Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals: Are the Rules and Policies Being Abused and Exploited?

Whether it is a white goose, a dog who used the lavatory, or Fluffy the Wonder Cat, FlyerTalk members have long suspected that a growing number of unqualified pets are being passed off as service animals or emotional support animals so that passengers may avoid paying extra charges or have their pets relegated into the cargo hold — and until there is a service similar to the fictitious Furry Family offered by WestJet Airlines, expect the grumblings to continue indefinitely. To be clear, there are distinct differences between service animals and animals used to provide their owners “emotional support.” The official definition of a service animal — according to the Disability Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice of the United States pertaining to the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA — is as follows…

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Fluffy the Wonder Cat?

“Is that a service cat?”

Here is the story that allegedly happened in the words of FlyerTalk member CDTraveler:

“Third day on the road, and our big guy was not going back in the carrier when we arrived at our La Quinta for the night. So we clipped on his leash (our cats always wear their harnesses while traveling) and walked him on in to the lobby. Desk clerk looked at him, strolling so casually along on a leash, and said, ‘Is that a service cat?’ I said, ‘Well, he does the work of one, but he doesn’t have the paperwork.’

“While she was checking us in, a woman came in with her ‘dog’ – I’ve seen bigger rats on leashes. My son laughed at the dog, because it was literally one-forth the size of our cat and made a joke about size reversal – big cat/tiny dog.

“As we’re walking away, the woman is heard complaining to the desk clerk ‘People shouldn’t travel with cats, they’re just nuisances in public.’ to which the desk clerk replied ‘That’s a service cat; he has the right be here!’

“Gotta love those who know the ADA.”

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Wait Your Turn. The Dog is Using the Lavatory…

Passengers on a recent flight had to wait while there was a Dog using the lav, which has led to a rough discussion about what a dog should be fed before embarking on a flight — or whether or not there should even be a clause about pets being allowed in the passenger cabin at all instead of being caged in the cargo hold.

Was this tale due to a lapse of judgment on the part of the dog owner, who probably should pause before bringing the possibly incontinent pet on a future flight?

Let’s just hope the dog did not mistake the blue stuff in the bowl for water…

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Dog Days in Flight, and How to Avoid Paying a Fee for Your Dog

What if you needed to take your dog on a flight with you, but do not want to pay the associated fees involved and relegate your precious pet to the cargo hold even though the dog is clearly too large to occupy the area in front of your seat on-board the aircraft?

Here is the alleged solution for one couple, who reportedly found a doctor to give them a prescription to certify their pet as a service dog so that their dog could travel in the passenger cabin with them. Additionally, they would not have to pay the US$500 fee charged by the airline.

FlyerTalk members — some of whom are outraged — discussed the ethics of what this couple allegedly did in the Fake Service Dogs thread.

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