Emotional Support Animals on airplanes are getting out of control

Emotional Support Animals provide a very needed service to thousands of people every day all over the United States. There is a small and growing population of people who are using emotional support animals as an excuse to get their pets for free on airplanes, knowing that no one on an airplane or at check in would dare question a valid disability. This allows them to sneak their pets into the cabin, avoiding the pet fees many airlines charge.

There have been reports online of people bringing their emotional support dogs, pigs, chickens, and even kangaroos on board.

Emotional Support Animal

Dog on a Plane

Some of these animals may have indeed been legitimate emotional support animals with a valid purpose and valid certification from an accredited doctor.

I am also not taking anything away from service animals, mostly dogs, that serve a specific purpose. Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for their human counterpart. Some open doors, some help to prevent medical emergencies, and some can help navigate life as a blind person that much easier.

Last month we wrote about a passenger who took emotional support animals to a new level, bringing onboard her giant dog and lying on the floor with him. They cuddled on the floor and flight attendants were afraid to wake her when the seatbelt sign came on. The main reason being that the dog was being very aggressive with many of the crew and interfering with the duties of the FA’s every time they came down the aisle with their carts.

Emotional Support Animals

Dog on a Plane

Just this weekend we were onboard an Alaska Airlines flight and we saw another ESA situation get out of control.

The Culprit

A woman was traveling with her child and grandchild on the flight and had a dog with them. The dog did not have a carrier and was what looked to be a miniature schnauzer. Each of these passengers brought on two giant carryon bags, massive coats and jackets, and then for their animal they brought on even more blankets and even a suitcase for their emotional support animal. There were so many things that they had to leave them in the front galley of the aircraft and make two trips back to coach, otherwise they would have hit everyone’s head along the way.

Emotional Support Animals

The woman who was walking the dog on the leash almost tripped twice over the dog and practically strangled it, paying no mind to where the dog was or what it was doing. You could tell by the looks on the flight attendant’s faces that they were NOT happy about the situation.

As the flight went on we asked the flight attendants what the policy was when you see something as crazy as this coming on board. Their directive was that once it makes it past the check in agents and the gate agents, their hands are pretty much tied.

Service animal or…

The more that we spoke with them in the flight, we learned that this passenger claimed that the dog was a “search and rescue animal” and then when they realized that wasn’t going to fly (since search and rescue animals require certification and training) they then changed the animal to be an emotional support animal and produced a certification from a doctor that wasn’t in the state we were in or the state that we were going to.

It leads me to believe that this person used one of the many online agencies that you could use to get your animal certified as an emotional support animal. A report aired by an NBC station in Chicago that showed just how easy it was to get the reporter’s emotional support tortoise approved for travel.

I ventured back to use the restrooms and found this passenger holding their dog and standing in the aisle, walking the dog around the cabin.

Emotional Support Animals

Search and Rescue My Ass

What can be done?

After seeing this incident it makes me beg the question… what’s going to be done about this? For every incident that we see there are hundreds that are going around all across the USA, and it’s making many people, including airline employees and passengers, uneasy.

I understand the importance of using service dogs and animals to help with legitimate situations easier and make the lives of those involved better. But, at what point does someone have to step in and say “no, this isn’t going to work, and this isn’t going to fly (literally)?”

It’s a fine line to walk because you don’t want to suggest that someone with a legitimate and certified disability shouldn’t use an animal for support of any kind, but what can be done to stop people from abusing the privilege? Should airlines be allowed to press the issue when an emotional support animal comes on board?

What do you think? At what point are we going to say “enough is enough” and stop people using illegitimate certificates to get their animals onboard an aircraft? Share your thoughts below.

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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132 Comments

  1. “Emotional Support Animals provide a very needed” – Stop right there. If you need an emotional support animal to fly you shouldn’t be able to fly. Basically we have to ban all emotional support animals and only allow trained and certified (which costs thousands of dollars) dogs for the blind or similar disability. No allergy dogs, no emotional support dogs, no PTSD dogs etc etc.

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    • @Nick
      Exactly. Anyone who is so emotionally unstable as to be unable to fly without their pet is a safety and security risk, not to mention the animal itself, since they have no professional training like real service animals. But we all know 99% of the time it’s just shameless selfish behavior on behalf of these people, not real emotional support needs.

      It’s PC culture run amuck. Every company is afraid to call someone out on anything for fear of claims of discrimination and bad PR, so it just gets worse and worse until it gets to the level of ridiculousness, like where we are now. It’s time airlines stop pandering to the small shameless minority and worry more about the safety and enjoyment of the vast majority of their customers. Sadly it will probably take a major safety or security incident before things change.

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      • I wouldn’t say no one should be allowed an Emotional Support animal. Our veterans are coming back with PTSD and Trained dogs can have their backs in situation where they may be triggers.

        I have however spoke to many people at the airport lugging their “Emotional Support” pets along with them and they outright say they are doing it to save the pet fees. I think all that needs to be done is that a real and creditable certification needs to be established for emotional support animals and a pet should only be allowed to be certified when a valid medical note is provided to the certifying organization. In addition, in order to have a Emotional Support pet airlines should ask to see this certification.

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        • I’m with you Tracy, and I wouldn’t dare take away an animal from someone who needs it. Just like many things in life, you should have a proper reason and certification. But who establishes that? The FAA? Does that mean I now have a 20 cent fee on each ticket to pay for the new division? I’m not ok with that.

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          • They should have thier certificate and a letter from the psychiatrist.

        • I have an emotional support animal and you actually do have to have a medical report and it must contain
          – the costumers name
          – The customer have a mental or emotional disability
          – The costumer needs the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and / or activity at the costumers destination
          – The individual providing th assessment is a LINCENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL AND THE COSTUMER IS UNDER THEIR PROFESSIONAL CARE.
          – The date and type of mental health professionals limcence and the state or other justification in which it was issued.

          In my case I have an emotional disability where my dog helps. I do a lot of traveling because of my situation which makes me anxious. I do not have a problem with the actual flying. I have been flying by myself since I was 6. I am now 13 and I need my help of an emotional support animal for my travels.

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          • Yes but i have been on planes with over sized aggressive dogs in the name of safety these dogs should have high training that is monitored to prepare them for there role. As guide dogs do.

      • @WR – Dead on. This whole PTSD for putting your life on the line every day for your country stuff is all a crock. If you can survive combat and watching your pals bleed out in agony in front of you, what’s a little plane ride without Spot? PC culture run amok.

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        • To say that “if you can survive combat, then you can survive without your ESA” is incredibly callous. How did this country get so uncaring? I have an ESA and believe me, I wouldn’t go anywhere outside 20 miles out of my home for too long without her. I survived many years of abuse, but I still get nightmares from those days. My mother had me sleep with nothing but a pillow outside in the backyard on a very cold January night when I was a child. She threatened to kill me so often that I wished for her to do it already so I no longer will have to live in fear. No one came to my rescue, I escaped by myself. Now as an adult, I don’t have many friends and I’m not close to my abusive family. All I have for my emotional well-being is my dog and for the most part, she’s really all I need to function normally everyday. To take her away from me is like taking all I have. Some people would never know what it’s like to have nothing but a dog as a companion. To tell me to live my life without traveling because I’m “too unstable” to fly without an ESA is undescribable. My dog is better behaved than most people.

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          • Hurray for you. I also have an ESA dog with many papers, notes and official certification. I think many do not understand the comfort the animal brings to us. I plan to travel with my dog regardless. Keep up the good work and I’ll join you in advocating for animals like yours and mine.

          • And people say satire is dead…

          • Thank you. I’m glad there are still sane people in the world. The fact people are calling us too “unstable” to fly is completly absurd. This is coming from a proud 13 year old owner of two Esa dogs who I love and have been my amazing companions for 3 years 🙂

          • Without being callous your problems are your problems and not the responsibiltity of the person sat next to you. They shouldnt have to suffer because you have. Your comfort is not more important and vice versa.

            You say your dogs behaved and if a small (5lb) well behaved dog whos owner was in control was next to me maybe i wouldnt mind.

            But admit if someone needs a dog to fly and constantly be with them for emotional support it should be highly offically trained for its role and petite.

      • I agree WR. It’s just shameless selfish behavior run amok for this ESA nonsense. If you need your pet to fly you are too emotionally unstable to fly. Spend your disability check on a good psychiatrist, not a snake or a doggie.

        Now, service animals I have no qualm with.

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    • Not true. Emotional support animals also become certified. It doesn’t cost thousands to train a service dog either. Also, as a veteran i am very aware of how Ptsd can wreck havoc in one’s life…and the lives of those around them. on

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      • There is no certification for ESA’s or service dogs in the US at this time. All that is needed for an ESA is a disability and a letter saying that you need the animal for emotional support from a doctor.

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    • I have an ESA. Prescribed to me by my doctor and my psychiatrist. I have diagnosed anxiety. Flying makes me anxious as hell. But to tell me not to fly by saying I’m emotionally unstable is plain RUDE! I’m not psychotic! I’ve worked with a personal dog trainer to train my ESA dog (40lbs-small dog) to behave and bring me my meds when I need them, to stop me from picking my nails off and to calm me down when I have anxiety attacks. I couldn’t afford a phsycatric service dog. Not everyone is a millionaire. So I adopted a dog with the right qualities and trained the rest. I agree with the federal ESA papers. I’m sick of getting bashed for having my dog with me on an airplane. Unless you want me to pet your head, so I don’t pick my nails off from anxiety next time I fly. Just because you can’t see what’s going on inside my head doesn’t mean it’s not there.

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      • Thanks for sharing your story !!

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      • Maybe you should pick your nails. I am afraid of dogs, why I should pick my nails when there are 15 dogs for emotional distress on my flight ? What are MY rights?

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        • Just because you’re afaid of dogs doesn’t mean we should have to be anxious. My dog happens to be the sweetest, smartest person I know. How do I know you don’t bite.

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        • Agree i am the same why am i not important. I do not feel comfortable around dogs unless they are highly trained guard dogs for the blind it should not be allowed.

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      • I am highly allergic to both cats and dogs. under normal circumstances I do my best to avoid them. There is no medication that prevents pet hair from entering my airway. At what point does your anxiety about flying override my ability to breathe? Don’t I have a right to not a miserable journey struggling for breath because your pet’s hair and dander are in the plane’s ventilation system? The last time I was on a flight with a dog I was forced to use the places emergency oxygen tank. Seriously, you don’t want to pick your nails? You need to pet something? I need to breath. You can afford a personal dog trainer but not a therapist? I sympathize with your anxiety but sorry, if you’re too anxious to fly without a dog to bring you your meds, perhaps you should re-evaluate flying and find alternate transportation. You’re sick of being bashed for having your dog on board? Well, your dog makes me sick and I’m tired of feeling like I’m traveling in a kennel.

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        • Perhaps you should think of another way to travel.

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          • I’m thinking maybe you should. Her right to breath trumps your desire to have your doggie with you to create you a constant safe space. Lol

          • Jo, Your response is rude and uncalled for. If you’re afraid to fly, perhaps you shouldn’t. I have no fear of flying. The only problem I have with traveling by plane are people who insist that they’re too fragile to travel without an animal next to them. There is psychiatric help for that. That you consider your pet to be a “person” indicates that you have more serious problems that should be addressed by a mental health professional. There are kennels on board airplanes for a reason. Grow up. Unless your dog is for impaired vision or epilepsy ( in which case I would request another flight) the reality is that my medical issues pretty much guarantees that your dog will not be flying on the same plane that I’m on and it would be you, not me, who would be asked to take your dog off the plane, put your dog in the in the hold or find another flight.

        • What would u do if it was a seeing eye dog, or TSA dog. I understand that it is an allergy to you, for some people it can’t be helped. I have an emotional support animal. He is certified and have a letter from my psychiatrist. I can fly without a problem, it’s when I am in a place that is unfamiliar to me. I am encouraged to go and do things that are almost impossible to do. This helps me to work thru my psychology/medical issues. How dare you tell me I shouldn’t be able to travel on an airplane.

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          • I’m not telling anyone not to travel on a plane with a pet, but as you indicted Robin, flying is not a problem for you. There is no reason not to place your dog in the kennel other than your personal preference not to do so. Your indignation is unwarranted.

        • Well then bring a portable air breathing machine to combat your allergy. Then you can breath, I guess a person wearing a coat with cat or dog fair doesn’t bother you?? Maybe you should find alternative transportation? Seriously inconsiderate

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        • Cheryl if the dog is properly groomed it shouldn’t be an issue. When it comes to emotional support animals, it’s a little testy because they do not require training and are not held to the same standard as service dogs. I definitely think there should be some minimum training and grooming requirements for them.

          However, if you would be making the same rude comments towards service dog’s too. Id love to just slap you across the face. These dogs are highly trained to keep their handler alive. (And should be well groomed). They can alert to seizures, cardiac issues, fainting spells, migraines, panic attacks. And to try to deny someone their right to life because you don’t want to take an alergy pill is just disgusting.

          Airlines should accommodate both passengers so request a far seat from the animal and take some allergy pills

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      • I’m in the same situation as you are and I totally understand and appreciate your comments. Thanks for speaking up.Some people need to mind their own business. They don’t have a clue what we are going through.

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      • Bravo!!👏👏
        Exactly, When I got a brain infection and had to take 5 meds everyday for the rest of my life. When the anxiety and depression came I didn’t want more pills so my Dr signed me up for pet therapy. I got my puppy in training for my needs. I fly with her all the time.
        These illiget ESA giving us a bad rap.

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      • Did you know you can owner train your dog to be a pyschiatric service dog? If he already performs tasks to mitigate your disability (which he does as described) and if his obedience is solid, I would refer to him as such. Just look into owner training service dogs.

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      • So basically you think your emotional level and comfort is more important. You are selfish.
        We are all supposed to grin and suffer for you. Most people on a plane are anxious having an animal sat next to them makes it worse.

        Selfish

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    • I have an emotional support animal for a very legitimate reason and my doctors have provided pertinent reasons for my esa. I do not have a problem with animals traveling as I do not know what their reasons are neither does anyone else. I would not travel with mine because my cat would be unhappy. I take her with me at home wherever I go however. It is a very personal thing for someone to have an esa. It is nobody’s business. The need for an esa is like having to to take prescribed medication. I know that is what I feel.

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    • What an ignorant and cold hearted reply to ‘ban those with any special needs from travel’ because you personally don’t identify with or approve that need or requirement. No one in our race will survive without tolerance and compassion for eachother. And even if we did it would be a dark and cruel world indeed.

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    • I have PTSD and I use an emotional support dog. He helps me tremendously. But thank you for allowing me to fight for your right to post this comment and then stop me from enjoying life pleasures because it may inconvenience you. Typical of what us Veterans deal with on a daily basis. What is needed is a much more detailed left and right lateral limit to what an emotional support dog is and what authorizes a patient to have one. the people that abuse this are the ones that are truly hurting us veterans with real issues besides being cheap. I would gladly pay for an extra seat to have my dog fly with me.

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      • Hi James. I’m sorry you came back with PTSD, and I’m glad your ESA helps you with that. I couldn’t agree with you more on the therapeutic benefits of ESAs but we’re gonna have to disagree on your fighting for my right to voice my opinion, as I -or anyone else- was born with those basic human rights.

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        • Ben – you are wrong. Freedom of Speech and Expression is a right granted in the Constitution. It isn’t a basic human right, and most of the world doesn’t enjoy this right

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          • Hi Will. You are unfortunately mistaken. Freedom of expression is a human right, explicitly called out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19.

            Article 19.

            Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

            Also, you’re wrong in saying that MOST of the world doesn’t enjoy this right, as there are just a few countries that don’t, and don’t get me wrong, that’s still terrible, but to think that the US is exceptional in this is beyond ridiculous.

          • Ignorant – the Constitution does not grant rights – it acknowledges that we are endowed with them by our Creator.

        • Obviously neither you nor any of your friends and family has ever served in the military Ben. Try going to somewhere like Sudan, Iran, North Korea, Vietnam, China, Columbia, Ecuador, and many other countries and try to express your “universal basic human rights”. It is attitudes like yours that have shot our once great country from the “sleeping dragon” to be feared during World War 2, to the great laughingstock of the 21st century. Yes, I know you are going to try to shoot back at me, but I don’t care about your whiny opinion other than to be pissed that people I know and love were hurt so you can be a complete idiot. Try to use a little imagination and think about what would have happened if Pearl Harbor had been successful. There would have been no Pacific fleet and we couldn’t have fought 1 front, let alone 2. The US would have been carved up like a ham between the Axis powers and their cronies. No Constitution any more, no Bill of Rights and snowflakes like you would be dead or in prison for speaking your mind. And who stopped it? The amazing men and women of our armed services who protect your right to be an idiot. So our service men and women deserve respect and any help they require. Because until you hand the check to this country for up to, and including your life, sit down, shut up and thank God that there is someone willing to cover your back for your stupid comments.

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          • Firstly, for someone claiming to defend our right to free speech, you sure get really sensitive when someone dissents with your opinion, honey. Sounds like you’re the snowflake here. Second, I agree with you that vets, just like all other human beings, deserve respect for their personal life choices, and I do. Just don’t ask me to revere them like you do; it’s my prerogative not to. Third, Columbia is not a country; Colombia is, and it’s a beautiful one. I’d suggest you get out into the world more, you might end up discovering your preconceived ideas of what the rest of the world is are far from your apocalyptic parallel universe. Feel free to come back to MY blog and comment any time you want, as long as you do so with respect instead of calling people idiots for not agreeing with you.

          • My dear Jennifer,

            Before you tell someone else to sit down and shut up (on a discussion about the freedom of expression, oh the irony!), you might want to check your facts.

            1. The Pearl Harbor attack was mostly successful. The only thing they missed were the aircraft carriers.
            2. The most direct aftermath of the attack was the entry of the US into the war. The US public was against going to war, and the attack was the deciding factor.
            3. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was a UN document adopted after the war, largely based on the French 1889 document, which was influenced by Jefferson and the Enlightenment thinkers of the time. Most of which were atheist and would not be thanking a god for anything.
            4. The attack on Pearl Harbor had no impact on the military power of the US in the European Theater. Even if Japan had sunk the Aircraft Carriers, that wouldn’t have changed anything for the battle against Germany.
            5. Many of the countries you listed are signers of the Declaration of Human Rights. They also have done things like abolished the death penalty (Colombia, Ecuador), something considered a human right violation which the US regularly and systematically ignores.

            Finally, why do we put military people up on a pedestal? Lots of people risk their lives every day to make the US a better place. Not just soldiers. And not all soldiers are great people. To quote Star Trek, “it may be the warriors who get the glory, but it’s the engineers who build society”.

            And yes, I have friends and relatives who have been in the military. Including WWII, both theaters, one landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. So there.

            P.S. I do agree with one thing in your post: the US has become the laughingstock of the 21st century. But there is a five letter word to blame, and it begins with T.

          • Oh, and Ben, I am okay with Service Animals 🙂

          • As are we, and everyone else should be, when they’re properly prescribed by a doctor for a legitimate need and not as a way to avoid paying an onboard pet fee.

          • Just for clarification, Jennifer, America was never a ‘great’ country. It was failed to get involved in WWI until late, it relied heavily on its allies in the South Pacific to win against Japan, it failed in Vietnam (which was a disaster) and now it has destabilised the world in its Oil Wars.And while all those conflicts were happening, you discriminated heavily against African Americans. Great? Methinks not.

      • @James E
        Thank you for your services and your fight for my “basic human right” to voice my opinion as I may not have been “born with them” had I been born in another country. My hat is tipped to you.

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        • Wars are fought for other political, humanitarian, strategic among other reasons, but don’t get confused, Karen. The constitution and the declaration of human rights protect your free speech rights. Thank you both for stopping by to exercise your first amendment right 🙂

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      • I think some veterans get a little too accomstomed to special privileges and extra attention and care. That being said, a service animal should be allowed, no question. As far as ESA…if you are so emotionally frail you can’t go anywhere without your parakeet or doggie, why not stay home? It’s safe there. 🙂

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      • My husband is a vet and I sympathize with you need to enjoy life’s pleasures. I have found that airlines go out of their way to accommodate both of us by suggesting alternative flights. I think that people miss the point. If you are afraid to fly, you probably shouldn’t. I have no such options if I board a plane for a 12 hour flight and someone has a pet. It is not an “inconvenience ” it is a very real physical disability that affects my ability to breath. It is also not too pleasant for the rest of the cabin to have to put up with my wheezing, sneezing and coughing. If I could take pills or wear oxygen I would, O2 is not a viable option on long flights. Planes have kennels for a reason.

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    • I think that this was an unfortunate incident and these people took advantage of the situation. That being said the bigger issue here is that the airline does not have a safe system for dogs that are brought on as cargo. For one thing they don’t provide a kennel which is a daunting process to carry through an airport. The second and biggest issue is that cargo area is not properly pressurized for the safety of the dogs many dogs have died. This is why so many people use the loophole of a therapy dog.

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    • A service dog is fine emotional support dogs I’ve seen enough can’t go in the restaurant without seeing them I feel that that’s a health hazard and people do have allergies so unless it’s a service dog for a person who is blind or who has epilepsy or whatever they should not be allowed in restaurants North should they be allowed on planes without paying for it enough is enough

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      • So because I have a physical condition that can cause me to lose my balance or my joints collapse at any time but I look totally “normal” I can’t have my service dog with me because he’s not a human? I have had HUMAN hair, nails, and nail polish in my food. Been seated next to people who reeked of b.o. and had dandruff falling like snow. People are allergic to perfume. Should we ban all use of commercial scent so as not to cause issues? Or all peanut and wheat products since there are people allergic to those things? A disease doesn’t have to be visible to the whole world to be debilitating. And how would you know if someone had diabetes or epilepsy unless they were aging an episode in front of you?

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        • They do refuse to give out peanuts if someone on board has that allergy. No one is arguing about true service dogs, but ESAs use is mostly abuse. Your animal can go in the kennel or not at all. You’re not special. Stop acting like the world owes you special accommodations.

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    • I am a disabled vet. With that being said the federal law does have guidelines says that if the dog is misbehaved it can be asked to leave. But that is rather hard when you’re in the air. Dog and passenger sleeping on the floor what a disabled or not it’s not recommended. Also it is stated that emotional support animals are not allowed to fly enter public places. Law states that ESA are only allowed for housing exemption. In conclusion any animal can be asked to leave when they or owners are disruptive.

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      • ESAs do have airplane rights and housing rights actually. But no public access rights

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    • Please note that some people have emotional support animals that are not needed to fly, but rather are needed at their desination.

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    • Not sure if you thought this all the way through – it isn’t that someone needs the animal to fly, just like you don’t need a wheelchair to fly. It’s that they need it where they are going.

      So, I’m sorry if my PTSD SERVICE DOG (not ESA) inconveniences you, but the 2 bullets I took were pretty inconvenient, I’ll assure you.

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    • The reason so many people have tried to get thier animals classified as ESA is because the airline screw you any way they can. If you pay for your pet to fly it is hundreds of dollars, even if they are in a carrier that fits under your seat. The pet is then classified as one of your carry on bags. Greed is just as bad a motive as people trying to travel with an ESA . When the rules are unreasonable, people react

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    • Costs thousands??? Stop right there anyone that pays for a Service Animal is being ripped off. Many of us organizations which train and are 501c(3) provide them free of charge.

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    • I’m sorry but you really shouldn’t be saying anything, when I was a child my parents got divorced, one moving to New York. And the other stayed in North Carolina. I developed an anxiety disorder that caused me to have separation anxiety and when I had a dog with me to fly I had less public panick attacks. I’m 13 now, it’s been 6 months since I have had a panick attack because of my ESA animal. So saying people who have PTSD anxiety etc etc. shouldn’t be allowed to even travel is absurd. And may I remind you the many people with PTSD most likely served your country?

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    • If the airlines didnt go crazy with their charges to put the pet in the cargo holds this wouldn’t be a problem. But the fear of flying is real for many people and I know people who got off of their scheduled flights out of fear of flying and ive been on board many times and seen people have to get off the plane out of their fear. Their is no harm that comes from some one having a small lap dog or cat to comfort them. I can see the problem when the comfort dog is a great dane. I also see people complaining when it is sight Dog. Since these are usually large dogs like German Sheppards and such. Personal it make me very anxious haveing my animal stored below. Why should I have to pay for entire 2nd ticket for a teacup poodle that fits in the palm of my hand. Get a life and stop complaining the airlines have created this problem not people taking advantage of the rules.

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  2. Sometimes it gets out of the control, but I would not ban it completely. If airlines were better with allowing dogs on board and reasonable prices, we would not have this issue. In your example “miniature schnauzer” if airline would have reasonable price for the animal, I am sure that person would pay and nobody have any issue. Airlines and Customers needs to have a Win-Win(Customer, Customer w Dog and Airline) situation and not Win-Loose.

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  3. The government should create a national registry of certified emotional support animals. To quality, a traveler must have an official letter written by a licensed medical professional, attesting that they have personally seen the patient together with their support animal, and that the animal is prescribed to alleviate a specific medical condition (name of condition should be printed on the letter). The letter should be signed by said medical professional and include his/her license number and state they are registered in. The patient/traveler and medical professional shall pay a registration fee (e.g. $250), renewable every 2 years, to have this information placed/updated in the national database.

    Airlines shall validate passengers traveling with emotional support animals against the database, and be able to update it with information regarding any incidents and/or problems. Medical professionals who are found to have falsified and/or created frivolous prescriptions for emotional support animals should be fined and have derogatory information sent to the licensing board in their state for further/possible disciplinary action.

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    • Except for the fee, I fully support. I have a service dog who meets your requirements.

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    • There are too many companies selling fake credentials and vests for these dogs. There needs to be a crackdown on this practice.

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    • They should put them in a carrier

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    • HIPPA rights, the reason why they need it aka PTSD, epilepsy, etc doesn’t NEED to be on the letter. But I agree with you on everything else.

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    • Oh God, get a life. Your saying its allright to force a person to hand over embarrising personal private and confidential information to the airlines and government. While your at it why don’t we include when you last went pee and how large and the weight of your last bowl movement and place it on the front page of the newspapers in the Citys that the person is traveling through. Of course all of the statements are absurd but really were do draw the line. Why don’t we charge the people $10,000 and make the money charged be distributed to all the other people on the airplane as a rebate for the fear thely had to under go because a teacup poodle was on board their flight.

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  4. It wasn’t too long ago that a certain blogger talked about his newly acquired dog and walked everyone through how to get that coveted certificate. He’s now out on his own – I think he’s sold his blog – but the comments were incredible. All I could think was “wth?” Like these animals really want to be schlepped all over the world.

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    • That’s kinda messed up. Actually no. That’s really messed up. I’d love for you to email us and let us know who that was.

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    • I’d love to know who this was – thats messed up, seriously…

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      • tpg 2.12.13 “My New Journey”

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  5. I think that all animals should be subject to the standard charges (for pets) on airplanes. Unfortunately, I believe that the ADA would prohibit this. Also unfortunately, the ADA, as interpreted, makes it virtually impossible to distinguish between a service animal and a pet, because you can be viewed as violating ADA if you ask anything more than a couple of basic questions. The questions that are fair game are whether the animal is a service animal (which is very distinct from an emotional support animal), and what tasks the animal has been trained to perform. Asking more intrusive questions (such as what disabilities you have), or asking for a certification papers on the animal, could subject the airlines to suits, which they could lose. I do think that the airlines could and should tighten the reins by attempting more strictly to adhere to ADA (which would exclude cats and pretty much anything other than a dog), and exclude emotional support or companion animals, which are not sanctioned by ADA. Other than that, the law would need to be changed. While I think that it should be changed because it has been abused in many ways, I think that the chances of that happening are very slim, because it is too risky for politicians to touch. So, we most likely will continue to see families and people (mostly women, in my experience) slapping a vest on their pets and bringing them on planes for free, which really is an annoyance to people who actually have disabilities and have real service dogs.

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    • I would agree, but I don’t think you can be sued for asking to show certification. That’s pretty standard. Asking “what’s your disability” is obviously a big no no

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      • This is from the ADA regulations:

        “A public accommodation shall not ask about the nature or extent of a person´s disability, but may make two inquiries to determine whether an animal qualifies as a service animal. A public accommodation may ask if the animal is required because of a disability and what work or task the animal has been trained to perform. A public accommodation shall not require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained, or licensed as a service animal.” ADA Regs Title III 36.302(c). As written, requiring proof of certification would be a violation.

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        • So, is there a list of “acceptable tasks?” or is “it helps me walk through the terminal” an accepted work/task? Seems like there isn’t much that can be done for a “Service” animal, but what about emotional support?

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          • There is a list of acceptable disabilities. See, the thing is that it might not be that I have to absolutely have that dog for the flight, but I need that dog for said disability while on my stay wherever I’m going. He just can’t getc there unless he travels with me. There’s an example where it can be opposite as well…a guy gets in a car wreck. Loses his leg, maybe a death was involved…so the guy has PTSD and really needs his dog to help him when he’s in the car….well, the dog can’t help him in the car if the dog isn’t allowed into tje places that he’s going. You can’t leave the dog in the car.

        • I have a certified service dog with credentials and documentation. A national accreditation would be beneficial to all service dog owners. I don’t fly unless I get to drive.

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          • What certification did you get and was it the service dog organization that gave you the paperwork?

        • Very much a violation. It’s wrong for me to have to stop and show someone paperwork that they aren’t even going to understand every time I walk in somewhere with my service dog.

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        • My understanding is that ESAs are not considered service animals under the ADA and therefore that regulation would not apply (see “Section III: Other Support or Therapy Animals” on https://adata.org/publication/service-animals-booklet). “Section V: Handler’s Rights” of the same page under the heading “Air Travel” explicitly states “Individuals who travel with emotional support animals or psychiatric service animals may need to provide specific documentation to establish that they have a disability and the reason the animal must travel with them…This documentation may be required as a condition of permitting the animal to accompany the passenger in the cabin.”

          Also, I believe that in the context of commercial air travel the ADA is superseded by the the Air Carrier Access Act which explicitly allows airlines to require “identification cards, other written documentation, presence of harnesses or markings on harnesses, tags, or the credible verbal assurances of the qualified individual with a disability” before allowing a service animal or ESA on board (14 CFR 382.55).

          The purpose of the section of the ADA you mentioned is to ensure people aren’t forced to reveal details of their disability, leading to possible embarrassment or discrimination, so I’m inclined to think the best solution would just be the creation of a uniform service animal license (similar to the dog licenses many states require for pets.) That way, an individual could go through a single registration and certification process when they get the animal and then have a card that simply verifies the animal is a legitimate service animal without disclosing any details about the individual’s disability.

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      • Not allowed to ask for certification. First of all, there is no set certification…secondly, the disabled persons is getting treated differently than anyone without a service dog. My example is if you had to pull out a piece of paper and have someone examine it every time you go to the grocery store, and the workers at the grocery store still don’t even know what they’re looking for….that’s a problem. Emotional support dogs do not have the right to go everywhere a service dog is allowed to go. I guess airlines are letting people slip through the cracks. The only time I flew with my service dog, i was told that FAA doesn’t have to follow all the guidelines we have to on the ground, and I also had to show a prescription from my doctor. As far as service dogs, in the ADA guidelines it says, you can not harass, or deny service to anyone, with a wheelchair, white cane, crutches or sercive dog.

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    • I tend to agree, I have a service animal and I still pay the fee and follow the airline guidelines because it feels the most respectful to everyone involved. I purposely chose an airline sized dog for this reason.

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  6. Even emotionally-balanced people have a pretty strong financial incentive to falsely claim emotional support animals: airlines sometimes charge as much to bring an in-cabin pet as the ticket cost.

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    • So. Don’t bring your pet. Done.

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      • Yeah, totally reasonable, and I’ve never traveled with an animal, but if someone’s taking a week-long domestic flight to visit family/friends, their calculation might look like:
        1) $250: boarding at kennel
        2) $250: roundtrip in-cabin pet
        3) dirt cheap: note from a shady doc for emotional support animal

        For any rational actor, #3 looks pretty tempting. As @compspy said, airlines could help tilt the scales by making #2 not so unreasonably expensive.

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        • I don’t find $250 to be unreasonable. Imagine if T was cheaper and the plane turned into a zoo.

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          • $250 for a teacup poodle is out right criminal. And there are few enough of them that a zoo is going overboard. Although I do believe they should have to be in a carrier and stowed away. Ive seen responsible people doing this and then getting them out because the animal starts making to much noise. Turns out the passenger turned into the emotional support for the animal. I don’t see this as a problem. Unfortunately we have to many people sticking their noses into other peoples business.

    • It’s like not bringing your child. They are also expensive, so if you’re going to have a pet understand they come with these costs as well.

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      • While I personally agree with you, explaining to someone that they can either pay full price or be a weasel and pay nothing is pretty much a no brainer for many people. I think that’s what Brian is getting at. Obviously, something has to be done without cutting off the very few real cases. Luke Vader seems to have a solid idea.

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  7. I have written extensively about this very issue in a series of articles at The Gate — especially pertaining to legitimate service animals versus “emotional support animals.”

    Unfortunately — until federal law permits — members of the flight crew are generally not allowed to question passengers traveling with these animals.

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  8. I agree. Anything is possible in the land of freedom.

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  9. I have a service animal for my epilepsy and non epileptic seizures. I have flown once with my service dog to epilepsy awareness day at Disneyland. It was a filled flight with many other travelers and their service dogs in tow. All well behaved, quite and following commands. I’d like to comment that all though service dogs and emotional support animals are very different in what they are allowed under the ADA legislation there are things even a service can not do and like bark, show aggression, or potty unless told. If at a privately owned establishment you can be asked to leave if your animal I’d causing a problem. I know ESA’s have to be well behaved as well.

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  10. I take the train. It takes longer, but there’s way much more room for a service dog.

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  11. I am someone who travels with an ESA. I have had my dog registered for 5 years now. He travels with me, not for assistance during the flight, but at my destination. I have to have my letter renewed annually. I have to show my letter at the airport, which does state that after working with me and based on my medical history an ESA is recommended to better my daily living. Which is beyond true. My dog is a wonderful traveler. He stays in his carrier under the seat in front of me silently. Most people don’t even know that i have a dog on board. But this is a definite right as someone with a legitimate mental health condition. Everyone who has commented on here honestly surprises me. You think i should have to tell everyone my specific disability? Like that isn’t a huge violation of my personal rights? As a side note. Some airlines are now requiring the ESA letter to be dated within 48hrs of the flight. Not sure how to even accomplish that in general…getting anything from a doctor in 48hrs is difficult enough. Thank you for listening.

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    • Thank you! I know that no where have I suggested that you explain your disability to someone, rather that we make sure the animals are certified by professionals who can speak to the need for such animals. Thank you for commenting.

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  12. OK I am a bit disturbed by some of the comments on this post. Just because we need ESAs does not mean we are unstable people. I have a legitimate disability and have been prescribed an ESA to help me. And actually having a ESA is better than taking a bunch of drugs. But I am have to say it makes me furious for the people that say oh what we have people coming back from war with PTSD you can have PTSD without having gone to war you could have had other experiences that have caused PTSD. Without saying what my problems are doesn’t mean that I am unstable and I resent that thoroughly -?how dare you. Our issues for needing an ESA raise from various issues and I guess I have said in a previous post have letters from my doctors and legally diagnosed with a disability. So until you experience with people who have either mental or physical or both and having an ESA makes their lives for lot better please be more sensitive and don’t judge.

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  13. Really!! People who judge never look at themselves first

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    • Back to my original post Elizabeth. The fact that this person tried to pass their dog off as a search and rescue dog, got called out on it, and then said it was an ESA, is just plain fraudulent. Let’s remember that.

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      • You were talking about the frauds that are using the system to get Fido a free plane ride. Many of the comments on here have been used to bash those with legitimate need for an ESA due to invisible diseases like PTSD, anxiety, depression and many others that can’t be seen from the outside. Those of us in the invisible disease community already face daily judgement just trying​ to live the best we can, only to be lumped in with these sorry excuses by society in general.

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        • Yes its embarrassing to have to talk about the problems with your Doctor and then to have to do it again within 48hrs of flight. Why don’t those who are so awful to those with needs on here be forced to have a Doctors note to use a public bathroom. That might make them a little friendlier to those who have needs.

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  14. How sensitive do you need to be to worry about someone else’s life? Yeah $250 fees could be a lot for many people so I can see why this is happening. But at the end of the day it’s only a few hours on the plane and you’ll never see them or their pet again. Just suck it up. There are thousands more that actually have their animal certified for valid reasons and this entire thread has no regard for how rude and unfair it is for them. And the first few comments stating those people are too unstable to fly? Really? How unstable do you need to be to fear someone’s pet? This is one of the most dramatic post I’ve ever seen and one of the cringiest reads of my life. I’m disappointed goodle recommended it to me. I guess america is the land of the free, so long as you don’t bring an animal into an airplane with the likes of you.

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    • I encourage you to re read the article as it very clearly states this woman lied, twice, to get her pet onboard. Some comments, as in all things internet related, can get a little dicey, but my post was very neutral in its take on the situation.

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      • If your neutral. Donald trump and Hillary are both perfect angels and the people who love them are perfect too.

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        • That’s a stretch.

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  15. Emotional support dogs are very different from professionally trained service dogs. Airlines should start being aware of the legitimate services that regularly train and register these amazing dogs. Kristen Doute from Vanderpump Rules recently boasted on TV about sending in $35 and getting a certification in the mail. She has a small puppy. Small dogs are rarely used as service dogs. She boasted on TV about how nice the airline crew was when she flew, instead of making her take the dog off the plane as they should have. I have also heard she is passing off her recent pregnancy as a disability. Please, please stop giving out the message that it is OK to use these illegitimate dogs as an example of how a real trained service dog preforms and behaves. Take the high road and pay the airline fee to fly your dog. It’s a small price to pay to protect the handicapped community and their dogs please have respect and heed the law!
    Funny how most people who do this are people can afford to pay.

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  16. If an animal fits in a cabin kennel & has been listed on the flight (one animal per flight; required to be listed at least 24 hrs. In advance), will fit in the underneath seat area on takeoff & landing and pay the required fee, there should be no problem; support animal or not. These were the requirements & regulations for animals traveling ‘in cabin’ prior to ‘ESA’ trend……what happened to that and what about the other passenger’s rights to safety? Imagine an ESA Feline and an ESA German Shepard on a flight in the same coach compartment. One forward, one aft…feline gets loose, dog goes crazy—you get the picture. This issue has serious implications and has already gone too far …… Will it take a tragedy to prove this?

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    • The reason you had to make a hypothetical situation instead of linking to a news report is because it never happens. Your scare tactics won’t work. And the reason there’s no fee is because you can’t punish someone economically for a disability. It is literally illegal. Would you charge someone to bring medication or a cane or a wheelchair on board? Service animals and for flights and housing ESAs fall under the same category.

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  17. This is not as complex as everybody is making it. I have a well behaved, well trained service dog. The answer is simple. Whether service or emotional support, the law says that if either is disruptive or unruly, they can be removed. Airlines are afraid to act because the public gets bent out of shape when they hear one of these dogs haa been thrown off. It is a catch 22 for airlines. What needs to happen is when you see a dog being thrown off the plane, don’t react on social media until you get more info.

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  18. First I’d like to say, no, you can not ban emotional support animals (ESA) from planes. These animals aren’t needed due to an extreme emotional instability to a point where they could hurt others. People with these service animals can have ptsd, anxiety, or depression and their ESA helps them get through what would appear to be a nothing. Would you tell someone they can’t bring their heart medicine on the plane?
    That being said, bringing an ESA on a plane? That’s up to the owner, it’s people that fake it that make it hard for people who actually NEED these animals. I actually have an emotional support dog for my anxiety and depression. He’s mid-sized, in training, and a lab/pit mix. Would I bring him on a plane? Hell no. He’s big enough to need his own seat and because of the pit bull in him, others would be afraid of him. Would he bark, growl, or bite? No, he IS a service dog and he would sit at my feet or under my seat, maybe take a nap. There needs to be a way for the airports to look up the pets and owners to check their legitimacy because you can buy the bandanas and harnesses. However, there is a line. If your ESA is big like mine, maybe not take a plane out of courtesy for others, give them a bath before the ride, TRAIN THEM. Because ESAs don’t require specific training, you can do it yourself which is why it’s so easy for pet owners to fake. It’s very easy to spot a fake service animal, flight attendants should have someone to report this to and a procedure to follow, but you can not ban ESAs from airlines because they are NOT pets.

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  19. The airlines are not enforcing their own rules. Animals must be in a container and fit under the seat. Then there is no problem. If they are bigger than let the traveler buy a seat and if they can’t fit in a container then muzzle.them and put them on the back window seat and board them first. Easy to solve this problem.

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    • This is the only real answer that I read that has inteligence behind it.

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  20. OK here is one for the ones complaining I should take a different mode due to esa. I was run over by a 18 Wheeler that fell asleep that sucked me up under drover over and folded my truck so now if I need to go out of state I sure am not driving or a bus. So yes I fly but still due to this causing my disability have ptsd and traveling issues so yes I have a esa.

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    • Sounds like a perfectly legit reason to me!

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  21. The airline requires that I carry the letter from my doctor and show it as requested to pick up my boarding pass and to go through security checkpoints. It also requires notification 48 hours ahead of departure that I will be traveling with my comfort dog because there is a limit on how many animals can be on a flight.

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  22. Some of you are incredibly ignorant on the topic and some of you are just plain cruel. In America, ESAs are basically prescribed by a licensed doctor and when traveling you should have to provide a letter from your doctor verifying what the animal is and that you need it. if that’s not being checked and verified like it’s supposed to, it’s on the airlines, but it’s not fault of everyone who needs an ESA and who isn’t just abusing the system to save money. Secondly, do you all have any idea how much a service dog costs? Buying the dog and getting the training for it is incredibly pricey. It’s not acessible for huge portions of people that need it, especially if they need it for psychological reasons and they’re not a veteran so ESAs are the next best thing. ESA under the fair housing and flight laws and service animals under the ADA arent “pets”, they’re basically regarded the same wheelchairs or walking sticks: medical necessities. Lastly, people with disabilities are just as capable of doing things people without disabilities are WITH THE ASSISTANCE PROVIDED BY A SERVICE DOG OR ESA THAT IS LEGALLY PROTECTED so your pissy opinions and attitudes don’t change the law. Get mad all you want to, but the rights and ability of disabled people being able to participate fully in life trump your minor, yet blown wildly out of proportion irritation for a 4 hour flight.

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  23. Had two recent experiences with people gaming the system. The first pet-as-esa was a beautiful untrained brown lab… who was so petrified of the environment that s/he evacuated his/her bowels twice (the large runny pile kind) in between nervous shaking fits. That owner was a selfish fck for torturing that dog.

    Not long after 3 twenty somethings brought pets on the 10 hour Prague flight. They openly bragged to another passenger that these were just pets that they had gotten papers for online. Those dogs whimpered the last 3 hours of the ordeal since between boarding and flight time and disembark, they hadn’t peed for 12 hours. Nice owners there.

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  24. I have a service animal, named Blaze, he’s always with me. I have a lot of issues. I have rougher time in stores then I do on a plane. Mind you when we get on a plane he thinks he’s human and requires to be seat belted which isn’t allowed. So in return they always make him a nice comfy 1st class spot with his own everything. I could live with out him but I have to say it is out of control. Service animals are to be seen not notice you can say. Mine at least does. But this is why I get so upset. With false certification. If they can’t behave and can be notice not behaving they shouldn’t be on a plan nor should the person. Js!

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  25. A couple of thoughts here:

    1. There are absolutely legitimate reasons for Service Animals. Likewise, there are legitimate reasons why some people cannot be on flights with animals. There must be a better way to have an indication that a service animal is going to be on a flight so that people who want to avoid the flight can choose another one.
    2. One of the reasons why people are “gaming the system” is because $250 is a pretty outrageous fee for an animal that does not cost anything extra to transport. Why not make it something reasonable, like $100, so that people can afford it without gaming the system.
    3. Leaving an animal at home is not always an option, sometimes never an option. People without animals do not understand this. There needs to be some understanding of the situation.

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    • The only thing wrong with a $250 charge or a $100 charge is that flights vary in price. $250 is nothing when the whole ticket is $5000 but when My seat costs $59 and my checked Dog is more than my seat thats a problem. should be no more than 25% of the passenger ticket and depend on the size of the animal checked. But this wont happen, just like their are some people taking advantage of the ADA their are airlines taking advantage by gauging flyers with animals.

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  26. Really enjoyed reading this blog and very helpful information. You have experienced some great adventures.

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  27. if you need two(2) emotional support dogs to fly maybe a car or stay home. It is nuts out there..Even with dog toilet areas(LAX) there was dog XXX all over and people were rolling and walking thru it..If u must take ur dog with you clean up after it and do not let it walk itself on the plane(BZclass DL LHR-JFK)

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  28. It’s not right that emotional support animal require no certifiable training yet my blind boyfriend had to train with his guide dog for one month. He had to live at the guide dog facility for a month to learn all the needed skills. Yet people bring their “emotional support” animals who pee and bark and show other signs of aggression. On a recent flight, a lady was concerned about my boyfriends guide dog attacking her emotional support dog. The flight attendant quickly jumped to his guide dog’s rescue and states “he’s a trained guide dog, he will not attack your dog” Makes me sick to my stomach.

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  29. Do you guys read what you say before you post it? Listen to what your saying.. what gives you the right to determine if someone actually needs an emotional support dog? Yes some people take it to extremes but if the dog is not aggressive is itreally bothering you? And Yes some people have allergies but I’m allergic to peanuts and and they don’t ban those on airplanes… Just because you don’t freak out on planes and you don’t have anxiety attacks doesn’t mean that everyone is just like you. The fact that some one even said that people who need dogs shouldn’t be allowed to fly is crazy… what kind of person would even say that? Because confining them to one place would make their anxiety or mental illness so much better…And just because someone may not look like they need an emotional support animal doesn’t mean they don’t mental need one. You don’t know what that person has been through or is going through. Treat others how you want to be treated and quit being so bitter about a dog on a plane.

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  30. I have an issue with the huge amount of abuse going on with “service/emotional support dogs”.
    The abuse is rampant as they are Not required to be a certified esd or SD. The whole “industry” is self regulated.
    If people have a real need for these animals then they should have to show and have proper training and feed ally regulated licensing!
    I also have an issue with some of these animals in restaurants. Why should I have to endure a great Dane that is sitting there slobbering and drooling all over the place, while I am trying to eat.
    Why do their rights get to supercede my rights? I have severe allergies to animals yet anyone who says their dog is a service or esd get to overide my rights to not be around animals?
    I think the only way to stop these abuses is to have a federally license and training program and that all animals in this program must have special tags and documents!!

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