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10 Questions for the Biggest Emotional Support Dog(s) We’ve Ever Seen

10 Questions for the Biggest Emotional Support Dog(s) We’ve Ever Seen
Meg Butler

You know what wouldn’t immediately strike us as a great, highly-portable service animal? One Rhodesian Ridgeback. So, we were doubly surprised when a FlyerTalker spotted not one but TWO Rhodesian Ridgebacks in premium seats on a recent flight. And, we have a lot of questions:

1. Wait, what?

2. How?

3. Should I assume that many business class seats have had a large dog’s bare bottom on them?

4. Where do they go to the bathroom? I mean, you can take a Shih Tzu into the business class lav and put it on a puppy pad. But, while I’m not an engineer or anything, I’m not sure either of these dogs would fit, even with the door open?

5. Is there no in-cabin weight limit for emotional support pets? I mean, if both of these very large dogs can fly, surely there was room for Viktor.

6. Can they spend the entire flight sharing the seat? Where would they go? In the aisle?

7. Did their owners have to share their meals/champagne? These dogs look like they could eat and drink a lot.

8. What, exactly is going on, configuration-wise, in this photo? Are they in four seats? Is that woman on the floor?

9. Do you think they’re siblings with giants’ names? Like The Mountain and Brienne of Tarth? Or, better yet, do they have small dog names, like Teeny and Tiny?

10. Do you think that, if we were on this flight, we’d get to pet them?

11. This isn’t really a question but, RIP to anyone on this flight with dog allergies or phobias.

View Comments (21)


  1. arcticflier

    November 15, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    Great Humor!

  2. skidooman

    November 16, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    Absolutely ridiculous.

    If you cannot fly without poochie, please take Greyhound or Amtrak. Even more so if your dog is big like this.

  3. Bowgie

    November 16, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    This appears to be a Delta 767-300 in a 1-2-1 row configuration. The two dogs appear to be sharing seats with the man and the women in the foreground of the picture. If I were in the adjacent window seats, or the one of the two people just behind the dogs, I’d be upset. This plane type is used on routes like SEA-PEK or SLC-CDG, so not a fun experience.

  4. robnbrwn

    November 19, 2019 at 10:06 am

    skidooman – Amtrak does not allow any pets. period. end. too bad.

  5. Boggie Dog

    November 19, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Isn’t the real question what support does any particular animal offer? Putting a little Emotional Support Animal harness on an animal just doesn’t cut it!

  6. cosmo74

    November 20, 2019 at 4:17 am

    Utterly insane, I’d be fuming if I was sat in front or behind them. Emotional support animals need to be banned by all airlines, the whole idea is a complete farce, and really makes a mockery of actual service dogs whose owners rely on them.

  7. Andy290

    November 20, 2019 at 4:20 am

    We have a Rhodesian Ridgeback, they’re highly intelligent but would make the WORST service dog, all they want to do is eat or sleep, preferably lots and lots of both haha! Ours is around 130lbs and looks similar sized to the one stood up (which is 100% drooling over the ladies in flight meal service) the mind boggles haha

  8. marjiep

    November 20, 2019 at 4:32 am

    AMTRAK does allow dogs & cats. READ the provisions, you do have to pay and there are rules.Amtrak recently announced that they are now allowing pets up to 20 pounds travel with their pet parents on all routes in the Midwest.

    This Amtrak pet policy revision follows substantial track improvements to the route that spans the Chicago to St. Louis corridor. The renovations allow for pets to now travel alongside their owners on the two trains that serve the route–the Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains.

    This expanded Amtrak pet policy that took effect in early July now completes the five-state Amtrak Midwest network that welcomes dogs and cats on trains. The change will connect popular destinations with pet-friendly trains, including the state capitals of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Missouri.

    To travel with pets on the Amtrak Midwest network, you must reserve a seat. A maximum of five pets are allowed per train, so reserving a seat well in advance is encouraged. Service animals do not count toward this limit.

    When booking, a surcharge of $25 is assessed for travel each way. Only cats and dogs up to 20 pounds (including the carrier) are welcome; they need to be able to fit inside a carrier that can be placed under the seat of the pet parent. Pets can only travel on trips up to seven hours.

    Since the pet-friendly policy was initiated in 2015, Amtrak has safely carried over 5,600 pets on the state-sponsored trains in the Chicago hub.

  9. drphun

    November 20, 2019 at 5:32 am

    Our cat provides me emotional support, as all pets do to their owners. It has never occurred to me not to leave her at home.

  10. MimiB22

    November 20, 2019 at 5:41 am

    On a recent flight, there was an emotional support duck. I kid you not. We heard quacking during the entire flight. I don’t know if the duck was in a carrier or not as it was behind my seat. Passengers were certainly talking about it, I know. On another flight, a “comfort” dog was larger than most passengers and it often lay in the aisle, and growled when people tried to pass by. These ridiculous “comfort” exploitations need to be stopped at the gate. Comfort animals are untrained and quite different from genuine service animals.

  11. bagwell

    November 20, 2019 at 6:28 am

    fake SERVICE DOG vests – can’t believe Delta would allow this – I bet they didn’t check the required documents!

    I wouldn’t put up with this for a damn 9-10 hour flight – I would demand a refund and compensation claiming a dog allergy.

  12. MRM

    November 20, 2019 at 6:55 am

    The very few that “need” ESA’s need to get fully diagnosed as disabled and they’d have a lot less issues with travel due to ADA rather BSE. ESA’s overall are a complete joke – put the things in carriage or just ride a bus/train/car. That’s what happens when a majority of folks do it illegally/unethically out of selfishness rather than actual need.

  13. Spilkus

    November 20, 2019 at 7:34 am

    @robnbrwn, Amtrak allows pets up to 20 pounds.

  14. lax01

    November 20, 2019 at 9:20 am


  15. tobegold

    November 20, 2019 at 9:38 am

    Enough of this support animal crap, anybody can buy “support animal” harnesses online and take their pets on-board. This needs to be regulated – limited to people with government issued permits for their certified support animal to fly. Big dogs like these should be in the hold.

  16. asbjorjo

    November 20, 2019 at 10:16 am

    I have a Rhodesian Ridgeback and would never travel with her in the cabin. It’s terrible for other passengers and also terrible for the dog. Now, to answer some of your questions:

    2) Because emotional support animal rubbish.
    3) Probably not on most non-US carriers, most other countries don’t care about your emotional support animal.
    4) They hold it. Our RR will do the whole SVG/TRD-AMS-IAH or IAH-AMS-OSL trip without going. Also, see 7.
    7) Hopefully not. DL food is barely fit for human consumption and will probably cause an immediate stinky poo situation. Yes, Ridgebacks can eat and drink a lot.

  17. Brian-AAFlyer

    November 20, 2019 at 12:45 pm

    Just wait until you see your first ADA approved miniature horse. Horses are federally approved ADA service animals, and are legally required to be carried

  18. jcelio

    November 20, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    I travel mostly international biz or first -live in Europe. Travel with a medical support, specifically trained has a letter to confirm done in an ADI approved school. Get very upset when see people abusing as it just makes those who do need makes us look like villains. Most of the times people do not even notice he is on board and do 10-12 hrs flights. To answer some questions above, he does not eat 24 hours before and no water 12 hours before. Never a problem he knows when he is next to me he is working.

  19. justkj

    November 22, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    I am quite familiar with dog shows and the people and handlers that show the animals. This was my parent hobby as I was growing up and I still run into some of the “characters” socially. It is a well known fact that flying any animal in cargo is horrible. Even if it is climate and pressure controlled, The airlines say they can do this, but most animals are traumatized by it.

    Many of the dog handlers now get “support animal” harnesses and book flights to move the dogs from their home city to the shows around the nation. The airlines never challenge someone who “needs” their support animal. Sadly I am aware of at least two such animals that were flown several times to shows around the US.

    My guess is that two Ridgebacks on the same flight is too many coincidences first that two people chose and trained a extremely large breed for this purpose … and … they both happen to be on the same flight. This was more likely to the be a handler and his assistant or spouse taking to dogs to a show.

    My parent always drove their dogs to the shows…in fact they never flew with me until I was well past the toddler stage and could be controlled on a flight. We always drove.

    I think the problem starts with pet owners who have a way to game the system to transport their pets in comfort on a plane. Until the government or airlines require a certificate that shows both need (Veterans and others with PTSD and other conditions) and training completion (from a recognized training organization) we will see this abused by the entitled.

  20. andrewku

    November 22, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    These are clearly identified as service dogs. Major distinction between service animals and ESA.animals. Service animals fly free and are protected by federal disability laws. Really protects the disabled. Dog doesnt care and he/she/it is working anyway.

    ESA is now limited to dogs now for airlines I believe.

    Pre 9-11 I used to fly several of my dogs with me to Jackson Hole when I went on vacation. Prices charged was similar to a extra piece of luggage and they flew in a crate in cargo. Now if I fly my dog as freight, they charge as much or more than my ticket so cannot afford to do that anymore. So $1000 or more vs. $50. So now my dogs dont go with me and the airline gets Zero extra revenue because they have all become too greedy. Sad.

  21. anthonyparkersd

    November 23, 2019 at 7:26 am

    If they are emotional support pet’s you’d think they’d be trained to not try to get at human food, but rather sitting and behaving.

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