Approximately, 100,000 animals, from dogs to pigs and even turkeys travel in airline cabins each year as emotional support animals. Their owners claim these animals or pets, must travel with them for psychological assistance throughout the flight.
Some however, are calling foul and asking for more stringent controls and policies on the species that are allowed into the cabin. The claim is that a rule on special needs is being exploited by some fliers to avoid having to pay the usual $75 fee to put their animals in cargo.
In 2016, the Advisory Committee on Accessible Air Transportation – which includes, The Department of Transportation, airlines, and disability advocacy groups – was established to come up with a proposed rule concerning air travelers with disabilities and their service animals. In addition, the Service Animal Working Group was set up to determine if the definition of ‘service animals’ accompanying passengers with a disability on a flight, needed amending.
Currently the 1996 Department of Transport guidance document defines a service animal as: ‘Any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.’ However, incidents such as the November 2014 incident where a pig, identified by its owner as a support animal, and its owner were escorted from a flight because it had been squealing uncontrollably and had defecated on the floor.
What are your thoughts? Do you think the rules and definitions need to be revamped? Do you think people are abusing the system? Let me know on twitter @travelculturati or facebook @travelingculturati.