Earlier in the year Hollywood Report said this is the golden age of flying thanks to the ability of anyone — Hollywood star or not — bring their emotional support turkey on a plane. For free.
I’ve taken my Yorkshire Terrier on a few flights over the years but not in quite some time. He fits just fine under the seat and simply goes to sleep for most of the flight. He gets a thorough walk before and after, and I’ve timed flights with his usual nap times. Other passengers remark at the end of the flight when he comes out from underneath that they didn’t even know he was there.
Registrations of service animals rose from about 2400 five years ago to over 20,000 last year.
We have a really strange bifurcated system now where you have to pay ~ $150 each way to take a pet on board and they have to remain in a carrier throughout the flight. But call that same pet an emotional support ‘service animal’ and they can come out of the carrier and don’t cost anything.
The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 prohibits airlines from discriminating against passengers with disabilities, and thus they must make reasonable accommodations for them which allow them to fly — like having access to their emotional support animals.
While in theory they don’t have to allow any animal that would be disruptive to the flight, there’s legal risk in a flight attendant or even captain making that decision on the spot.
There’s currently no firm rules or safe harbors for airlines to dispute a claim that an animal is necessary as a reasonable disability accommodation, but that’s under review by a Department of Transportation Committee.
The LA Times covers meetings of the Accessible Air Transportation advisory committee that will be wrapping up. Airlines and disability rights groups have been in discussions over what animals ought to be permitted onboard, and what documentation ought to be required.
- One position, held by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, is that dogs, rabbits, and cats should be permitted.
- The Autistic Self Advocacy Network wants to include birds as well, but is opening to banning ducks, turkeys, and chickens.
- Requiring a doctor’s note is controversial because it “would be stigmatizing.”
- The position of airlines, reportedly, is that only “dogs and miniature horses” should be allowed as service animals and that these emptional support horses (and dogs) should be kept in carriers throughout the flight.
Apparently no one is advocating for emotional support pigs or for monkeys. Although there’s a whole different set of rules for animals who are celebrities.
Six months of meetings wrap up in October, although it’s not clear yet whether there will be a consensus or whether their recommendations will lead to adoption of rule changes.
Have emotional support animal claims gotten out of control? Are people taking advantage? What should be done about it?