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Airlines tightening rules on comfort animals — but some say changes are long overdue

MILWAUKEE -- United Airlines says it is cracking down on emotional support animals following Delta's lead. A woman who has flown with her emotional support duck in the past says the changes are long overdue.

He had a note, a ticket, and a big trip planned to fly cross country. United Airlines, however, grounded "Dexter" -- a peacock-- and his owner at a Newark airport in New Jersey, on Wednesday, January 31st.

Thursday, the airline announced new rules for all support animals.

Starting in March, passengers will need new documents from their vet and mental health professionals before emotional support animals can board.

The moves come after an explosion of animals in the air in 2017.

At least one traveling bird's owner, supports the move.

"If you are not actively being treated by a mental health professional you don't need an emotional support animal," said Carla Fitzgerald.

Carla Fitzgerald

We first met Carla Fitzgerald and her emotional support duck, Daniel, in 2016. Fitzgerald, who was living in Cudahy but has since moved to Kentucky, suffers from post traumatic stress disorder from an accident.

She says the move by the airlines is long overdue.

"He's a duck but again, he offers additional support which is exactly what I need. And it does make it harder when people abuse this. It's not fair," Fitzgerald said.

In 2016, FOX6 Investigator Bryan Polcyn, was able to easily obtain a doctor's note online to bring an emotional support goat to the art museum, stores, and even a movie theater.

Fitzgerald says it's gotten out of control.

Carla Fitzgerald and Daniel the duck

"Doctors need to be called. Legitimate doctors need to be called," said Fitzgerald.

At General Mitchell International Airport on Thursday, Brittany Goetzel says she also supports the rule crackdown. Her more traditional support dog, named Luke, helps her with stress and was signed off by her doctor.

"I love him," said Goetzel. "He is the best help ever honestly in my life."

Goetzel says those who exploit the rules hurt those who need their animals -- whether they're a dog or a duck.

"I don't think it should be abused at all," said Goetzel.

Other airlines are likely to follow Delta and United's move. New requirements include agreeing your dog has been trained.