If you’re looking for information about disability rights, Colorado has a fantastic service available. It is called “Disability Law Colorado.”
Disability Law Colorado has information about service/emotional support animals, employment, public accommodations and a host of other issues that are vital for people with disabilities and their advocates to understand.
You may have heard about the passenger who attempted (unsuccessfully) to board an airplane with her “emotional support peacock.”
This and similar instances have heightened public awareness of a most unsavory trend – people boarding airplanes with their pets and avoiding the standard fees by referring to them as “service” or “emotional support” animals.
Among the many problems is that it casts an unfavorable light on people with legitimate disabilities who truly need to be with those animals during airline flights and in other public venues. When properly selected and trained, these animals (almost always dogs) can assist those with vision or hearing problems. They can also open doors, pick up objects, alert their handlers if they sense an epileptic seizure, and provide relief to those with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
To resolve the confusion, several airlines have tightened up their policies on service animals. The U.S. Department of Transportation has also proposed regulations which would provide much clearer standards on what animals can board and what questions can be asked of their handlers.
And some organizations are in the process of creating national service dog registries, which would list only those dogs who have received training and have “graduated” to become legitimate service dogs.
This is an interesting concept and a couple of organizations are planning to launch their registries this fall. For more information, see the link below.
This was a deaf couple on an airplane with their service dog. That much I know, and I’ll let the FBI figure out the rest.
But it looks like it could be yet another situation where anger erupted over people with disabilities legally using their service animals. Or it could be that the deaf passenger himself instigated the violence, in which case the disability laws should not be used as an excuse.
No matter how or why this sorry situation unfolded, it reminds us that before we let anger take over, we should try to understand what we think we are seeing.
This photo, from the attached Fox News article, is exactly what it appears to be: a peacock in an airport.
A couple of days ago, a woman tried to board a United Airlines flight with the bird, claiming it was an emotional support animal. The airline denied her request.
I am a disability rights advocate, and I passionately support the right of people with disabilities to have and use their service animals. But this is NOT what the law intended! Not only does it create inconvenience and sometimes even danger to fellow passengers and staff, it puts people with genuine disabilities in a poor public light. And in this political climate, that’s the last thing we need.
In my last few flights, I’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of canine passengers. While I admittedly find them quite entertaining, I have also seen them get riled up and become aggressive. When I’ve asked if they are “service animals,” the owners have always lowered their eyes and mumbled that they are “emotional support” animals.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, this is a difficult issue under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That law clearly allows people with disabilities to be accompanied by service animals at stores, restaurants, etc. In addition, people with service animals generally cannot be made to show any “papers” or other documentation backing up their claims that the animal assists them with disabilities. And as long as the animal does not become unruly or aggressive, he and his owner cannot be told to leave the premises.
Emotional support animals, however, generally do not help with specific tasks, but their mere presence is said to be a comfort and anxiety-reducer for their owners. This may be a very legitimate function for these animals, but emotional support animals are specifically excluded from the ADA.
This law makes airplanes potentially much more freewheeling than restaurants or department stores. As the article below indicates, this has led to service pigs, service possums and even service snakes being allowed to board without challenge.
So what could go wrong? Not surprisingly, some of these animals have become aggressive and caused injury. That is why Delta is launching a new policy, requiring much more stringent documentation for emotional support animals on its flights.
We will see how it goes, but Delta is to be applauded for trying to put some order into the chaos that sometimes reigns in these airborne menageries. Not only may it restore some order, but it should help ease some of the stigma suffered by people with genuine disabilities, who are often thought to be abusing the law.
And I believe that the author of this ABC news story just made a typo in the second paragraph when he wrote that Delta will start requiring documentation that the animals are “trained and aggressive.” Remember, Spellcheck doesn’t catch everything !