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Service Animal Policy Changes—Effective September 17


Starting September 17, Southwest Airlines will have updated policies that will affect our Customers who travel with an emotional support animal or trained service animal. We hope these changes give our Customers clearer guidelines about the types of animals that can travel on our planes.


Our updates are based on a careful review of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) recent enforcement guidance and feedback we received from our Customers, Employees, and several advocacy groups and animal-related organizations.


Here is a look at the updates we’re making:


Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

Beginning September 17, ESAs:

  • Will be limited to only dogs and cats
  • Will be limited to one per Customer
  • Must remain in a carrier or be on a leash at all times

Customers traveling with an ESA will still need to present a complete, current letter from a doctor or licensed mental health professional on the day of departure.


Trained Service Animals

  • In alignment with recent Department of Transportation (DOT) 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.

As is the case today, the Customer with the disability must be able to provide the credible verbal assurance that the animal is a trained service animal.


Formally Recognizing Psychiatric Support Animals (PSAs)

And, we’re excited to announce that starting in September, Southwest will formally recognize trained psychiatric service animals (PSAs) as trained service animals. PSAs are trained to perform a task or work for a person with a mental health-related disability. For these animals, like other trained service animals, credible verbal assurance will be accepted. Though we’ve informally accepted PSAs in the past, we’re really pleased to formalize this type of service animal for our Customers.


Animal Behavior

For the Safety of both our Customers and our Employees, all emotional support and trained service animals must be trained to behave properly in a public setting and under the control of the handler at all times. An animal that engages in disruptive behavior, like scratching, growling, or urinating in the gate area, may be denied boarding.


If you’re interested in learning, check out the chart below and the new information we’ve posted on our website here.

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