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)