Should The DOT Finally Address Phony Emotional Support Animals?

Filed Under: Travel

I love animals, and left to my own devices would probably have a home with dozens of dogs, cats, and pigs running around. Personally I’m not allergic to any animals, and always have a smile on my face when I see someone with their pet. However, I recognize others don’t feel that way.

I think we can all agree that a lot of people abuse the ability to take “emotional support animals” onto planes. That’s no surprise, since the rules are written in such a way that they’re almost meant to be broken. While I’m not here to judge peoples’ individual “emotional” situations, I think we can all agree that some service animals are more legitimate than others. For example, there’s a difference between a well trained dog guiding a blind person, and a person traveling with their chihuahua in a purse because they’re an anxious person.

But given that just about anyone can easily get a license for an “emotional support animal,” and given the fear airlines have of questioning the status of peoples’ support animals, we now frequently see people taking their pets on planes just for fun.

The Detroit Free Press has an interesting article about emotional support animals, and about how the DOT has set up a committee of experts to try and address this issue, though they couldn’t come to a consensus:

But it is such a vexing problem that not even a committee of experts appointed by the U.S. Department of Transportation earlier this year could agree to a solution. It voted in November to discontinue discussions because further talks seemed unlikely to reach a consensus.

While I wouldn’t count on it actually happening, a DOT spokesperson has said that the organization may sit down and rewrite the rules on emotional support animals themselves:

A DOT spokesperson said the department is now considering rewriting the rules for service and emotional support animals on its own, but a timetable has not been set.

DOT said the rules would “address the concerns that have been raised with the department regarding the definition of a service animal” under federal law, and “instances of passengers falsely representing that their pets are service animals in order to avoid pet fees that airlines may charge for pets to travel in the aircraft cabin.”

DOT said U.S. carriers are required under the Air Carrier Access Act to transport all service and emotional support animals with a few exceptions, such as snakes, ferrets, rodents and spiders. Airlines must evaluate unusual animals such as the miniature horses, pigs and monkeys on a case-by-case basis. A single passenger can have two or more service animals.

It doesn’t sound to me like the DOT has any concrete plans to address this yet, though I really think they should. Like I said, I love pets. However, I’m also not a fan of a system where those who can get their animals certifications can take them on flights, while those who try to be honest can’t. I’d be all for letting pets onto planes under more conditions (though I realize that’s not happening), but let’s call it like it is.

Should the DOT address “emotional support animals?” What do you think the solution should be?

(Tip of the hat to LoyaltyLobby)

  1. Yes , and my niece is one of the guilty. Fake doctor note so she could bring her fat farting bull dog on her flight.

  2. If all the emotional support animals were trained well even people like me with allergies wouldn’t have issues. The problem is that airlines flying to/from the US are forced to accept untrained and to a large extent “fake” emotional support animals (saves the hassle of having the animal in the baggage hold and paying for its transportation). Recently on a flight to EWR on LX I was confronted with a dog blocking the aisle, the crew waited way too long before complaining, in the end the dog was sleeping on the seat and the owner on the floor, on another flight back to the EU there was a cat hiding under a seat in the F cabin. Luckily a lot of the European carriers only accept dogs and cats and only on flight to/from EU or with a ticket originating/ending in the US.

  3. I’d rather just have them mandate lower pet fees. At $125 each way the fees are rather steep. I don’t blame people for trying to bring fake emotional support animals. Airline fees are just insane.

  4. Yes. It’s ridiculous. Just ban all service animals all together. Then I hope those narcissistic jack holes who bring their fake support animals feel horrible for screwing over those who really need them.

  5. I think if the airlines reduced their ridiculous pet fees there would be far less abuse of the rules. I personally haven’t gamed the system by calling my dog an “emotional support animal” but I’d be lying if I said I’ve never considered it. There have been a few times where my dogs’ ticket was more expensive than my own. Cut the fees in half and this problem would go away I think.

  6. Thank you for bringing this up. Blind people can get their dog, sure. But that’s it.

    This is what participation trophy culture has done to America. Most people actually aren’t very special and no, you actually aren’t entitled to special treatment.

    Stop teaching your kids they’re special just for existing. They aren’t. Neither are the people reading here. Most of you are forgettable people. That doesn’t mean you can’t live a happy life. It just means you haven’t earned the right to impose your whims on the rest of us.

    Instead, teach them to do extraordinary things if they want to earn the right to, say, travel with their emotional support zebra (on their own private jet, please).

  7. I am honestly so for this. The amount of times I’m traveling in F and there’s someone with a dog or cat I’m allergic to and makes my flights bothersome is insane. Mostly my ORD to DFW and LAX to DFW are always loaded with em. Please DOT, do something about it

  8. Took a very FULL coast to coast JetBlue (Mint!) flight last night where a single passenger/single tix – boarded (early) w/ 3 emotional support (small) dogs (3 separate bags) + an overstuffed roller-bag. Dilemma for JB was where she’d “store” her dogs as only 1 dog/bag fit under her seat. Other issue was that she was seen taking the dogs to/from the lavatory to allow for bathroom breaks (heard other passengers say that it smelled as such). Jetblue said there’s is no limit to the # of emotional support animals that can be taken by 1 passenger, on 1 tix. I support the DOT setting rules for on-boarding emotional support animals for the sake of all passengers.

  9. PTSD is a very serious problem which afflicts veterans who’ve served in combat especially hard. If a 20 lb pooch is too much for some of the sniveling whiners, Good! You’re more obnoxious to fly with than most animals.

    Of course, like the Brits, they should be limited to small dogs and cats of the size airlines otherwise charge outrageous fees for.

    Personally, I find other’s small pets relax the airport/airplane experience considerably, especially for children ( who can also be more of a nuisance than small pets).

    If there were just some way to get the chronic complainers on a Do-Not-Fly list.

  10. Thanks for bringing this up. I agree the situation is being gamed beyond belief and is getting out of control. It’s time for corrective action.

  11. No. Because every time anything like this is messed with, the only ones who end up suffering for it are the ppl who honestly need it. I am one so I know!

  12. I think it might be easier to control this if all ’emotional support animals’ (so that discounts those who provide physical support – like seeing eye dogs) had to be certified by the treating psychiatrist. Those fees might rival the pet transport fees people are seeking to avoid. But it would also mean that those diagnosed as suffering from PTSD etc would be covered.

    That’s my 2¢

    The psychiatrist is in.

  13. >No. Because every time anything like this is messed with, the only ones who end up suffering for it are the ppl who honestly need it. I am one so I know!

    Are you blind? If not, you don’t NEED it.

  14. I have had a Service Dog for 3 1/2 years that has been a great help with my mobility and PTSD. 3yrs ago she traveled with us from Chicago to Hawaii and back on Alaskan Airlines without any issues. She didn’t have ANY REGISTRATION PAPERS because the ADA Regulations don’t require them. Hawaii has strict rules on bringing a Dog to the islands. To be able to accompany me I had to provide her Health records verifying her vaccines were up to date. Also a specific Rabies Titer blood was needed to prevent bringing Rabies to the Islands Alonso with letters from my Drs. The major problem with all these FAKE DOGS is the ADA Regulations don’t require certification for a Service Dog. The need to setup guidelines and requirements that the Trainers and Facilities need to meet. Especially What they need to train the DOGS to be able to do. Then there needs to be a TEST of various things that the Dog needs to be able to do and PASS BEFORE it can be CERTIFIED.
    I also feel that all the training needs to be at the Clients home. That is because each clients envirenment and daily activities are unique to them specifically. Such as what they do and where they go every day. The Dog needs to behave in all of those situations and assist the Client as needed in All of them. A good start is the AD I Test. There standards are high and most trainers in the US can’t meet them.

  15. I really hope the DOT does something about this. I’ve actually heard people brag about gaming the system to bring their pet on the plane. They’re abusing a system designed to help people who really need it. It’s the same thing as getting a fake handicapped parking decal so you can park closer.

  16. They need to look at safety for all of the other passengers. Need to have limits or people will scam the system. 100+ lb pit bull service animal too much on recent flight – try to exit quickly with that blocking the exit! Like small children – rules there for a reason, set the rules DOT!!!

  17. I love dogs. I have a dog and he is the best. But I could never consider my 12-pound shih tzu an “emotional support animal” (although he’s always there to give me a hug when I’ve had a rough day!). I’d rather pay a fee than lie. That being said, I’m not sure he’d be particularly comfortable in flight, so he’s never traveled with me.

    I don’t like that people abuse the system and I don’t like that we, culturally, are so afraid of offending someone’s tender sensibilities that we would allow things like “emotional support” bichon frisees to avoid asking what kind of emotional support said animal provides. There are legitimate service dogs out there who provide genuine support, and then there are people who just want to fly with their animals and don’t want to pay.

    And @bart, sounds like a major lawsuit waiting to happen.

  18. @William Y:

    That is the most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard. Our society has a serious problem discounting there seriousness of emotional disabilities. Just because an illness is on someone’s head doesn’t make it less serious than a physical illness. In fact, mental illnesses often lead to physical illness.

  19. I feel that conditions should exist but reasonable ones. To the commenters who believe there should be only seeing eye dogs. Well do some research. There’s dogs trained for various conditions. Even therapy dogs. Emotional support dogs are legit. You only have to look at their behavior to tell the difference. A dog not well behaved is definitely not a support dog. I have a support dog and she is well behaved. My biggest problem is that people including kids all want to pet her. What happened to the rules about a working support dog.
    I’m all for smaller/medium support dogs. And I feel that it’s past needing the support if they need to have more than one dog.
    No attacks please.

  20. Could not agree more. This is a the biggest BS since anyone can claim whatever emotional distress to bring a zoo inside the plane. I am tired of having these fakers taking advantage of this rule. Also airlines should be more active on this. I’ve seem them announce they won’t serve peanuts on a plane because a passenger is allergic but nobody asks me if I am allergic to a dog or cat before someone boards with them on the plane. BTW, I am very allergic to cats to the point I needed to take trips to the ER by just being on the same house with them. Again, nobody cares about that on a plane.

  21. >That is the most ignorant thing I’ve ever heard. Our society has a serious problem discounting there seriousness of emotional disabilities. Just because an illness is on someone’s head doesn’t make it less serious than a physical illness. In fact, mental illnesses often lead to physical illness.

    Platitudes and strawmen, all of it. Look, if you can’t travel without your four emotional support chihuahuas and your two emotional support swans because of whatever disorder you’ve gotten to absolve yourself of any responsibility for getting your act together, maybe you should stay at home, drive, take a greyhound or something.

    Or, you know, suck it up and get on with it. You’re ruining it for the blind people, lady.

  22. >Well do some research. There’s dogs trained for various conditions. Even therapy dogs. Emotional support dogs are legit.

    Well, I wasn’t implying they were holograms. I’m questioning whether 250+ passengers should have to accommodate these people. I bet most of them would fly just fine without their emotional support ladybugs if they were forced to buy a seat for them.

  23. In Europe (and i guess most countries outside the US) you dont see “emotional support animals” at all – and airlines dont transport them sans container in the cabin…while there might be psychiatric conditions which warrant the need to have an emotional support animal, why do these conditions seem to be very much limited to the US? I see that ex-soldiers developing PTSD might be a condition thats more prevalent in the US than it would be elsewhere, since the US millitary is involved in a number of violent conflicts worldwide – but other than that, why doesnt there seem to be a need for these animals elsewhere?
    I’m absolutely fine with service dogs and emotional support animals for people with war-induced PTSD, but apart from that, it looks like utter nonsense.
    If someone isnt sane enough to be able to travel in an aeroplane without (sometimes even multiple!) dogs, cats or whatnot, I dont think the other passengers should essentially pay for that.

  24. @Joseph Witryk

    You bring up a good point……..I am curious to how many passengers bring their ESAs to Hawaii versus to other parts of the US. Due to Hawaii’s stringent policies in place for health certification of the animal, that alone, may deter those that don’t really NEED their therapy animal with them but rather WANT their household pet with them. It would be interesting to see the stats on ESAs on mainland flights versus flights to the Islands. In my opinion, the ease of garnering a certificate is what exacerbates the problem of fake ESAs. I am one who wholly supports the benefits of therapy animals but I have yet to know someone who needs one but a fair amount of people who have the certificate for their pet to buck the system. It makes me cringe when they so easily share that information, they have no shame at all!

  25. I can’t resist stepping into this one. I’ve published peer-reviewed articles on PTSD in national and international journals, and was a federal consultant to design the national PTSD program after 09/11/2001. Service animals are defined as animals that do something that a person cannot do themselves, like guiding a blind person, alerting a deaf person, etc.

    The evidence shows that emotional support dogs do not help someone with PTSD, and are probably harmful. Someone may prefer to have their dog with them. However, the ADA does not cover such animals. The regulations state “Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.”

    Emotional support animals are covered by the Air Carriers Access Act. The ACAA allows, but doesn’t require airlines to allow animals in the cabin. The airline may request documentation (not more than one year old) on letterhead from a licensed mental health professional stating (1) the passenger has a mental health-related disability listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; (2) having the animal accompany the passenger is necessary to the passenger’s mental health or treatment; (3) the individual providing the assessment of the passenger is a licensed mental health professional and the passenger is under his or her professional care; and (4) the date and type of the mental health professional’s license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued. This documentation may be required as a condition of permitting the animal to accompany the passenger in the cabin.

    In other words, it is not a DOT policy that is allowing the abuses. It is individual airline policy.

    The National Center for PTSD, as well as the VA, specifically denounce emotional support animals because, 1. Unlike blindness or deafness, PTSD is treatable; 2. Dogs are not a substitute for PTSD treatment; 3. There is no evidence that emotional support animals provide any benefit as part of evidence-based treatment for PTSD; 4. Although a person may feel comfort, emotional support dogs usually do more harm than good because they may make the person feel that they cannot do some things on their own; 5. For example, if the dog keeps strangers from coming too close, the owner will not have a chance to learn that they can handle this situation without the dog, and all people are not dangerous; 6. The preponderance of medical evidence suggests that becoming dependent on a dog can get in the way of the recovery process for PTSD; 6. Currently, research is under way to determine if the harm of having an emotional support dog outweighs the pleasure the person feels from having their dog with them; 7. That study has several more years to go before there is any information available.

    Currently, the VA provides free service dogs and free veterinary care for the service dogs of veterans with a disability. Based on available evidence, it does not support the use of emotional support animals. If the study mentioned provides some evidence that there is benefit, and not just harm, they will start allowing psychiatrists to prescribe emotional support animals and will even provide their veterinary care, as they currently do for service animals. Nobody in the field expects that to happen.

  26. I’m certainly not blind but am a diabetic with hypoglycemic unawareness. I have a support dog who is trained to recognize when my blood sugar is dropping to a dangerous level — many times before I realize it. Her awareness saves me from having my blood sugar get so low that it’s too low for me to be able to treat by myself. I’m curious if these commenters think I should be able to have my dog on board the aircraft — and if not, how would they feel if the plane had to make a medical diversion because I passed out from hypoglycemia because I didn’t feel my blood sugar dropping.

  27. Animals on planes for the Sight Impaired only! If you’re so emotionally/mentally unstable that you can’t fly without an animal, perhaps you’re unfit to fly in the first place.

  28. @ Santastico

    Agreed! My wife also suffers severe allergies to both cats and dogs. If there is one on a plane, we go to a fight attendant and politely ask to have the animal separated from my wife by as much distance as possible. The typical response is to minimize our concern, move my wife (not the animal). I am not and animal hater, but which is the priority, animal or human? I am convinced that it is only a matter of time before my wife has a severe reaction and an emergency landing is required.

  29. Right after the DOT/airlines address the ever-growing and ridiculous number of healthy people that now pre-board flights. The average flight pre-board looks like a fleet of wheel chairs and are the same people that block the jetway when departing the plane. Probably not because it doesn’t cost the airlines any revenue.

    The ES animals issue is all about the lost $$$ for the greedy airlines.

  30. No one has mentioned yet the fact that some airlines limit the number of pets they allow in cabin, and this can be just as frustrating as the $125 fee. So if you want to fly with your pet in the cabin (not as an ESA), you have to first book a ticket, then call the airline to reserve a “space” for your dog (even if he’s going in the container under the seat) and if they’re already at the limit for pets in cabin, then you either have to change flights (incurring a steep fee) or put your pet in the cargo hold (which is not healthy for dogs as they are exposed to dangerous noise levels on the ramp, among other things).

    We fly with our 12 pound Maltese all the time. He is hypoallergenic, never barks, and won’t do his business on the plane, even on TATL flights. Since other passengers never notice him, what difference does it make to you? In our opinion, the airlines are the ones gaming the system by charging outlandish pet fees, not us by having him as an ESA.

  31. I am highly allergic to both cats and dogs. Why should I have to sit in a metal tube with recirculating air for hours with a cat or dog? I don’t have a right to breathe? Seriously scale of 0-5 allergies and I am a 5 to both animals, can’t breath after awhile. I have had to be moved away from dogs and cats on a plane and still uncomfortable rows away. We all have to live together so my need to not have an allergic reaction is just as important as the PTSD emotional support animal. 3 dogs on a plane? Really? There has to be another way to support the person with anxiety that does not include an animal on a plane.

  32. I am severely allergic to dogs and cats, and am at high risk of suffocation if exposed. I feel than I need to be able to fly on an airplane without such risk. IF a person is so emotionally unbalanced that they need an animal, and not a human “emotional support” person, then they should not be in a stress-inducing vehicle ( in this case–airplane.)
    Further– please inform me as to exactly HOW a “seeing eye dog” would help a blind person on an airplane ( ? ! ). An airline employee is quite able (we hope) to help a blind person to their seat just as ably as they do a wheelchair-bound person. Please describe how a dog would be useful here. It seems reasonable that the “support animal” could be kept in the non-passenger compartment, and brought to its owner AFTER the flight.
    If airlines, in recognizing the seriousness of the allergic response to allergens in foods (specifically peanuts) now refrains from serving them, then why would they allow animals that are a known antagonist ? Or perhaps, what might be more serious a concern of having or not having animals on planes– anxiety? or anaphylactic shock leading to death? Hopefully the DOT, and the airlines, will consider these perspectives… and consequences.

  33. @ Stephen Brown – The seeing eye dog is not for the flight but for before and after the flight. Given that most animals are sedated for a flight, a dog would not be able to assist it’s blind owner immediately upon arrival, hence the need to fly on board. While I sympathise with your problem I totally support guide dogs being allowed in the passenger cabin. Try walking around with your eyes shut (and being unable to open them) and that may add a little compassion to your soul.

  34. Just have to say, I love @WIlliam Y. I really do. Says it with wit and wisdom. Even when I don’t agree with what he’s saying, I enjoy what he is saying. Makes the comments section of the posts worth reading. Rock on @William Y. Rock on.

  35. Well, OMAAT has a certain blogger who could shed light (not fur) on this topic. Could be interesting and insightful.

  36. Fake ESA should be stopped. My daughter, 18 yrs old died in September. I am suffering from PTSD. Never thought I would. Never imagined I would want a ESA but I do. I have a well trained, non shedding dog that will become my ESA.

    My daughter and I traveled all over the U.S. She kept me for going bonkers on flights. So now I’ll use a service animal as a poor substitute for her.

    I would hate to have that taken from me as well. There is just so much lose and stress I can endure.

    Some of these comments are extreme. Obviously these people have not experienced a profound change in there lives.

    By the way, I’m a veteren of the Army. I’m no wuss. I’m very strong minded but things happen in life that changes one perspective.

  37. It is time for DOT to crack down on “service animals”. A coworker recently purchased a “emotional support” animal vest online for her dog because it was much cheaper than paying the legitimate fee to travel with her pet. She bragged about “ripping off” the airline and boasted that she will continue to use the vest and bring the pet on future flights. These frauds are mocking those people who truly need service animals for legitimate purposes.

  38. As a blind person with a guide dog myself, I really think this should have been addressed a long time ago. A guide dog or a seeing eye dog goes through rigorous training so that it is adequately equipped to deal with all kinds of situations. Most so called emotional support animals turn out to be pets.

    While we are talking about abusing the system, can we also address fake wheelchair users who magically find their feet and run to their boarding gate as soon as they are through security?

  39. I think if animals are being used as support animals they need to be trained and not just have a doctor’s note. There needs to be standards and the problem with abuse is not just in flying but also in housing. So many kids at my daughter’s college need their comfort pet and the apartment owners must allow it. They are college kids with all kinds of animals making messes everywhere and no training or discipline. The problem is that some mess up for those who truly need it. How is a duck or 3 dogs a comfort to someone flying I don’t know. I agree that airline fees are excessive but I just paid several hundreds of dollars for my tenage unaccompanied minor. He was flying first class on a direct flight and I had to pay $320 for them to fill out paperwork. They should charge the same for comfort pets if they are not trained as service animals. People who don’t like flying have the option of driving or taking a train or boat or a xanax.

  40. TPG travels with “Miles” and openly suggests how people can scam the system to take their pets with them.

    I really would rather have peanuts than crappy pretzels.

    Obese people in Canada must be provided with a free extra seat paid for by you and me.

    Many people suffer from DVT’s and are at real risk when they fly but you don’t see airlines or government giving them a break (legroom).

    I guess your problem has to be politically correct in this day and age.

  41. Esa dogs are great. Hope to see more on more flights lets face it most animails are more stable and much better behaved then people. As far as allergies and getting sick from being on the plane. It’s best never to take a plane at all, because you are in an enclosed environment sucking up all those sick peoples germs its petri dush. As far as dogs go many breeds are hypoallergenic. Pets aren’t the problem it’s the people. An esa or therapy dog is a great benfit to peoole and society as a whole. Not to mention a well trained dog will defuse a violent situation quickly and offers great protection. There is reason that esa, therapy, guide dogs, search and rescue, law enforcement, bomb sniffing dogs and general service dogs are supposed to pre-board. With out these life saving dogs are society will be at a loss.Iam sure there are plenty of nefarious folks abusing the system, but not all are so. Faker will always fake and haters will always hate.

  42. Hahaha I didn’t even know this nonsense existed. Emotional support animals? At the expense of other passengers? This is totally sick and absolutely ridiculous. If you are emotionally too unstable to fly, just stay at home until you get over it lah.

    Blind people obviously should be able to bring their dog, but that’s it.

  43. Emotional support animals? FFS!
    I guess we can just forget about customers that are allergic to pets or that might have phobias of animals.
    Anyone else LOVE the idea of occupying a seat on a plane after its previous owner was a hair and fur shedding critter? YUCK!

  44. I have a mobility support dog. His longest trip to date was PHX-MSP-AMS and home AMS-SLC-PHX. He flies with me about 10 times a year, mostly on the west coast. On our trip to Amsterdam I left enough time in Minneapolis (where there are indoor canine relief facilities) to go out through security, provide my dog a relief break, go back in through security and have plenty of time to board my flight. My dog did exactly what he was trained to do on airplanes. He assisted me, curled up and made himself as small as possible, and went to sleep.
    Due to the nature of my disability and the service my dog provides he is necessarily quite large, a 100 lbs. German Shepherd.
    The ADA requires access for service dogs, that is, dogs trained to assist people by performing non-instinctive tasks that mitigate a disability. In the U.S. there is a robust service dog culture including guide dogs for the blind, dogs that alert for seizures, blood sugar, deafness, dogs trained to assist people with mobility impairments, and many others. The ADA does not recognize emotional support animals as service dogs.
    The ACCA requires airlines to carry emotional support animals. Airlines could enforce the existing policy more closely, but currently decline to do so.

    In the interest of contributing to civil discourse I’ll offer the following:
    Service dog teams are as frustrated with fake pet-in-a-vest teams as anyone else. Dogs not trained to behave on an airplane and in other stressful situations perform poorly through the fault of their owners.
    It is a misdemeanor in most states to misrepresent yourself as needing a service animal. It is a form of fraud.
    The ADA is the only civil rights legislation (to my knowledge) that has no pro-active enforcement. There is a helpline, staffed during east coast business hours, to clarify the law to callers. Litigation is arguably the most accessible route for ADA enforcement.
    There is not currently a recognized national certification program or registry. Many local jurisdictions offer some registry. For those in favor of developing such a registry I would want to know: What information would be necessary? How often would it be updated? Who would have access to the information gathered? In order to be effective, it would almost certainly need to be accessible to all. In that case, how would you protect the rights and privacy of people with disabilities? What are the potential unintended uses of the data? Finally, how would the “useless eater” list be paid for and maintained?
    There is a current standard for service dog behavior. The Public Access Test is administered by an uninterested third party. It covers a dog’s behavior in a variety of circumstances, including access challenges (refusing entrance or service to a person with their service dog).

  45. Just reading some of these comments gives me anxiety, and believe me, I’d rather stay at home. To people who think only the blind needs a support animal, I’m glad you’ve lived a decent life so far. I’ve had to endure my childhood filled with emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. I’ve been thrown into my own closet, punched for thinking of calling the cops, and then was forced to sleep outside on a cold January night with nothing but a pillow. That’s just some of the things that still give me nightmares as an adult. Those people who hurt me were the ones who are supposed to protect me. So yeah, I have a lot of anxiety and I can’t stand being outside the safety of my home. My dog is the only living thing I want near me and I really don’t want to be on a crowded plane with a bunch of judgmental people who make me feel even worse than I already do. Unfortunately, the only other person I’ve ever let close to me wants to see their family on the other side of the country and I’m forced to go along. Being forced to go somewhere I don’t want to be without the only thing that can make me feel safe is beyond me. I hate that people abuse the system, because suspicion falls on people like me too. But just make it all simple. Have a weight limit, charge a fair few, and if the dog is well behaved, let it on board. If it’s over the weight limit and/or not well behaved enough, deny boarding. Problem solved for everyone complaining about dogs on a flight. Now if only we could require the same for people….

  46. So someone who is allergic to cats and dogs has to suffer because an animal is onboard however we get our nuts taking away when one person is allergic to them?

  47. I think the real problem is that traveling with pets should be standardized in an affordable and more straight forward way. People would likely not fake emotional support dog status if it wasn’t so hard to travel with pets.
    Let’s be honest, kids are far more annoying than dogs most of the time.

  48. @Roberto – are you diabetic with the same issues Jordan has?

    Or a diabetes specialist?

    Not trolling here or being unpleasant, but I don’t read that content as from an informed place. She may well have other factors involved.

  49. This whole discussion must be hilarious to people who are based outside the US.

    What next? Bringing snakes on a plane for emotional support?

    Maybe I should rock up with my emotional support alligator and see how that goes.

  50. With so many comments i doubt anyone will get as far as mine. I had no idea the system was as abused this much. I love animals and smile when i seethem boarding a flight or in the tefminsl. Makes me miss my three sheep dogs and wish i could take them with me. Or at least the well behaved one. My opinion this should be limited to dogs and cats, there should be a size limit, does someone really try to bring a small horse or goose onboard ? There should be a linit of 1 animal, passengers should be required to present confirmation thier animal is up to date on their vacines. It may not be practical but only hypo alergetic animals should be allowed. I am not personally alergic, i have friends who are they need to be alerted if there is an animal in the cabin.

  51. So, because you are mentally imbalanced, you get impinge on my rights and my health. I say no.

    As with others experiences on commuter flight last week, woman with average size mutt boards with 2 oversize carry-on. Just yesterday in Starbucks, some retard feeding his Chihuahua at indoor table, with it licking the table. If you’re that mentally incapacitated that you can’t have a cup of coffee without a “support” animal, you don’t belong in public.

  52. @Jordan – hypoglycemia awareness dogs might not be necessary on a flight. Alternative would be to check fingerstick blood glucose every hour or two while on the plane. That is probably more reliable than hoping the dog catches it 100% of the time.

    I think having people pay a fee or get a seat for their emotional support animals would drop their utilization dramatically. Actually, I don’t like the idea of getting a seat b/c then they will think the animal belongs on the seat. And I’ve seen some big dogs (80-100lbs) on airplanes that had to sit in the aisle b/c there wasn’t room for them.

    I’m a primary care doctor and get asked to write these notes a couple of times per year. So far I’m about 0 for 15 approving them.

  53. Wow! Clearly most of you don’t understand psychiatric conditions. I am one of those ‘anxious’ people with PTSD. My psychiatrist wrote a letter so I can bring my 5 pound toy poodle who has helped me go out and senses my heartbeat and comforts me.

    I have had snears from passengers, airline staff studying it. It is stressful and embarrassing. Without my toy I would not be able to visit my family. Shame on you for making light of ‘anxious’ people.

    Airlines require your pet to be under the seat in a crate when you pay a fee. Holding her calms me.

    Common sense should prevail and the online sites that issue letters should be banned.

    I hope none of you ever suffer and go through what many of us. Some of you could use a dose of tolerance and kindness, perhaps anger management.

  54. I am sorry that you experienced such a terrible childhood. I do have one question though…….if flying and being around a large number of people is causing you stress, why in the world would the one person you trust force you to travel across the country? I would never or could ever consider expecting my husband to do something that causes him so much pain. I love and respect him too much to ask that of him.

  55. Except in certain circumstances, recind all ESA designations unless reverifed by a different doctor AND psychaitrist. Except for the blind or deaf, make these permits valid for one year only, unless reverified. If people want to bring their pets, pay for them like everyone else especially since they mean so much to you. And airlines, it’s not like you to let revenue slide by. Enforce the rules.
    Emotional disabilities can and should be remedied through behavior change and adaption. Many are disabled in some form or fashion, but when people boast of scamming the system, clearly the system is being abused.

  56. Wow I can t believe what DONNA stated… That all emotional support animals should be banned…. Well DONNA… Here’s the way it is for me… I have suffered from severe anxiety attacks since teenager… And flying was impossible for me.! I can now fly with lower anxiety with my emotional support dog… A 12 lb maltese… Who is very well behaved sits on my lap the entire flight… Doesn t bark or disturb other passengers… Passengers and flight crew are always commenting on how well behaved Sami is.. Southwest has a policy a policy only one service / emotionally support animal per person… Only dog or cats are allowed…. And there must be a letter from a state certified Dr or psycologist… If all airlines followed this … Then there would be much less abuse to the system…

  57. Quite a bit of the abuse stems from how the airlines treat animals when they are flown below the plane. Many people have told me that they would not abuse the “emotional support” animal requirement if they knew their animals would be safe and unharmed below the plane. The airlines need to ensure the animals are well-treated.

    The DOT needs to provide clear guidelines for what qualifies as an emotional support animal. The abuse is impacting people who really need them including people who need service animals which is traditionally thought of as for people with visual impairments but extends to many other disabilities.

    The DOT also needs to develop a plan to address people with allergies and asthma. A person with a service or emotional support animal should not trump a person who has life threatening allergies. Otherwise, the ADA is then providing a preference from one issue over the other.

    Janice S. Lintz, CEO/Founder, Hearing Access & Innovations

  58. Eliminate them altogether. If someone cannot supposedly fly without a service animal, then, that person shouldn’t fly at all – period

  59. I just saw an ad earlier today where a trader had a “comfort pony” to get him through his work day. 🙂 I see ponies are not on the DOT banned list, but you know even the smallest horses can leave quite a pile. It was cute though.

  60. Patricia, why is it that you expect everyone else to accommodate you because you have a problem? Don’t be a snowflake.

  61. What is the issue here ?
    Is that folks are “gaming the system” to bring a pet on board under the guise of an ESA in order to save $125 or so ? I suspect 99% of the readers here would have no problem finding a way to get a seat upgrade for free by bending the rules.
    Are you all saying that pets should never be allowed on a plane, even for a fee? Since the airlines have already decided that issue ( yes, you can pay to take a pet) then I guess it comes back to somebody gaming the system. Makes me think of all you fools running around to buy gift cards with your credit cards and other MS endeavors. Certainly not the intent of the card issuers or retailers that shut you down in this perverse game of whack a mole.

    As for allergy sufferers, I am sympathetic but there is no form of public transport that is aseptic and unfortunately you must be prepared for that. Heck, a car ride from your BFF that happens to own a cat and has dander all over their seats and clothes could be a problem. So, how can this emotional support animal issue be such a crisis.

    Lucky–What is your specific beef here…have you just not found a way to play this game and resent that someone else does or is the sight of a few pets disguised as service animals just too much to bear. Something more going on with you here to spill this much ink on an issue that doesn’t affect you !

  62. So, like, people with any mental illness should just never leave the house because their existence inconveniences you? Congratulations on your ableism. Some of the commenters here are honestly disgusting.

    I think phony service animals should absolutely be dealt with, because it makes the rest of us (i.e. people who actually need them) look back. I have an allergy to both cats or dogs, but I also have several mental illnesses. I’d never want to take away a necessary support animal from someone who truly needs it. If there’s a dog sitting next to me, I ask to be reseated. Usually not an issue. The alternative is asking people with disabilities not to leave the house. You literally don’t want them to live their lives and take advantage of opportunities because you can’t be bothered to act like a decent human being. I personally happen to be allergic to babies, maybe people with them should also not leave the house is they feel so compelled to travel with a small parasite? 😉

  63. I think that a section of the plane that accommodates for service animals / emotional support animals should be made as to help alleviate concerns of other passengers who do not want to fly next to say dog, cat, or in some extreme circumstances, a turkey. Although yes some people do abuse the system, I think its extremely important for us to be able to fly with our ESA’s in the cabin of the airplane. I had a lot of questions when I initially obtained my emotional support animal letter, and I eventually decided to use as they provide legal letters from licensed therapist, and were very helpful in walking me through the process. They have a really good blog article about ESA basics, and Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.’s) that might be worth a look if anyone is interested. – Hope this helps others if they are thinking about obtaining a legal ESA letter. – Cheers

  64. I think fees should be charged for ANY animal. Actually, it would be great if they would charge MORE than the cost of cargo fees for bringing an animal on the plane for ANY reason. Pretty sure this would slow the tide. Think about it. Airlines are charging for everything these days: carry ons, snacks, movies, choosing your seat….how on earth can people get away with bringing on a pet that makes lots of other people uncomfortable?

  65. It seems like a lot of people are failing to consider that many of the ES animals they’re complaining about would probably still be traveling… A crackdown on ES animals isn’t suddenly going to remove all animals from the cabin.

    I also don’t understand why so many commenters are upset about the people with ES animals “gaming the system”, after all isn’t Lucky’s entire premise gaming airline frequent flyer/credit card rewards programs to fly up front for a cheaply as possible?

    I’m flying to the US next week with my pet. The pet in cabin fee is ~$500 roundtrip for the pet to ride under the seat and be counted as a carry-on (I’m not entirely sure what I’m actually paying for here actually). I paid $400 for the flight. I would have bought a second seat, but would have to pay the pet fee in addition. With that sort of nonsensical pricing I don’t blame people for trying the game the system a bit.

  66. I agree that the high fees that airlines are charging to fly pets in cabin let alone in cargo are just ridiculous and very much contributing to this. Wasn’t long ago I could fly a dog under my seat for $50 each way. Now it’s $150 or more and often costs more than my ticket does. It’s ridiculous. One way they could crack down is to IMMEDIATELY shut down all online sites for obtaining registrations, such as the one someone else posted. The papers are supposed to be acquired from a doctor or mental health professional that is TREATING you, not from someone you chat with for a few minutes on Skype (if even that) and who gives anyone that pays for it the necessary papers to get your dog on a flight as an ESA. If that’s what you did, you are a FRAUD plain and simple. They should have something similar to prescriptions that can be tracked back to the prescribing doctor and all these online sites selling fake papers should be completely made illegal. If people could only get the certification from actual legitimate professionals, and the airlines would stop price gouging pet owners then this would be far less of a problem. As it is, it’s only going to get worse.

  67. Also cracking down on them won’t prevent pets on planes, but the in-cabin number of pets has always generally had a limit per flight that allows for people with allergies to not be adversely affected, and the animal having to be in a crate under the seat also as well making them FAR more inconspicuous during the flight (when I flew with my dog, the passengers around me never even knew he was there, although I would usually let the ones nearest me know in case they did have allergies and wanted to move, but never did have an issue with that). As for that site… typical scam site for ESAs, that even talks about “Getting your letter from a certified therapist in minutes!”. That actually is NOT legal because that is NOT a treating therapist that is providing it. It’s only legal in the sense that no airline would question the document that they would give you and I assume they are using someone with some sort of therapy certification (that probably can’t get a real job to be spending their time doing something like this). Sites like these are a dime a dozen these days, and are making a killing off people that want to fly their pets on flights with them. They NEED to be SHUT DOWN, period.

  68. @MJ Smink
    The letter process did not take minutes, and in fact was comprehensive. The pre-qualification however took only a few minutes. BTW the ESA letter from licensed mental health professional was valid and accepted by the airline.

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