No Fly Zone: It’s Time To Leave Your Fake Service Animal At Home

Airline passengers fraudulently passing-off their pets as an emotional support animal could be facing a rude awakening. The United States Department of Transportation is working to redefine what constitutes a support animal because of a spike in passengers traveling with emotional support pets. Domestic airlines and the federal government believe people have been abusing the system to avoid paying an extra $100 to travel with their dog, cat or other species. 

“Passengers are increasingly bringing untrained service animals onboard aircraft and putting the safety of crew members, other passengers, and other service animals at risk,” the DOT says in a newly released report. “The days of Noah’s Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. 

If approved, the changes would classify dogs as the only service animal passengers can travel with. This is primarily due to travelers boarding planes with peacocks, ducks, turkeys, pigs, iguanas, and various other types of animals they claimed were emotional support or service animals. Passengers will also have to prove the dog is behaved, trained and able to fly long distances without relieving themselves.

Other efforts to classify capuchin monkeys and miniature horses as service animals – we aren’t making this up – were also shot down. The DOT is also considering placing breed restrictions on dogs such as “American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and American Staffordshire bull terriers, as well as other types of dogs that commenters believe are commonly known to be aggressive.

If approved, these changes could go into place this year. “Today’s proposed rule by the Department of Transportation for service animals in the passenger cabin is welcome news. It sets clear definitions and guidance to ensure people with disabilities and our veterans have necessary service animal assistance while maintaining the safety, health, and security of all passengers and crew onboard our planes,” Sara Nelson continued in her statement.

“Passengers claiming pets as emotional support animals has threatened the safety and health of passengers and crews in recent years while this practice skyrocketed. Untrained pets should never roam free in the aircraft cabin. Flight attendants have been hurt and safety has been compromised by untrained animals loose in the cabin.”

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Eric has revolved in and out of passport controls for over 20 years. From his first archaeological field school in Belize to rural villages in Ethiopia and Buddhist temples in Laos, Eric has come smile to smile with all walks of life. A writer, photographer and entrepreneur, the LA native believes the power of connectivity and community is enriched through travel.

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