Emotional Support Animals: More Evidence of Faking
A ir travel is apparently going to the dogs — and cats, monkeys, birds, turkeys, pigs, miniature horses, kangaroos and anything else which can “qualify” for an emotional support animal; and that trend seems to be increasing every day.
In other words, travel by air is literally becoming a zoo.
Emotional Support Animals: More Evidence of Faking
In addition to one piece of luggage, Alyssa Ramos — a travel “blogger”, no less — also has a carrying bag for Oscar de la Ramos and a knapsack filled with toys and treats to keep the ears of the Pomeranian dog who weighs seven pounds from popping, according to this article written by Beth Landman of the New York Post which claims that some pet owners feel that the high prices and a stressful travel environment justify bending the rules a bit.
“I first applied for support papers online to avoid the airline pet fee,” Ramos — who is based in the Los Angeles area — admitted, according to the article. “But I had just gotten into a motorcycle accident and had emotional stress, so my regular doctor wound up writing me a letter.”
A Legitimate Case Which Was Initially Denied
Meanwhile, the case over emotional support animals is not confined solely to the United States, which has laws protecting those who claim their need for their pets to travel with them as a disability: Kate Skywalker — who is a former soldier of the Canadian Armed Forces for greater than ten years and was given a medical discharge after being diagnosed with depression and anxiety related to her time in the military — is taking on Air Canada over a travel policy which excludes service animals that offer emotional support to people with mental illness, according to this article written by Rosa Marchitelli of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Representatives of the airline would not permit Skywalker to travel with her cat, whom she claims calms her down: “… sometimes when I travel or even when I’m in crowds, I have severe anxiety, so having her with me comforts me.”
After she refused to take “no” for an answer, Skywalker said that an employee of Air Canada told her that “she could take her cat into the cabin as a pet if she paid a fee. Skywalker refused, and eventually the employee agreed to waive the $50 fee and Skywalker and her cat boarded the flight.”
Back in the United States, a service dog which saved the life of a veteran of the military and had been named Service Dog of the Year at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards was denied permission to accompany a member of the military as they were about to board the airplane for their trip home.
Just How Easy Is It For a Pet to Travel For Free?
Swainson Gill — an employee of CBS News — and his family pet dog, Pharaoh volunteered to demonstrate how easily pets can travel for free under the current rules, according to this article from last year.
Swainson logged on to one of the many sites offering counseling services. His reported disability: “a fear of flying,” one of the many reasons given, and difficult to challenge.
The questionnaire was complete in less than five minutes. Two weeks later a letter confirming his dog as an emotional support animal arrived along with the official-looking vest.
Within days Swainson and Pharaoh were on their way from New York to Washington, D.C. to take in the sites.
“It’s amazing how easy it was,” Swainson said.
Reaction by Frequent Fliers
FlyerTalk member txflyer77 observed: “I’ve passed four ‘therapy dogs’ in the last half hour at DEN C concourse.”
More discussions pertaining to emotional support animals have been appearing on FlyerTalk where frequent fliers are talking about the increase in emotional support animals when traveling.
Here is a list of some of those discussions:
- The Definitive Discussion of Emotional Support Animals on Airlines
- Emotional Support Animals, Service Dogs and Comfort Pets: The Definitive Thread
- Emotional Support Animal Policy
- Traveling with an Emotional Support/Service animal on UA Q&A [CONSOLIDATED]
- “Emotional Support Animal” on my flight flies for free. Seriously?
- USA laws regarding service animals
- Hey, You in the Bored Room with the Fake Service Dog
- Alleged “Service Dog” Bit Gate Agent
Help is On The Way?
The Department of Transportation of the United States sought your input pertaining to exploring the feasibility of conducting a “negotiated rulemaking” — which includes the hiring of a convener to speak with parties who are interested — in addressing the a number of issues which included determining the appropriate definition of a service animal.
It remains to be seen whether or not the input the federal agency received will lead to further defining the definition of a service animal and addressing the increasingly blatant abuse of the qualification of emotional service animals.
Meanwhile, owners of dogs may face a penalty — which could include time in jail — for passing off their pet as a service dog in the state of Florida on or after Wednesday, July 1, 2015.
I have outlined the distinct definitions between service animals and emotional support animals in several articles — including this one — and while more and more people appear to be taking advantage of the current laws to pass off their pets as emotional support animals, there are cases of other people who are being denied traveling with their legitimate service animals.
That is a shame. The passing off of pets as emotional support animals is a fraudulent practice which needs to be contained — but there is no incentive of that happening anytime soon, as FlyerTalk member 110pgl was rather succinct with this thought:
“With a fake ESA you get…
- Extra carry-on allowance
- Empty seat next to you (where available)
- Free upgrade to E+/MCE/etc (where available)
- No pet charge
“Why would anyone pay to put their pet in the hold?”
Photograph ©2006 by B. Cohen.