In-Flight Emotional-Support Animals: A Right or a Nuisance?

In-Flight Emotional-Support Animals: A Right or a Nuisance?
Luciana Mangas

A lot of travelers have been complaining about the abuse of the comfort animals policy during flights.

The carrying of emotional support animals during flights is being challenged by some passengers. USA Today reports that there have been several complaints of situations in which animals have been left to roam the cabin freely during the flight – a situation that may upset other travelers.

Maureen Van Dorn, who recently flew from Tucson to Chicago to attend a funeral, was seated next to a very large Dalmatian. “I was shocked by the size of this dog,” she said. “When the traveler in seat 3A stood up, the dog was able to put his paws on the man’s shoulders.”

The dog had no identification as a service animal, nor did he wear a vest indicating the reason he was there.

The documentation requirements as set forth by the DOT are relatively light; passengers require either an approved identification card, informal documentation such as harnesses printed with identification, tags or “credible verbal assurances.” According to DOT policy as reported by USA Today, “airlines must allow registered service animals to accompany their owners anywhere they choose to sit on the condition that the aircraft aisles and surrounding areas remain clear, and the service animal must be trained to behave properly in public settings.”

“Lately, a lot of people have been posing their regular family pets as service animals,” pet expert Dana Humphrey says. “That’s a big no-no.”

While emotional-support animals are very important to some of the passengers, they also cause discomfort for other passengers that sometimes are allergic or are just plain uncomfortable traveling with an animal on the next seat.

“Those who insist they need an emotional support animal to fly do so ostensibly in order to avoid having to take medication,” says Toni Vitanza, a flight attendant. “But the same folks have no problem suggesting that those with allergies pop a pill — even when that pill makes driving to a business meeting unsafe or performing well at said meeting impossible due to side effects.”

For reasons like this, several airlines want to tighten the reins on the use of in-flight emotional-support animals. On October 12, a Department of Transportation advisory committee is scheduled decide whether emotional support animals qualify as service animals.

[Photo: Service Dog Certifications]

View Comments (72)


  1. gum

    October 11, 2016 at 5:10 am

    IMHO it is another sauciness which I (and possibly you) too often encountert when using means of public transport.

    A normally negligible minority of travellers are using their pretended animal-loving as blueprint for how all other fellow
    passengers have to conduct. They often try to attract more attention than usual and begin to avert from other human beings
    and getting more and more self-centric. Suppported by some well-trained sales staff and medias who love to lure them to the animal trap.

    They then forget how unusual and annoying the smell of an animal could be if the fur is wet or the calf-size dog shakes. Dust and fell parts are flying everywhere. A fact that also pet owners have to concede. Large manufacturers of home appliances likevacum cleaners have detected the additional revenue stream generated by special filters and appliances. But nearly noone preserves the silent majority of people who are simply annoyed by that behavior. And the fiction of the emotional support dog is just the next rocket stage in attractting awareness.

    IMHO airlines should decide to have no pets whatsoever within the cabin. Servicedogs should be restricted to specially designated seats with sufficiently distance to the next passengers.

    Additionally their transportation should be restricted to the lowest avaible service class. Just imagine a 4,000 Euro+ First Class Customer being annoyed by a fake emotional support animal or even having a real allergy.

    That is another area of life where pet owners yet behave obscene. Like colleagues who never shower after interacting with their animal and criticizing their fellow colleagues just for a tiny hint about the usual business/office rules.

    That said airlines should ban any animal from the cabin of there is no clear documentation of the function as service animal for the blind person. The airlines could be additionally legally be required to give the second or the third neighbour seat for free. So that the animal and its owner can sit on a double seat window pair or the equivalent three of seats in B747/A 380 and similar air frames.

    This is my plea just for the return of commen sense and restricting the over-entitled “emotional support animal” holders.

    Don’t want to forget to thank you, Luciana for bringing this up to the attention of your readers.

  2. TMOliver

    October 11, 2016 at 6:06 am

    Nuisance! Having owned dogs all my life and kept them close, I’ve learned much about them, especially how much they prefer to be “at home”. In all honesty, I view hauling them about for “emotional support” as blatant animal cruelty.

  3. dogcanyon

    October 11, 2016 at 6:19 am

    What’s next, somebody insisting on bringing their “comfort cobra” or “anti-anxiety skunk” on board? With the exception of documented seeing-eye dogs, all animals should be banned from the cabin.

  4. ksandness

    October 11, 2016 at 6:33 am

    How did people manage to fly for the past seventy years without “support animals”?

  5. closecover

    October 11, 2016 at 6:48 am

    “Those who insist they need an emotional support animal to fly do so ostensibly in order to avoid having to take medication,” she says. “But the same folks have no problem suggesting that those with allergies pop a pill — even when that pill makes driving to a business meeting unsafe or performing well at said meeting impossible due to side effects.”


  6. Roamin'Around

    October 11, 2016 at 7:34 am

    I have severe bronchial asthma for the last 64 years. I’m allergic to animals with fur and I’ve had many issues with emotional support animal owners. On one occasion I moved from First Class to Economy on a Delta flight because there were 2 such dogs; 1 in front of me and 1 behind me. Passengers were sneezing and coughing, but I was starting to have difficulty breathing so I relocated. The flight attendant was sympathetic and came to me in economy telling me horror stories about emotional support animals. Unfortunately, Delta does not follow their own rules requiring emotional support animals be trained as well as service animals if they are not kept in a kennel. And when these thoughtless emotional support owners prance their dogs into the business class lounge on a leash my blood pressure goes up. I know and they know that they are abusing a system to save the $150 fee for their animals. But feeding your dog in a lounge where there is food and the reps cannot do anything about it, unhealthy. And by the way, one of the dogs mentioned at the beginning of my rant defecated on the floor in 1st class after I had relocated. What about my rights to breathe???

  7. Cymbo

    October 11, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Yes, these types are a bloody nuisance and should be grounded!

  8. CaliforniaSteve

    October 11, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    We live in an age of total and complete entitlement. Even if one were required to get a doctor’s note describing the need for an emotional support animal, the abuse would not be curtailed. People are required to get documentation from a doctor supporting the need for disabled placards in their cars. They doctor-shop to find one that will certify some kind of supposed disability to allow them to get the placard. These pet owners will do the same thing… shop until they find one that will “prescribe” an emotional support pet.

  9. jwlowry

    October 11, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    I may have posted this experience elsewhere here, but flying in an aisle seat in the back row of first on a Delta widebody redeye flight a few years ago, I woke up to one of these creatures humping (or should that be Trumping?) my leg. It’s owner was also asleep in the first row of coach. I instinctively kicked the little lap dog away, at which point it yelped, waking its owner. She went berserk (apparently she wasn’t getting the emotional support that the dog was supposed to be providing) but I was the one who was warned about my behavior from the flight crew. I almost became a former Delta customer that night.

  10. Matt777

    October 11, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    If you’re so emotionally frail and unstable that you need an animal with you just to do normal activities like flying, then you really shouldn’t be traveling or doing anything without a legal guardian.

  11. swm61230

    October 11, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    You want emotional support sit in the cargo hold with your pet! Every time I see a pet brought into the plane it makes me uncomfortable.

    I understand about a true bonafied service animal and I have no issue with those. I can’t even fill up the times on one hand that a true service animal was on the same flight as me over the last 20years.

    The majority of the flying public doesn’t need emotional support animals. So why should the entire industry bow to them. That’s like saying we are going to allow smoking on the plane again for those few that want to smoke.

    A doctors note is not good enough. The dot needs to approve the service animal training centers as an only those animals can be allowed in a plane from such and such accredited facilities. They are trained and conditioned to be around mass amounts of people.

    The standard home pet doesn’t like strangers and usually freak out at the slightest change.

  12. JackE

    October 11, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    What happens when someone claims they need their emotional-support snake or emotional-support rat? If these snowflakes are too fragile to fly without an animal on their laps, they are too fragile to fly.

  13. COU

    October 12, 2016 at 9:09 am

    these “comfort animals” are a total scam

  14. Lakeviewsteve

    October 12, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    Gee, people posting here really are not animal friendly. That is so sad.

  15. Silver Fox

    October 13, 2016 at 3:19 am

    Total con, in this PC world no-one has the balls to call it as it is. A guy I used to work in the same building as me used to bring his wife’s “emotional support” dog to work every day. I used to pet it as I walked past it, to which he used to say “you are not supposed to touch a working dog”….to which I replied “where’s your wife then?”. An absolute sham in all sectors. Just give them a teddy bear or a comfort blanket (the human, not the dog) or they don’t fly.

  16. tfly212

    October 13, 2016 at 3:25 am

    I wouldn’t say it is any more of a scam than the airlines charging $175 per flight to bring a small pet on board. The number of people that truly cannot fly without an animal is likely very small. A big reason this program seems more widespread than it is is that people use it to get around the ridiculous fees the airlines add on for traveling with a pet. I have an 8 lb yorkie that occasionally travels with me. The fee for him to be under the seat in front of me sometimes exceeds the cost of my ticket. Pure greed on the airlines have exacerbated this tremendously.

  17. chitink

    October 13, 2016 at 3:35 am

    What if I have a phobia about flying with animals? Are my needs covered and do they have to deplane? Oh that’s right, nope.

  18. ngataringa

    October 13, 2016 at 3:42 am

    As a dog lover and involved with training guide dogs for the blind, I sometimes would prefer interaction with travelling pets rather than with quite a few types of human co-passengers. However I acknowledge that not everyone enjoys or medically tolerates furry cabin companions. How about some flights being designated for bringing your favourite fur ball, perhaps limited to one section of the cabin, and other flights being kept pet-free?

  19. rjlon

    October 13, 2016 at 3:54 am

    Having severe pet allergies, I am squarely on the side of tightening it up. Emotional support animals do have a medical role but there should be a regulation as to the types of animal included. Further, the need for an emotional support animal coupled to a registration number should be signed by the Doctor treating the patient and there should be a list of emotional support animals which should be chipped. Rights for all but the current system is hideously abused. It reminds me of the “Lourdes passengers” you get on many long hauls, who have to be wheel chaired to the plane and pre boarded yet during a 5-6 hour flight they have a miracle cure and can almost run to the baggage claim at the other end. Having had to use wheelchairs, I do not think much of these folks either.
    These things are in place for those who need them and steps should be taken to stop abuse by the self centered.

  20. CHOPCHOP767

    October 13, 2016 at 4:14 am

    I have a twenty pound Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who I often take on travel with me. Honestly, I think he flies more than most people on the plane. He stays in his bag and I pay the $125 each way. As a combat veteran of Afghanistan, I’m almost certain I could use that to pay some charlatan to give me a note to skip out on the fee. Sadly, I don’t even think that would be necessary.

    I think TSA should be responsible for a vetting, no pun intended, program for ’emotional support animals’ just like TSA Pre-Check. If someone really ‘needed’ the emotional support animal, then at the very least it should meet minimum criteria just like flyers do to participate in Pre-Check and Global Entry.

  21. dsweet

    October 13, 2016 at 4:26 am

    While loose, untrained dogs in the cabin can be a nuisance, neither the author of the articles nor the members providing comments appear to understand the ESA program, the law in this area or even the reason that this issue has arisen.

    First, every airline has rules and procedures for ESA animals. A passenger may not just bring an animal aboard. First, the passenger must have a written diagnosis from a psychologist or psychiatrist diagnosing the passenger as having a medical/psychological need for a support animal. This prescription must be renewed at least annually. Thus, there is a cost, sometimes an expensive one, to bring an ESA. Second, the passenger must apply, in advance, and supply the diagnosis to the airline. Even then, the airlines regularly misplace the approval, creating a hassle at boarding.

    ESA animals, unlike guide dogs, require no specific training. The animals are not required to have even one instructive class. Guide dogs on the other hand, spend months of individual training, and then more months of training with the blind person.

    The DOT can hold all of the meetings it wants. However, the Americans with Disability Act clearly requires that airlines and other forms of transportation make accommodations to allow those with disabilities to use them. From a legal point of view, there can be no doubt that with the diagnosis described above, this need for an ESA would qualify as a disability. Deciding that allowing an ESA goes beyond making a reasonable accommodation would absolutely invite litigation. It is likely that the airlines would lose in any such litigation.

    The reason for the rise in ESAs is not entitlement. The reason for the increase is the decision of the airlines to charge very large fees to bring an animal onboard or to transport one as cargo. It is very usual now for an airline to charge more for an animal not requiring a seat than for a passenger. Transporting an animal as cargo can cost $700-800. Were the airlines to go back to the “old days” (no charge in cabin, nominal in cargo), the number of ESAs would drop sharply.

    There is no doubt that these large fees have led to abuse, because it is cheaper to arrange a “diagnosis” than to pay to transport the animal. The abuse is the reason for the upsurge in the number of ESAs.

    Hope this clarifies.

  22. Debrian Travels

    Debrian Travels

    October 13, 2016 at 4:26 am

    I try to see things as objectively as possible. I love animals, especially dogs, though I do not own one. However, I do not understand the way some people treat pets like people. However, to each their own. I see it this way – you are free to do as you want, within the rules, until you interfere with the reasonable right to be left alone of others. Put simply, your rights end when their interfere with the rights of others.

    I do not have a dog allergy but a friend does. And certain types of dogs make him very congested and could otherwise make for a very unpleasant trip if confined in close quarters with certain types of dogs. Given that airplanes are primarily for the transportation of human beings and dogs are not paying a fare as are other passengers, someone with an allergy or something similar impactful should not have to share tight quarters with a relatively unnecessary animal (I exempt bona fide service animals here). I would note, that I do not include merely “not liking” something here. There are lots of things I do not like but if simple distaste is my only real objection, that alone should not limit the actions of someone else.

    My big thing when traveling is relative quiet and solitude – no excessively loud noises that annoy others, no constant kicking, bumping or touching me, etc. We were on a TGV train in France in August and the family across the aisle had four seats around a table and under the table was a little dog. Now, I have nothing against dogs as noted, but I thought “great…we are gonna have to hear that thing yapping for the next six hours and having it running around the aisle.” Nope. Better behaved than many kids I have traveled near! That dog disappeared under the table, laid down, and I truly forget it was there until they got off the train. I have no issue with a small animal that can travel that well. However, that is not always the case and unless you have a REAL service animal, that’s when there is an issue.

  23. oedrex1

    October 13, 2016 at 4:30 am

    Had to suffer through this three weeks ago…big dog. Woman claimed it was an emotional support dog she trained herself…self identifying and self training…no that’s not a support animal, that’s your pet. AA did not respond to my complaint via twitter. Dog was so big it imposed into my floor/foot space…

  24. zdv170

    October 13, 2016 at 4:31 am

    While I agree with other’s comments here about the issues of allergies and inappropriate behavior by pets and owners in cabin (and also in the airport terminal), I disagree with the assessment that all emotional service animals are a scam. Our two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused many, many members of our armed forces to return with severe PTSD. Their fear of being out in public, in particular in crowded places, is often only curtailed in the company of their service animal. Wouldn’t it be a shame if we denied these brave men and women the opportunity to travel because we can’t tolerate their companion animal for 3 hours?

  25. milkeway04

    October 13, 2016 at 4:34 am

    I DO in fact need a service animal to fly if I want to fly alone and the people that are faking it are causing us who truly need it a great deal of problems. A true service animal should lay at your feet and never leave that space. It should be clean also! Whenever I fly with mine I always upgrade to a window bulk head seat which allows him to be tucked away into the corner out of everyone’s way. Ths vast majority of times when I get off the plane people comment how they didn’t even know a dog was on! I even had a young girl next to me who put a bag filled with food on the floor under her seat and my dog laidr 6 inches away from it and never even gave it a look! IF a dog is jumping in your lap, or leaving his assigned space on the floor at the owners feet it is a scam. Really quite simple!

  26. papertec

    October 13, 2016 at 4:45 am

    I’m curious? Did none of these people ever fly before they were allowed to bring their “emotional support” with them?

  27. aristotled


    October 13, 2016 at 4:48 am

    I am extremely allergic to the dander from all animals with hair to the point my throat begins to close and I might have to be hospitalized. I am a top tier frequent flier and when I book my flights I let the airline know of my condition, similar to people who are allergic to peanuts, and inform them that there can be NO animals in the cabin period! They have to comply, and when anyone attempts to book a “support” animal they are told to book a different flight. Just like “no peanuts served on this flight”. If more of us would do this when we book, then the airlines might very well get the idea and change the rules. With the exception of seeing eye dogs, I believe that there should be ZERO animals of any kind in the cabin.

  28. 95037

    October 13, 2016 at 4:51 am

    What a racket! I was in first when a young lady come on holding a rabbit…and emotional support rabbit.

  29. 59Impala

    October 13, 2016 at 5:04 am

    A nuicance and simply disgusting. These people have psychlogical problems and need therapy.
    This definitely may never become a right and an airline must have the right to refuse transport.

  30. taina2

    October 13, 2016 at 5:05 am

    Comfort animals are not a necessity. The animals are discomforted by the pressure changes. Your bundle of joy is a fleabag to many.

  31. AggieTexan

    October 13, 2016 at 5:06 am

    I had a really bad experience with a cat on a plane last year. I don’t know if it was an emotional support animal or not, but the owner was very unapologetic and had the shrieking, yowling beast out of its cage shedding all over the place. I am highly allergic to cats, and my eyes swelled shut almost immediately. The flight attendants were not able to help me move (full flight), and didn’t say anything to the cat owner. I don’t understand why it’s practically a federal offense to eat a peanut on a plane, yet it’s fine for passengers to bring animals that many are severely allergic to.

    Thankfully my allergy is eyes/hives, not breathing difficulties. What would the response have been if someone had a breathing reaction to the cat? I just don’t understand why one allergen is more important than another, and why someone’s pet or emotional support animal gets priority over passenger comfort and health.

  32. Will Rogers

    October 13, 2016 at 5:33 am

    This is a problem beyond just on airplanes – it’s in restaurants and hotels as well.

    This is all just part of the decline of standards in America. We used to apologize for our shortcomings and try to fix/improve them. Now people celebrate their failings and weaknesses, and sell them as badges of notoriety. They get a letter from some scuzzy internet doctor saying they need to have Fifi with them in public because they get anxious without her, and now the rest of us have to deal with their worthless yip dog in the airline seat next to them or at the next table in a restaurant. It’s like someone who sprained their ankle deciding they’re going to use crutches for the rest of their life, and please don’t complain when you trip over them when they leave them scattered all over everywhere they go.

    Tighten the rules, make if for people with genuine physical disabilities only.

  33. lalismom

    October 13, 2016 at 5:37 am

    So many negative comments representing particular perspectives. Here’s mine.
    We all know for whatever rules/policies/laws etc exist, there will always be someone who tries to exploit and take advantage of them…and in some cases, like this one, it will impact others.

    Airplanes are public transportation. Like a bus. Only more expensive, longer journeys, once on not easily off. But, also like a bus you can’t know ahead of time who you will be traveling with or how anyone, with a creature or not, will behave. We all have sensitivities. I have been exposed to idiots spritzing themselves with perfume which increases my migraine risk. Then there are those bringing their own snacks on board which may contain peanut dust. It’s a risk.

    But personally, I would be happy sharing a cabin that had more creatures than most humans. Prior comments have made it clear the humans are the problem. Yes, there are some scammers…but I can’t believe it happens THAT frequently. Are these folks doing it to avoid the fees for sending a pet as cargo? Possibly…but no one who loves their pet would ever consider cargo as a way for their pet to travel in the first place unless there were no alternative.

    Maybe what is needed is to charge the fee even for someone who is disabled, to have their pet on board. In addition anyone traveling with a creature must abide by the FEDERAL guidelines that may need to be established and understand any violation will result in great penalties/fines or worse. That way those traveling with creatures could be seated in one area so as to minimally impact those who may not wish to enjoy their company. Why can’t some sort of partition be developed so that the creature must remain in their row…and maybe the person must buy out that row? But, at a minimum, the creature must be under the control of the person.

    Now, the other issue, which is the biggest, is the near mockery of people with invisible disabilities. Some comments have been made about how if someone has that sort of issue they should not travel, or should not travel alone. This is beyond insulting to those with mental/emotional/PTSD type issues. How did they travel before animals were allowed, someone asked? Not well, or not at all most likely. Or yes, maybe with a bottle of pills, or a lot of pre-board or on-board alcohol. Those choices didn’t impact fellow passengers, but they do nothing for helping our fellow humans. The people impacted have a rough enough time of it…so I would rather risk letting some ignorant piece of crap “get away” with an on-board pet, than to keep someone with a problem from making progress and experiencing life, a job, whatever, by being able to have their pet in tow.

    Many decades ago I had some problems, and having my pup with me would have made a world of difference. But I would hope the airlines might also offer to let fellow passengers know discreetly if they would be in the near vicinity of a creature so seating could be tweeked prior to boarding for everyone’s best interests.

  34. Happy Rasmith

    October 13, 2016 at 5:47 am

    While there are legitimate cases for a comfort support animal, I agree this is being abused on a large scale by those trying to Assuage their guilt for leaving their pet at home while traveling. I’ve seen once where an attendant challenge a man who had zero documentation only to back down and allow the critter to fly.

    Strangest case I heard of was a woman using a Turkey..Reports were the Gobbler was very well behaved. Yikes

  35. JHIN

    October 13, 2016 at 5:49 am

    This topic made national news last night on NBC that airlines are complaining to the Feds to set guidelines so that turkeys, turtles, kangaroos, pigs etc cannot be brought on board.

    My question is what if a passenger has a severe allergy to some of these animals being brought on board – what’s their rights here especially if the animal freely roams the cabin?

    If this a case of having peanut allergy whereof you say that to the flight attendant when boarding they might not hand out nuts in that flight? Not sure that’s any airline policy or procedure but I’ve seen it done.

    If passengers do this regarding animals then does the passenger with the animal not fly?

  36. GordyUK

    October 13, 2016 at 5:56 am

    As usual, take something positive that has been around for decades and abuse it to the point of ridiculousness

    There is ONE support animal and its called a GUIDE DOG or Seeing-eye dog – in the US…

    Everything else should be banned.. If you can’t board an aircraft without freaking out, then take the bus

  37. Delightful

    October 13, 2016 at 6:03 am

    The majority of service dogs on planes is about avoiding costs. Costs to kennel and animal or have a walker, costs to fly an animal, cost to have a house sitter, costs of an animal with anxiety left alone in a house.

    I have had animals all my life and from what I can tell most of the people who take their pets on a plane are trying to avoid costs. Until someone is severely injured or killed because of an animal blocking a path I don’t anticipate anything will happen. While animals are often treated as family members, they are legally considered chattel. To eliminate the wannabees who need their animal for flying just charge them the cost of an extra seat. After all, if they needed a therapist to fly I don’t think that therapist would get a free seat.

    For smaller animals who can travel under the seat (define a weight e.g. 15 lbs) must stay in a cage under a seat otherwise, they will be charged. Finally, the barking dog should be fined. Given they are chattel they can be treated as if they are a radio (I know it is harsh) passengers can be given a warning to turn off the radio. If they don’t they can be fined or whatever they do with a belligerent passenger. People who bring animals on board a plane should sign some kind of conduct contract.

  38. sailor279

    October 13, 2016 at 6:07 am

    Total nuisance.

    Living in LA, where it’s somehow ok to bring your pet (mostly dogs) EVERYWHERE, I have silently tolerated this absurdity. On a transcon flight a few years ago, I awoke to a 3-foot tall dog licking my feet as the owner, across the aisle fell asleep and allowed the animal to roam. Disgusting and disturbing! She told me later that the airline did not charge her for taking on this large pet, which I found surprising.

    At a MINIMUM, require that the animal be in a proper container/cage/carry case. If they’re too large to fit, then they go in cargo (I love swm61230’s comment above to have the owner sit with them in cargo if they need the support!)

    I had a friend that just wanted to travel with her pet so her kids could be entertained. She had her doc write a note that it was a “emotional support” dog. Needless to say, I was horrified. I have to believe that a large percentage with in-flight emotional support animals are scams, imposing upon the rest of us for the convenience of a few.

  39. Ronlap

    October 13, 2016 at 6:15 am

    I agree with many of the above – if you need animal support to fly, then don’t fly. I have severe asthma to the point of using a maintenance inhaler twice a day and carrying a humidifier to run in my hotel rooms. I am UA MM-1K and I seem to have a knack for being seated next to people with big, hairy dogs.

  40. Ellie1819

    October 13, 2016 at 6:22 am

    A little compassion, please. I have a certification from my doctor attesting to my need for an ESA. I suffer from panic attacks when I fly, so indeed I would not be able to do so without my well-behaved 13 pound dog. She sleeps through the 8 hour flight (Ny-Paris), has never made a mess. Most fellow passengers do not even know she’s there. And most are delighted to have such a calm, quiet companion aboard. My dog has soothed unruly children and generally made the transatlantic experience happier for all aboard. I spend half the year in France and would not be able to do so without my ESA. I would happily pay for her but she is a few pounds above the weight limit.

  41. KDouglas66

    October 13, 2016 at 6:34 am

    Everyone complaining about emotional support animals on a plane just needs to relax. I fly frequently and every dog I’ve encountered has been an absolute pleasure and in fact most of the time I did not even realize an ESA was on board until after the plane had already landed and I noticed the handler taking it off with him/her. Far, FAR more annoying and disruptive is a single baby/toddler who can single handedly keep an entire plane from being able to comfortably relax. This is the issue we should all be talking about. There should be segregated family sections on airplanes. If you insist on flying with your baby, then enjoy the family section while everyone else can have some peace and quiet.

  42. KRSW

    October 13, 2016 at 6:37 am

    I don’t have a problem with a true service animal, ie: guide dog for the blind, epilepsy monitor dog, etc. There’s a real need, these animals are highly trained, and you wouldn’t even know they were there.

    BUT this “emotional support” animal stuff is crap. If you’re THAT emotionally unstable, you should be traveling with a human companion who can actually help you if something happens. Princess the Chihuahua isn’t going to help you in severe turbulence or IRROPs. Or the 80 lb pooping pig some girl tried to bring on a US Air flight a few years back. And yes, I’ve been through some serious emotional crap over the years.

    CaliforniaSteve is correct — this is just selfishness. Just Google Emotional Support Animal and you’ll see ads for vests, badges, certificates. As little as $10, no less. There are no standards for training or certification. Such standards may exist, but if your emotional support pig has a vest/badge, no one’s going to question it. Even if they do, you’ve got the $30 certificate you bought online.

    I want to know…since we’re making exceptions for every single special interest that may even remotely exist, how are they going to handle someone with an emotional support animal vs. someone who has a severe phobia of animals?

  43. Slidermann

    October 13, 2016 at 6:50 am

    My wife is allergic to cats and dogs and it’s one miserable flight for her when pets are on the plane.

    In First Class on United with and a guy in 1C bragging about buying a $30 service animal vest to avoid paying the pet fee United charges. His dog weighed about 70 lbs. and took up part of the isle when laying down. He was returning to O.C after a 4 day camping trip in Colorado and his dog smelled really bad.
    Last year going to Vegas on United from Denver and a lady let her dog wonder into first class where it had a serious bout of diarrhea in the isle. I almost lost my breakfast because of the smell.

  44. chamki

    October 13, 2016 at 7:00 am

    All of you need to stop whining because there are more urgent issues in the travel industry that need to be addressed. If the airlines ban pets/service animals from flying, then they should ban children too because they are much more disruptive during flights and can transmit illnesses from which you can actually die. Further, anyone who can purchase a seat for their pet/service animal should have the right to do so.

  45. Chris Guntner

    October 13, 2016 at 7:02 am

    I recently checked out Amtrak’s “service dog” policy and it was VERY restrictive (probably becuase their trips are considerably longer–all the airlines have to do is check out Amtrak’s policy

  46. adrianjo

    October 13, 2016 at 7:24 am

    I have had my small dog on a lot of flights, both commercial and private, and there has never been even the slightest issue. Unfortunately for flying trans-atlantic, the emotional support route is the only way to get the animal across in humane conditions on most US-based airlines. So, as someone who is bi-continental, this is the game that has to be played. I book a business-class seat so we’re private, and keep the dog on my legs at all times. I would be just as annoyed as y’all at irresponsible dog owners, but I hope we can reach a reasonable compromise such that well-behaved animals, like well-behaved infants, can continue to fly with their owners. If an airline cracked down too hard on this matter, I would definitely consider switching my top-tier frequent flier allegiance to a more accommodating airline. (I doubt, for example, that Air France will ever be too strict on this – the French love their dogs.)

  47. wrongwy

    October 13, 2016 at 7:52 am

    The airlines brought this on themselves by charging exhorbitant fees for checking an animal. In Austria, you can bring dogs on public transportation with proper license and a muzzle. In the US, we need to move towards uniform public safety rules for animal carriage on public transportation – not a fee structure to pad airline profits.

  48. wwooz

    October 13, 2016 at 8:13 am

    And what about passenger like myself who are very allergic to dogs (and essentially every other furred animal).
    I guess I need to notify the airline ahead of time to ban animals on my flights. They’ve already set the precedence as they won’t serve peanuts on flights if they know if someone susceptible to nut allergies is on board.. so why not ban animals if I’m flying?.

  49. Dougg

    October 13, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Anyone been bit by fleas? Was recently on a domestic flight in the US (one of the big airlines) and the women next to me was being bit by fleas.

    Just something else to contend with while flying.

  50. redleader74

    October 13, 2016 at 8:38 am

    It’s bad enough animals are free to roam department stores and restaurants, now planes? Of course, owners would say, “…oh, but MY dog is well trained, would NEVER, EVER bite anyone!” As if they speak dog and have communicated this with their dog. Folks, at the end of the day, dogs, cats, etc., are all still animals, you cannot possibly and completely predict everything they are going to do or not do.

  51. MaxRoadster

    October 13, 2016 at 8:51 am

    One of the problems that must be resolved is who is going to regulate the airline’s enforcement of their “Service Animal” rules? As a disabled person I post my placard each time I use a protected parking spot. Imagine my surprise when a woman walked up to me and said, “you don’t look disabled.” My response to all these types of questions or statements goes something like this: If you are a police officer I need to see your credentials otherwise take a hike! It is wrong for me to confront some one on a plane about their service animal whose “Service Vest” is in place. However, taking an animal anywhere without “Service Animal” credentials is just asking for trouble and I applaud those companies who take the time to separate those near-do-wells from the general public! BTW: Most legitimate service animals are clean and taken care of because their owners are subject to health problems as are the rest of us.

  52. Events-Intern

    October 13, 2016 at 9:06 am

    I have friend with service dogs…blind and partly blind friends. They flew for years with their service animals in a carrier checked as baggage and the airline helped them board and deplane and reconnected them with their dog. Why do the dogs now fly in seats? Why is this suddenly “a right”? People who are allergic to dogs have to breathe in the allergens circulating in the closed air return system in the cabin…so even if you are sitting adjacent to an animal, you breathe in what they shed. There should be no animals in the passenger section of an aircraft. Not even tiny animals in carryon hatbox size containers.

  53. Citrus Liz

    October 13, 2016 at 9:12 am

    I must fly a lot and am findinf nowadays there are 3 or 4 dogs on most flights. I have 2 big issues with this practice
    1.) Many humans are allergic to pet dander! I happen to be one. I recently was on a flight where a large dog was on (no ID as a service dog) and the only place the airlines could accommodate the dog was across the aisle, one row in front of me. I have severe asthma and was wheezing horribly prior to landing, had to go immediately to an emergency room near the airport because my medication (inhaler) was ineffective and it too 2 injections and 4 1/2 hrs to get to the point I could be released, It also cost me about $1,800.00 I spoke with the doctor and he said no matter how clean, all animals shed dander and there is no way to prevent it! He also told me that allergy to pet dander is very common, and a large part of the population is allergic, obviously some more reactive than others, but still – that is important. I think my right to breathe and not have to be taken to the emergency room is priority to animals being allowed on the flight. What happened to crating them and placing them in the cargo hold if they need to travel. Certainly a person can go without their service dog/pet for an hour and 15 min. flight, If not, perhaps they should not be flying.
    2.) On another flight I was on , a vety large mastiff was boarded first, and lounged across the floor of the plane where passengers are denied putting so much as a newspaper or book during take off and landing,. This dog was on a leasgh, but got up during take off and landing and was pacing the aisle and area designated as an area where nothing should block it by the FAA, as we are reminded prior to every flight. When did accommodating dogs on a flight suddenly trump FAA regulations for safety?

    I have been told by pet owners that they take their dogs now because it is much less expensive than putting their pet in a kennels while they vacation. It is easy to do it because airlines are forbidden to even so much as ask why the pet is required by the passenger.
    Once I saw a dog on a flight sitting on the seat and floor jumping up and down, then dragging it’s butt on the upholstery of the seat and on the carpet of the floor. That is grossly unsanitary, but not much anyone can do at 38,000 ft. in the sky.

    I think if pets travel, they need to be returned to the cargo hold and be crated as they used to be in the past. That will eliminate all problems. If the pet doesn’t like the noise, I’m sure there is an entrepreneur out there that will design and market pet noise cancelling earphones. If theie owners don’t like it, then they either need to drive to their destination or leave their pets in a kennel.

    As for my $1,800.00 emergency medical bill – I plan on filing a claim with my airline and you can bet they aren’t going to be happy about paying it as it is clearly noted that I boarded the airplane in good condition, have severe pet dander allergies and was forced to sit near a dog on the flight and medication was ineffective. This pet in the cabin, despite the comfort and health of other passengers is an experiment that has gone wrong!

  54. Jim_F

    October 13, 2016 at 9:20 am

    Have you ever noticed the reaction of many passengers when someone boards with one of these pseudo support animals? Often they coo and smile and think it’s really cute. This behavior only reinforces the pet owners belief that what they’re doing is OK and is not a bother to other passengers. I agree the DOT needs to tighten the rules on this. It has gotten way out of hand…

  55. starchild_45

    October 13, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Ooooooh this gets under my skin. People flat out lie that they have an emotional service animal. you can buy those forms online. a lot of times the airline just take the customers word for it. i drove a cab for a while and i would get to hear a lot of stories about how they faked out the airline to get their cat or dog on the airline just to save some money. if they want to have an emotional support animal why don’t they get licensed by the sate they live in.

    any service animal owner who has a disease that you can’t see like epilepsy can tell you in less than a minute their animal is trained for them. only the business aka the airline can challenge them to see if it is true or not. i respect those dog owners who diseases you can’t see and dogs who are professionally trained. the rest should be kicked off the plane. take a bus or a boat. there is more room there.

  56. tlhanger

    October 13, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Nuisance! I have a granddaughter gaming the system with her dog. Even has a signed paper, yet she never had a problem till she got the dog. Spoiled brat, always got her own way. She is in her 20’s

  57. gkbiiii

    October 13, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Let us remember dogs like little Pugs, must travel in-cabin due to their breathing; otherwise it could in-danger their little lives. At the end of the day, pets are people too.

  58. We Will Never Forget

    October 13, 2016 at 10:39 am

    Years ago there was a group traveling with a giant Rottweiler. To me, it appeared to be a scam to transport the dog for free. I never saw anyone challenge them. The dog was all over the place and completely untrained.

  59. Marilee Henneberger

    October 13, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Putting animals in the hold as cargo is dangerous. I know, I’ve shipped animals a few times over the years. However, many people are abusing the “comfort animal” designation to have their animals with them in the cabin. On one recent flight a passenger had a large mutt, about the size of shepherd, with him for his “comfort” during a flight. The dog was a terrible nuisance to other passengers and crew and obviously had not been trained to behave calmly as real comfort or assistance animals are trained. He snapped at people, he was disobedient, he tried to steal food off people’s trays and his human allowed him to roam. I believe there needs to be official documentation for assistance animals [and their humans] and a rigorous process to get that certification. As it stands, anyone can claim anything and don’t need proof.

  60. Marilee Henneberger

    October 13, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    I’d add that documentation would be good for everyone, except scammers of course. And as for my comment about the dangers of animals carried as cargo? I’d hope airlines would be more rigorous about keeping cargo holds pressurized and temperature controlled. We almost lost our basset hound when traveling cross country. He was in shock and suffering hypothermia when his carrier was removed from the airplane cargo hold and given to us at the baggage area. It was very traumatic for us all.

  61. clarelouise44

    October 13, 2016 at 2:17 pm

    I have personally wached flight attendants chasing a chihuahua around the plane. Someone couldn’t bear to fly without “Snookums ” in his/her arms. Flight attendants have more important things to do! And we are packed in like sardines. Seeing eye dogs -yes- all other dogs -no!

  62. heyjude65

    October 13, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    The majority of these comments shock me. Someone mentioned the “entitlement” of people who want their dogs to go everywhere with them. What I’m seeing in these comments are people who have a sense of entitlement that allows them to turn their backs on the needs and possible suffering of other people.

    For example, the person who said that people have an ESA to avoid taking medication. Where did you get such certainty that you know about other peoples’ experiences? I take anti-depressants AND have an ESA because of panic attacks. Yet according to some of these writers, I should just stay home. The best comment I can make is to congratulate you that your life is so perfect that you don’t see the need for compassion and respect for others.

    And last, this whole question is yet another situation of the majority of us being judged and punished because of bad behavior on the part of a few people. And when these animals are roaming up and down the aisles, where is the flight crew?

  63. puntamita

    October 13, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    I am amazed at many of the comments. Seems posters on flyertalk only think of themselves. I don’t like kids in the delta sky club lounge that get in free but I understand the need. Therefore, I respect their choice. I don’t like babies crying on planes that get on free but I respect their parent’s choice. I don’t like people that drink too much on planes and get obnoxious but I keep quiet. I don’t like kids parents that let kids kick on the back of my seat but I am nice. I don’t like women that wear too much perfume but I respect their choice. When I am trying to sleep and someone wants to tell their life story to the flight attendant, I respect their choice to talk. When a flyer in front reclines their seat so far back, I have a hard time using my tray, I understand it is their choice. I could go on. Maybe flyers with allergies should take a pill or stay home. Respect others. I am sure all of you have taking advantage of the system in some way. It must be so wonderful to be perfect. I don’t have an emotional support pet but respect their right to fly as well. I think some of you should be ashamed.

  64. instyleprincess

    October 13, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Wow that’s a lot of hate comments on here.
    For the record, I really hate people who game the system with ESA rules to avoid paying fees but I also hate airlines that charge a hefty fee to begin with! There were a lot of times that my pet fees cost more than my own ticket!
    I have a really small dog (4 pounds), we never had any problem and she always behaves so well.

    For those of you who complain about not having dogs on board or dog noise or animal ban, how about we ban infants too? That seems only fair. I’ve never been disturbed by animals so far, but almost had mental breakdowns with stupid kids kicking my chair or the crazy baby next to me crying nonstop.
    Airlines should really ban having kids or babies in first class. People buy expensive fare for peace and relaxation in first class, I don’t want crying baby or screaming kids near me

  65. Citrus Liz

    October 13, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    Reading the reactions in this article confirms that the majority of people do not want pets on flights. They are pets – prone to act in the manner animals do. Most people are not pet haters, but most do not like to be forced to endure other’s pets in an already tight cabin situation for any period of time. Many like myself have allergies to pet dander and it makes even a 1 hr flight hell.

    Sorry gkbiiii, pets are NOT people. People are people and in this world, while we value animals, they are not equal to humans. I understand you seem to like pets more than people, but not everyone thinks like you do. I work in the medical field and I can assure you pets are NOT people.

    I was forced to have to go to the ER of a strange hospital in a strange city, struggling to breathe because of a pet on my flight. It cost me $1800 out of pocket and 6 1/2 hrs of misery, when I was supposed to be in a very important meeting helping manage the lives of bonafide sick persons, which ultimately had to be rescheduled. Would you like your cardiologist/neurologist/surgeon specialist that was called in to help save your life to not make a meeting because of a reaction such at the one I experienced from pets on a flight? Many people suffered severe inconvenience and I took a severe blow to my personal health.

    I see allergic reactions time and again – people struggling to breathe and it is both horrible to see and even more horrible to experience. Without trained personnel and proper medical equipment, the outcome can be quite tragic. Besides being life threatening and incapacitating, it is a huge expense for the (human) victim for something that is absolutely unnecessary. People should NOT (in a small cabin, group condition, such as an airplane) be subjected to this kind of disregard for individual’s health. Airlines withhold peanuts for fear of peanut dust causing a severe reaction, and yet pet dander is the same thing for sensitive individuals. Unfortunately it will take the death of someone before airlines realize they are very real dangers involved in this matter.

    Once again, I think it only logical to ban pets on flights until the airlines come up with some sort of acceptable solution – a sealed off area where the cabin passengers are insulated from the pet dander from animals. The cargo hold worked for many, many years of pet transport and while not ideal, it is inexcusable to force pet exposure on human passengers when many people have severe allergies to pet dander.

    Pet owners don’t like to pay to leave their pets behind or don’t want to, but, in all reality, pets are generally happier in their homes. Yes, they miss the love and hugs of their owners, but they like their little “kingdom where they live and play. What price do other passengers have to pay so some can sneak around regulations and bring pets along?

    I hold the airlines responsible as they are the authority and need to set clear cut regulations regarding pets on flights, and in doing so, they also accept the liabilities. While they are under regulation guidelines of other agencies, they need to create policies that preserve the comfort and health of their human passengers. Then they need to determine how they can do this for animals. I hope they are ready when they get a very allergic human react early in a flight to a pet on board and the flight has to be rerouted, if they can get the allergic person to a hospital in time. A severe, acute allergic reaction (swollen airway,) can end in a fatality within 3-5 minutes – not even enough time to land and get the victim to the hospital. I think the airlines are treading on thin ice on this matter and I am sad to say, but when someone finally dies, only then they will react. – quite possibly not allowing any pets at all (just like peanuts). After all, once this scenario occurs, they can be legally held liable. Let it be on their heads. I guarantee you this will be a whole new arena of litigation.

  66. anniece57

    October 13, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually
    trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.
    Examples of such work or tasks include guiding
    people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling
    a wheelchair, alerting and protecting a person who is
    having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to
    take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post
    Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack,
    or performing other duties. Service animals are working
    animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained
    to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.
    Dogs whose sole function is to provide comfort or emotional
    support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

  67. BrianGrant

    October 13, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    I am a flier and a board certified forensic psychiatrist. Service dogs must be trained to do something. An ESA is another word for a pet and the only function it performs is by being an animal, usually a dog. Think about it with common sense. Why do people get pets? For comfort and support. Don’t delude yourself into thinking that a mental health professional is not a human being with biases and ignorance being quite possible and all too common. Many are pushovers and will sign anything put in front of them. And the ability to get letters from some for a fee with no examination, including those who pose on the Internet is well established. But even if one has a diagnosis, this should not entitle them to impose an animal that does nothing but bring them comfort and burden others, on a flight or anywhere else in public.

    Why the airlines ever allowed so called ESA’s on airplanes is beyond me and it is past time that this practice be ended once and for all. We need to tighten up service animal qualifications, establish credible national certification, and challenge those who fake their dogs way onto a flight. If I ever find myself next to an animal that is not clearly a trained service animal on a flight, I will make it totally clear to the owner that my space is mine, that their critter had better not intrude on it. and that I totally disapprove of this abuse of privilege. The claim that one must travel with their pet is so subjective that it mocks the truly mentally ill, and those who have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours on training and managing a service animal.

    I am hoping that we see some court cases that will define the extent of the law, while also hoping that the airlines totally dial back the ability for an uncaged animal to fly on planes.

  68. gwynedd_gal

    October 14, 2016 at 3:16 am

    We had such an issue on a recent long flight. Woman next to me had a comfort animal. She cuddled it all during the flight: we had an asthmatic child with us. He was on his inhaler. Who wins? She could have taken anti-anxiety meds OR—used hypnosis therapy which is VERY effective for flight anxiety. But instead, an animal. It was a darling, well-behaved doggy but that’s not the point. Her rights to be free of anxiety do not trump the rights of people to BREATHE. Practical, common sense would hold that no you cannot take dog on plane unless you are blind. If you are nervous, there are other therapies. Or ships or trains.

  69. puntamita

    October 14, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    gwynedd_gal- maybe your family should take a ship or train.

  70. loridf

    October 15, 2016 at 6:50 am

    I sat next to a lovely couple in a 3 across in Comfort Economy on Delta. They had their small dog under the seat, but immediately took it out and explained to me how they felt it was “unfair” for their dog to be under the seat for 4 hours! So they got one of the “faux” comfort dog certifications so it could be “fair” to their little dog.
    They boasted about how easy it was. I had no real complaints about the dog, except how he stared at me with his begging brown eyes when I ate my pretzels. The owners thought it was cute. I am polite and try to feel and think the best in everyone, even complimenting them that their dog was well behaved.
    I find it, however, inherently dishonest. Are these people like this in the rest of their lives? What if I were allergic would they care? If there were a standard for a true service dog, I would mind. If a person really appeared disabled, blind, deaf, etc. I would not mind. But these people who felt their dog was “entitled” to sit on the seat, have really bugged me. Next time I may not be so polite.

  71. lamphs

    October 17, 2016 at 7:09 am

    I’ve commented on this subject in a couple of other threads. Too repeat…big difference between true service animals and “ESAs”. I recognize and respect that there are legitimate ESAs. Recent situation…I was in boarding group 2 on UA, ORD-IAD, and boarding was called for passengers with disabilities, etc., a young (likely teens) person, jumps to the front of the line, with a backpack, yoga mat, fancy water bottle, and a medium-size dog with no special identification, and boards. I asked about it – ESA was the answer. (And she was just chatting with a group of people who I assume were friends or family.) The real answer is that someone didn’t want Scruffy to be lonely in cargo thus saving a lot of money.

    I have also been told that if I were seated in the vicinity of someone with an animal to which I may be allergic, I HAVE TO MOVE. So again, PC, let’s not hurt anyone’s feelings, the 99.9% is potentially inconvenienced for the 0.1%.

    I want to make clear that I have no issue with true service animals and I will do whatever is necessary to assist that passenger/animal. But I don’t do scams.

  72. rec

    October 21, 2016 at 7:12 am

    As mentioned by others, there is a difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal. Service animals serve specific purposes and are limited to dogs and miniature horses. Service animals are specifically protected by the ADA. Emotional support animals are not. The ADA does not apply to airlines. Airlines have their own separate regulation, the Air Carrier Access Act which does permit emotional support animals. If we want to get this changed, we need to get Congress involved and make them realize that ESAs are a sham and that the regulations involving animals on flights should mirror the definition under ADA.

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