A woman was kicked off a Frontier Airlines flight after the airline refused to allow the squirrel she was carrying be considered an “emotional support animal,” according to multiple reports.
According to Fox 8 Cleveland, Frontier Airlines Flight 1612 was scheduled to take off from Orlando International Airport en route to Cleveland on Tuesday when the incident occurred prior to take off.
“The passenger noted in their reservation that they were bringing an emotional support animal but it was not indicated that it was a squirrel,” the airline said in a statement provided to Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV.
Frontier Airlines did not respond to Business Insider when asked for a comment.
Frontier Airline requires emotional support animals or ESAs to be either a dog or a cat and does not allow “unusual or exotic animals including but not limited to rodents, reptiles, insects, hedgehogs, rabbits.”
Fox 8 reports that when the crew explained the policy to the passenger and asked her to leave with the squirrel, she refused. Orlando police were called and the entire plane had to be deplaned so they could escort the passenger off the aircraft.
West Palm Beach TV NBC 5 reports that the flight was delayed two hours before it finally took off for Cleveland.
Service animals are trained to assist people with disabilities — such as blindness or hearing loss — while emotional-support animals are companions that a mental health professional has determined benefits a person with a disability.
In the last year, most major domestic airlines have instituted new policies aimed at limiting the kinds of animals that can be considered “emotional support.”
For instance, in July, Delta Air Lines announced “pit bull type dogs” will no longer be accepted as service or emotional support animals to accompany owners on flights, a policy change which includes limiting one ESA per customer.
Starting November 1, 2019, Frontier’s new ESA policy states the animal must either be a cat or dog, be limited to one and stowed under the seat. The airline requires 48 hours notice, a completed Mental Health Professional Form signed by the customer’s licensed mental health expert and an Animal Behavior Form signed by the customer that acknowledges the animal takes trained commands.
Photos and videos of the women and her emotional support squirrel being deboarded from the plane were posted on social media on Wednesday.