals are now counted as pets on Air Mobility Command flights, meaning they count toward the maximum of two animals that can travel on the Patriot Express with authorized passengers.
Diesel waits in his kennel inside the passenger terminal at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, on Friday, May 29, 2020, before boarding a Patriot Express flight bound for Baltimore, Maryland. Emotional support animals are now counted as pets on Air Mobility Command flights, meaning they count toward the maximum of two animals that can travel on the Patriot Express with authorized passengers. ()

The new regulations limit the definition of pets to cats and dogs. 

“Other animals, such as horses, fish, birds, and rodents, ferrets, spiders, and other reptiles are excluded as pets under this authority because of their size, exotic nature, shipping restrictions, host nation restrictions, and special handling difficulties,” the rules state. 

Spaces on AMC flights for service animals and pets can be booked up to 90 days ahead of travel. Passengers traveling under permanent change of station orders can ship up to two pets per family if the number of animals allowed on their flight has not been exceeded, the new rules state. 

Up to 20 dogs and cats will be carried in the cabin on DOD flights during peak PCS season this year, Wallace said. Pets must be in carriers that fit under the seat in front of the traveler. Service animals must travel at the passenger’s feet or be held on their lap. 

The number of pets that can be carried in the cargo hold will vary depending on the size of the crates in which the animals are traveling. 

Military families wait in line with their pets while preparing to check in for a Patriot Express flight to the U.S. on Friday, May 29, 2020, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Emotional support animals are now counted as pets on Air Mobility Command flights, meaning they count toward the maximum of two animals that can travel on the Patriot Express with authorized passengers.
Military families wait in line with their pets while preparing to check in for a Patriot Express flight to the U.S. on Friday, May 29, 2020, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Emotional support animals are now counted as pets on Air Mobility Command flights, meaning they count toward the maximum of two animals that can travel on the Patriot Express with authorized passengers. (Jennifer H. Svan/Stars and Stripes)

twitter Email

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up