A female traveler was recently banned from taking a large “emotional-support peacock” on board a United Airlines flight. In 2016 a domesticated emotional support turkey was allowed to board a plane and traveled from Seattle, Washington to Salt Lake City, Utah. Recently, a female student flying out of Baltimore airport “had to” flush her emotional support hamster, Pebbles, down the airport toilet because spirit airlines refused to allow it to fly with her.
This raises the question of what should constitute an emotional support animal and if airlines should allow these animals fly with their owners.
First, let’s address the obvious. Emotional support animals have done amazing things in the lives of their owners, but they are not service animals. Unlike service animals, most emotional support animals have never received any training to earn their title. According to Certapet, the animal simply needs to “well behaved” and the owner needs to have an official letter from a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, also, saying that “There isn’t a strict statement outlining which animal species or breeds qualify as an emotional support animal.” An emotional support animal could actually be any animal the owner pleases. These can be rats, monkeys, mice, rabbits, miniature pigs, snakes, hedgehogs, hamsters, turkeys and yes, peacocks. Legally, in reference to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) airlines are required to make accommodations for disabled individuals to bring their beloved animal, yet how can we decipher a pet from a legal emotional support animal?
Personally, I think there should be stricter requirements in order to take an emotional support pet on a plane. These animals need to be properly trained in order for their job to be more beneficial to the owner and more comfortable for other plane passengers. Emotional support animal laws should limit the species able to do this job. After an emotional support dog bit a child on an airline, many of the major airline companies started to rethink their emotional support animal policies. Delta Airlines announced that they are requiring emotional support animals to be properly trained and vaccinated for them to be able to board the plane. I’m assuming United, American, Spirit and other airlines will start to follow in Delta’s footsteps.
What’s next? Emotional support arachnids? Reptiles? What first started as a way to assist humans, is now turning into the sequel of snakes on a plane. There has even been a report of a woman bringing her emotional support parakeet on her Delta flight. Where do we draw the line without stepping on the toes of the many people who need these animals?