Delta Airlines cracks down on fake service dogs (and snakes, turkeys and spiders, too)

PECULIAR, Mo. -- If it seems like you’re seeing more and more service dogs at airports, you are.

Delta Airlines said the number of dogs on its planes has shot up 150 percent in the last three years.

But now the airline is cracking down on passengers passing off their pets as service animals, and some local veterans who live with actual service dogs say they’re thrilled.

“We have our dogs for a reason. It’s for a disability,” said Kevin Owens, an Army veteran. “It’s not so we can take Fifi out to the store just because.”

Owens served in the infantry during Operation Desert Storm, and he relies on his service dog, Kloe, to win the daily battles at home.

“She’ll tell me if I’m getting ready to have a panic attack or when my anxiety is high,” Owens said. “She wakes me up from nightmares at night.”

Last week Delta Airlines announced a strict new policy regarding service and support animals after announcing an 84 percent increase in animal incidents over the last two years.

In addition to dogs, Delta said other passengers have tried to board with snakes, spiders, turkeys and even opossums.

Starting March 1, Delta passengers must send the airline medical proof that a service or support animal is necessary 48 hours before the flight.

American Airlines said it agrees with Delta’s new policy and is considering following suit.

Owens is delighted the airlines are cracking down and hopes this is just the beginning.

“I wish that would happen across the board, not just on airlines but here on the ground as well,” he said.