A few months ago, a passenger got some unwelcome publicity when she unsuccessfully tried to bring her “emotional support peacock” with her on an United Airlines flight.
( See https://disabilitylawsandvoices.com/2018/01/31/keep-your-peacock-to-yourself-please for more information).
Since then, there has been an increase in news reports about ill-fated service and/or emotional support animals on flights. This includes a passenger who says she was told to (and did) flush her emotional support hamster down an airline toilet, as well as a puppy who tragically died after being placed in an overhead bin. This and other negative publicity has caused several airlines to re-examine their policies regarding animals on airplanes.
There’s no question that this is a very difficult issue. While airlines are required to allow service and emotional support animals on planes for passengers with disabilites, many passengers are taking advantage of the fact that they don’t have to pay extra for animals they label as “service” or “support” animals. That, along with the natural reluctance to probe into customers’ claims of being “disabled,” has resulted in increasing numbers of untrained and unruly animals on flights. And of course, the people who pay the highest price are people with true disabilities who really need those animals and who have trained them appropriately.
As a result, several airlines are re-examining their policies and trying to impose more structure while still following the law. One example is American Airlines, which has just announced a new policy that will go into effect on July 1. This policy will prohibit amphibians, goats, hedgehogs, insects, nonhousehold birds and animals with tusks, horns or hooves from boarding their airplanes. An exception will be made for miniature horses that have been trained as service animals.
The new policy will also require that customers traveling with support or service animals submit documentation about their animals. They will also have to sign a form indicating that the animals will not be disruptive on the flight. While there’s not much that can be done mid-flight if an animal doesn’t live up to this promise, at least we’re moving in the right direction!
For more information, see the link below.