How Tight is the Leash on Emotional Support Animals on Planes?

My Facebook newsfeed this afternoon was lit up with “Furious George” memes.

No, it’s not parody of Curious George written by a parent who has had to read the books or watch the PBS show one too many times.

He’s a Rhesus macaque (a monkey) who had left his life as a research animal (boo!) and was on his way to live out his retirement years in an animal sanctuary outside of San Antonio (yay!). Dawkins (his real name) managed to escape his crate at San Antonio International Airport. He spent an hour swinging on the belts and bars in the baggage handling area before the airport’s wildlife biologist (yes, that’s a real job) and vets from the San Antonio Zoo managed to tranquilize him and return him to his crate.

Let’s hope no one ever tells Dawkins that some news outlets misidentified him as a baboon.

When I first read the news reports about a monkey running amok at an airport, my first thought was I wonder if he’s someone’s emotional support animal.

It’s not that crazy of an idea.

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 requires airlines to allow passengers to bring emotional support animals, even those that have a potential to “offend or annoy” passengers. Emotional support animals can fly free of charge and without a carrier under the Act.

What sorts of animals to people bring onboard for emotional support? Cats and dogs, mostly, but also turkeys (hopefully not during the Thanksgiving holiday), ducks (you apparently can diaper a duck), and kangaroos, to name a few of the more unusual emotional support animals flying the friendly skies.

So could I bring my elderly golden retriever Lady onboard and claim her as an emotional support animal? Airlines are ahead of the government and have their own rules regarding emotional support animals. These rules include having a doctor’s note proving you have a diagnosed mental disorder that is aided by the presence of the animal and some sort of written proof that the animal can behave itself on the plane.

Lady’s out of luck. She would spend the flight stealing snacks off of the beverage cart.

Pick your poison. Would you rather sit behind someone who reclines their seat or beside someone with an animal you are either allergic to or relieves itself in its seat (because who ever heard of a turkey using a toilet, that’s crazy).

After years of complaints about animal allergies, biting, urination, and defecation on board, the federal government has finally decided to take action. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently requested public comment for what could be eventual rule changes for such animals.

So what’s the bottom line if you really need to bring your bunny onboard to get through the flight? Or your kid can’t be near a dog because of allergies? For now, the airlines get to make the rules so check their websites to see what your rights are.

Have you ever sat next to an unusual emotional support animal on a plane? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Disclaimer: This website is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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