You’ve probably been reading about or experiencing the increasing presence of animals on airplanes. They range from the bizarre (an unsuccessful attempt to bring a peacock on board) to tragic (a passenger believing she had to flush her hamster down the toilet, a dog suffocating in a storage bin).
All of this is in reference to the federal law that requires airlines to accommodate passengers with disabilities. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) defines “disability” in the same way as does the Americans with Disabilities Act: a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. That legalese is another way of saying that the limitation must be significant – a temporary illness or even a broken leg are usually not serious enough to fit within the legal definition.
But those lines have become increasingly blurred by press coverage and public discourse, and the prevailing belief now seems to be that ANYONE can have a service or emotional support animal on a plane – just because they can get a doctor to say that they need one.
I and others have written extensively about the damage this does to people with real disabilities who genuinely need those animals to help them while they are on a plane and maneuvering through he rest of life.
Fortunately, as the attached article shows, several airlines are examining their policies on passengers with animals. And there is still time to give your input to the Department of Transportation on this issue.
I am an attorney with a disability, and I co-teach a class on disability law. But because laws are just words, I would like to learn and convey more of the real world of living with a disability in the 21st Century.
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