Categories: airline travel

Airlines should differentiate between emotional support animals and service animals and ban the former

Proposal are afoot in America to limit animals allowed in the cabin of aircraft, out of carriers, to professionally trained service animal dogs.

Mishka. You won’t see this in future in the US. Photo in public domain.

Domestic cats will be excluded from proposed new rules on what animals are allowed into the cabin of American airliner aircraft as service animals, as are a raft of emotional support animals from a ‘supportive peacock’ to a turkey, pigs and horses. The current state of affairs has been described as ‘the days of Noah’s Ark in the air’.

These days are coming to an end because of abuses of the system and a dramatically increased number of complaints by passengers. There were 719 complaints in 2013 and 3,065 in 2018. Untrained animals have caused real problems among passengers including biting them and crew members, fighting with other pets, pooping in the aisle and causing allergic reactions in those passengers who are allergic to certain pets, which must include cats.

Reflecting the semi-chaotic state of affairs with regards to animals allowed out of carriers, in the cabin on passenger aircraft, it is reported in The Times that passengers have tried to board aircraft with snakes, spiders, gliding possums and, on one occasion, a squirrel. They cause delays in boarding.

Under new rules suggested by the US Department of Transportation airlines would be able to differentiate between emotional support animals and professionally trained service animals and exclude the former.

An emotional support animal is one that helps to relieve symptoms of the owner’s emotional issues (incorrect? Please provide your definition in a comment). A service animal is one that is professionally trained to perform tasks that assist a disabled person.

Just allowing dogs as service animals in the cabin will not preclude other animals as pets in carriers and for a fee. This would not solve the allergic reaction problem mentioned above. The Americans With Disabilities Act does not recognize cats as service animals. They are naturally less suited to the task as they are harder to train and can’t in all honesty be walked on a leash. Although technically cats can be service animals and there are many therapy cats visiting hospitals and other institutions.

Emotional support animals require supporting documentation from the human passenger’s GP, psychiatrist or social worker on treating a mental health condition and some expect to see a letter from a vet about the animal concerned. This seems to be a way of assessing an emotional support animal.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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