Updated January 19, 2018 3:48 PM EST
DALLAS – Soon Delta Air Lines will require additional documentation for passengers who carry service animals with them on flights. This occurs in the midst of an increase in animal incidents, including a dog attack last year.
Beginning March 1, customers must provide proof of health or vaccinations for their animals 48 hours in advance. In addition, owners of emotional support animals must sign a statement confirming that their animal can behave. However, the new requirements do not apply to pets that remain in kennels during flights.
The new Delta rules are aimed at two different types of animals. The first ones are service animals, who receive specific training to help blind or disabled passengers. Then there are the emotional support animals, which do not require training at all. Both fly free and do not need to be caged during the flight.
Federal regulators have interpreted a travel access law of 1986 to allow support animals in airplane cabins and in apartment buildings that do not allow pets. But some people use untrained pets to get them on a free plane, especially since it's easy to go online to.
Delta said the idea behind the new regulations is to keep trained service animals and emotional support animals safe from aggressive ones. In general, the airline says it carries 700 services or support animals every day. But people have tried to fly with everything from turkeys, to snakes, spiders and even opossums, which are also known as sugar gliders.
Since 2016, the company reported an increase of 86 percent in "animal incidents", which include animals that urinate, bite or show acts of aggression. Last June, a 70-pound dog that was flying as a support animal bit another passenger several times in the face on a Delta airplane in Atlanta. The victim was hospitalized.
"The increase in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in health screening and training for these animals is creating unsafe conditions in American air travel," said John Laughter, senior vice president of security and protection of the airline. "As a safety leader, we work with our Disability Advisory Council to find a solution that supports those customers with a legitimate need for these animals, while prioritizing a safe and consistent travel experience."
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