This lady took Emotional Support Animals to a new level

Our flight from Seattle to Paris started out seeming like every other flight we’ve ever taken. Boarding was normal and quick and people seemed to be settling in as normal. Then we heard it. It would be the first of many from this one particular emotional support animals throughout the entire flight…

WOOF!

This huge woof roared throughout the cabin and you could see one of the flight attendants scrambling for her phone. She stood near us and said “I’ve got to pull up the regulations on this one… I need to see if I have any legal backing for this…”

While we didn’t want to get too much into it, it didn’t take much guesswork to see what she was talking about. In about a minute we see a head peek around the corner.

Dog on a Plane

Apparently, a passenger had paid for a premium economy (comfort plus) seat, and there was an issue with a large dog (emotional support animal) that would obviously NOT fit under the seat in front of her, so she needed to be moved. She kept saying “I paid an extra $1000 for this seat, and I want that seat!” Obviously this was not going to work and the flight attendants needed to step in.

While I understand that a lot of people need animals to help them get through certain medical conditions or PTSD, I am not in favor or people using their animals to ask for special compensation or special treatment. Obviously this dog would not fit underneath the seat and it would inconvenience the other passengers.

The four bulkhead seats next to us for some reason were not booked, so they offered to give her the bulkhead seats and since no one else would be sitting there, it seemed like a good fix. She would have room to place the dog bed on the floor and he could relax.

Once she moved back there, one of the flight attendants came by to ask if she needed anything and the dog jumped at her and barked loudly. The owner had to yank back at the leash to keep her from jumping on the FA. Sorry, at this point, I would have been 100% behind the dog and the passenger being removed from the plane. If the dog was going to act like this, he’s not fit to fly, just like you would do with a person who is drunk or unruly.

Over the course of the flight, the passenger had the dog up on each seat, sitting and sleeping, lying on his bed on the floor, and in one point during heavy turbulence, she even lied down across all four seats on the floor and curled up with her dog. Seriously?

Emotional Support Animals

Dog on a Plane

When I asked the FA (who was obviously disturbed by the entire situation) if she was going to wake up the passenger and make her put on her seatbelt, the answer was about as perfect as I could expect.

“At what point do you have to weigh the benefits of her sitting in her chair with her seatbelt with the headache and problems that waking up a powder keg of a client would cause?”

I’ve got to agree. This has got to be a difficult situation. You obviously want to make sure that the client has their seatbelt fastened in case of even rougher air, but she was already being unruly and a nuisance, so causing a scene onboard would also have not been prudent.

What do you think? Should a passenger be lying on the floor with their emotional support animals? Should the agent have woken up the passenger and have her buckle her seatbelt?

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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16 Comments

  1. , I have a large dog (Doberman) as well and would love to have her fly with me and travel. Unfortunately ESA or not. I would not want to put her in a pressure rises tube for a prolonged amount of time simply because I know it wouldn’t feel good for her.

    I’m not sure if there are regulations how large or small the ESA can be. But I feel bad for the dog, attendants and passengers. I have no sympathy for someone who feel so entitled that they must have that $1000 paid seat. If she wanted a ESa when she travels she should have gotten a less imposing ESA..

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    • I don’t think it is being entitled when she is following the letter of the law and when she has paid for an extra seat.
      However, the dog having snapped at the FA or anyone is a red flag that the dog is viewed the same as an unruly passenger and should have been removed from that and all future flights.
      I have an ESA (Beagle mix <30 lbs) who goes everywhere with me. He is very friendly and well behaved. He sits under the table at restaurants and no one even realizes he is there. He doesn't beg for food at home, nor in public.
      We follow the rules, and he is welcomed everywhere he goes. I haven't flown with him yet. It's very difficult to get experience in getting a dog used to flying in pressurized cabin plane.
      My brother is a pilot (for private planes/General Aviation) and has flown
      Plenty of dogs with no problems.
      It seems like the FA was being very kind to allow the passenger and her dog to have the bulkhead seats.
      The FAA manual regarding ESA states that if you let them know ahead of time that your animal won't fit under the seat, and if there are any unsold seats on that flight, that your animal will be given that seat, at no charge.
      The airlines have the right to ask for your papers, which we carry with us everywhere.
      This article doesn't state whether or not the passenger let the airline know in advance or whether she was asked to show her papers where the dog was an approved ESA.

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      • And we don’t know either about the approved papers or not, but judging by the reactions of the FA’s, I’d say probably not. Mind you, she was being moved from EC+ to Economy, so I’m sure that had a lot to do with it as well. Luckily there were extra seats, and yes, this dog barked and lunged, twice in the flight.

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      • I too have an ESA, Shih Tzu who weighs 11 lbs. she was my husband’s service companion for diabetic spikes or plummeting levels. Unfortunately my husband passed away and she and I are grieving and mourning ❣my psychiatrist knows her and understood what a benefit for me to have her as an emotional companion. I am not psycho nor have any type of emotion that would cause me to harm anyone. I have depression which exasperated after the death of my beloved husband. I forget to take my medicine and she reminds me. The doctor wrote a letter for me and let airline know the two places I was flying to and my return. I also had to have her go through extensive tests done by her veterinarian before she could fly with me. Because she is small, she was on my lap during the flight. I did extensive research before deciding on flying with her. She was/is a wonderful companion anywhere I go. She does not bark and when she is seen waiting to board she brings a lot of smiles to many people. She smiles at them with her tail. Some people don’t see her at all and upon arrival I always get an “I can’t believe there was a dog on the flight “. That is how great she is. She is great for me and everyone who gets to see her as we are out and about. My daughter and I were having dinner at Applebee’s and the couple behind us had two young children and right before their daughter was about to choke, she quickly alerts me and jumped out and took me to them and sure enough she was but then started coughing and she then jumped on the booth and sat down.

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        • It sounds like you’ve got an amazing companion, and she is serving a fantastic purpose for you. Thanks for sharing, we appreciate it 🙂

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  2. over xmas 9 dogs on 1 flight

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  3. Ridiculous..this has gotten way out of control. People should be embarrassed.

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  4. And what makes you think this woman is somehow a “lady”?

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    • Should I have used another word?

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  5. Who was the support animal? The human or the dog? Being PC has gotten out of control. Service refusal to a patron whose dog lunges at staff is acceptable. She paid 1000 for a small open room on a plane. Shame on her!!

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  6. I have an emotional support dog. I would never inflict my emotional issues on an other. I am entitled to things yes but only as long as I follow the rules. These idiots ongoing to ruin things for ones who really need them. If you need you ES don’t go on a trip. Stay home

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  7. I have such crippling anxiety that I don’t leave the house even if we’re running out of food (thank goodness for the internet and apps). My depression gets worse over time, and who would wanna hire someone with severe anxiety? But my dog forces me out because I have to walk her. I’m also forced to interact with people because people want to pet her. Having her with me makes a huge difference in my life. I fully understand the importance of ESA and support animals. But now, people who are abusing the privilege of having ESA at airports are causing me increased anxiety. My dog is perfectly behaved, most people don’t even know she’s on the plane. She doesn’t bark or have any aggressive behaviors. All I ask and am thankful for is that I can have the one good thing in my life with me when traveling, which is not often at all. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone and I try to be mindful of other people as much as possible, while doing what I need to for myself as well. However, this woman who demanded special treatment for herself and her aggressive dog should no longer be able to ruin other people’s flights. What would have happened if there wasn’t enough space for her and her dog? What if it was a fully booked flight and every seat was taken? What if the dog bit the flight attendant? Flying is stressful enough, and the one thing that people can agree on is that aggressive dogs — support animal , ESA, or not, should be grounded. Besides, there were so many red flags about that woman and her dog. With all this said, that flight attendant handled the situation really well. She was kinder than she needed to be, but in the end, everything worked out and everybody got to where they needed to go. Still, people and dogs need to be well behaved, especially if they’re in a flying tin can in the sky.

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    • Thanks Advocate for sharing, I can see, reading through your post, how your case really would be different from hers.

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  8. I am the owner of a certified medical alert service dog. both my dog and I went through an extensive training course Prior to his receiving his certification.
    The American Disabilities Act covers service dogs and is very clear regarding the regulations.
    Emotional support animals, Comfort animals and therapy animals are not considered service animals under the American Disabilities Act.
    Well there are some states that have laws defining therapy animals, they are absolutely not covered by federal laws protecting the use of service animals.
    Service animals must be well behaved And trained to a specific task.
    therapy animals, emotional support animals and comfort animals must also be well behaved. but these are not federal law. You may look it up:
    https://a data.org/publication/service-animals-booklet

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  9. I agree. I am on my 4th Service Dog and over the years I have traveled on many flights and over the past 6-7 years I have seen alot of people bring their ESA on board only to have that animal miss behave. It upsets me because when this happens those of us who have Trained Service Animals pay the price. The ability for people to go online and buy their pets Service Animal and ESA kits providing them with the ability to go where that animal has not been trained to go is if nothing else selfish and Morally reprehensible. Please leave your pets at home. They’ll be happier.

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  10. I feel bad for the flight attendant and to the passengers. She should have left the dog at home.

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  1. Emotional Support Animals on airplanes are getting out of control | No Mas Coach! - […] month we wrote about a passenger who took emotional support animals to a new level, bringing onboard her giant dog…

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