Southwest Airlines Changes Service Animal Rules

Dogs, Cats and Miniature Horses Allowed In Cabin

August 14, 2018 - 3:23 pm

Richmond, VA (WRVA) -  If you are looking to travel with an emotional support animal via Southwest Airlines be advised their rules have changed. The following is from the Company's website:

Effective for travel beginning September 17, 2018, Southwest is making changes to our existing policies for accommodating Customers with disabilities who seek to travel with a fully trained service animal in the cabin. Customers with disabilities seeking to travel with a trained service animal must still provide credible verbal assurance that the animal is a trained service animal.  Additionally, note the following changes to our policy:

Southwest will only accept the following species of animals in our cabin as trained service animals – dogs, cats and miniature horses.

Southwest will accept fully trained psychiatric service animals as trained service animals.

Note: A Customer who traveled on his/her outbound flight prior to September 17, 2018, and is returning to his/her origin on or after September 17, 2018, will be allowed to transport his/her trained service animal in accordance with the existing policy below.


A fully trained service animal is individually trained to perform a task(s) or work for a person with a physical and/or mental disability.

Southwest Airlines welcomes trained service animals accompanying a Customer with a disability on our flights as long as the Customer is able to provide the credible verbal assurance that the animal is a trained service animal.

Note: Service animal ID cards or service animal registry paperwork is not accepted as sole indication an animal is a trained service animal.

Southwest Airlines does not accept therapy dogs for transportation.

We also do not allow a Customer to travel with an unusual or exotic animal (including, but not limited to: rodents, ferrets, insects, spiders, reptiles, hedgehogs, rabbits, or sugar gliders) acting as a trained service animal.

An animal 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 may be denied boarding.

Examples of disruptive behavior include (but are not limited to):

Scratching, excessive whining or barking

Growling, biting, lunging

Urinating or defecating in the cabin or gate area

Booking a reservation

We strongly encourage a Customer to notify us in advance if he/she will be traveling with a trained service animal. When booking a new reservation, a Customer may use the “Add/Edit Disability Options” (situated on the Enter Traveler Info page) to indicate that he/she will be traveling with a trained service animal. After selecting an option(s), click “Continue” and complete the booking process.

If a reservation has already been created, click on the “FLIGHT | HOTEL | CAR” link located on the top of our home page. Then, select “Manage Reservations” from the “Flights” column, input the required information, and select “Continue.” From that page, click on the "Add/Edit” Disability Options link. After selecting an option(s), click “Continue” and the information will be saved to the reservation.

A Customer may contact us about any disability-related travel needs or questions by calling 1-800-I-FLY-SWA (1-800-435-9792) prior to travel.

If an animal does not meet the qualifications to travel as a trained service animal, the animal may be eligible to travel in accordance with our Pet Policy for a fee. 

At the airport

In order to accept an animal as a trained service animal, we must determine both that the Customer seeking travel is an individual with a disability and that the animal is a fully trained service animal.

If a Customer’s status as an individual with a disability is unclear (for example, if the disability is not clearly visible), our Employees may ask fact-finding questions to determine whether an animal is a trained service animal, emotional support animal, or eligible to be accepted as a pet. For example, we may ask how an animal has been trained to assist with a disability or what work it has been trained to perform. A Customer may be asked about the nature of the animal at different points throughout the journey.


In accordance with federal safety regulations, the animal must be positioned so as not to obstruct Customers' expeditious evacuation in the unlikely event of an emergency. In addition, a Customer traveling with a trained service animal cannot sit in an emergency exit seat. An animal can be placed on the aircraft floor or on the Customer’s lap (provided the animal is no larger than a child under the age of two). 

Animals must not:

Extend into the aircraft aisle

Occupy an aircraft seat or encroach upon a neighboring seat

Occupy a tray table

A Customer is not required to transport a trained service animal in a pet carrier. However, if a Customer opts to carry his/her trained service animal in a pet carrier, the carrier must be properly stowed for taxi, takeoff, and landing underneath the seat in front of the Customer.

International travel

A trained service animal will be allowed to travel on flights to/from all domestic and international destinations, but many international destinations have country-specific regulations. A Customer traveling with a trained service animal on an international itinerary is solely responsible for researching and complying with applicable laws, requirements, and/or procedures of each country on the Customer’s itinerary with respect to the acceptance of the animal.

Service Animal Relief Areas

Service animal relief areas are available at each of the locations we serve. Uniformed Southwest Airlines Employees will direct a Customer to these areas upon request.