18.02.22 Support Animals vs Service Animals on Plane

February 23, 2018
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Girl “Injured” By “Support Dog” On Flight

  • On Feb 21, an incident took place involving a young girl (6-7 yrs old) while boarding plane.
  • Southwest says dog “scraped” girl’s forehead with teeth (AP).
  • Dog reportedly “support” pet of another passenger.

Flip For Why It Matters

Consider The Context

Drama-Filled Month

  • In late January, a United Airlines passenger made national headlines when she tried to bring a peacock named Dexter on a flight as a “support” pet.
  • United denied the peacock a seat and a debate about “appropriate” support animals ensued.

Why This Is Important

“United had been reviewing its policy since late last yearA afterA a 75% increase in emotional-support animals on flightsA and ‘a significant increase in onboard incidents.’

Charlie Hobart, United Airlines spokesman, USA Today, Feb 1, 2018

Why Is This Happening?

Possible Explanations

  • Support pets, like service animals, fly free.
  • Support pets do not receive the same rigorous training as a “service” pet, which can lead to more “incidents.”
  • No hard firm rules about acceptable “comfort” animals on flights.

Airlines: Reviewing Rules

  • Stricter regulations on “comfort” animals resisted by some who say increased documentation unfair to the truly disabled.
  • Current rules purposefully very broad; spiders are clearly NOT considered comfort pets, but did you know miniature horses are included in The Americans with Disabilities Act as “service pets”?

Just For Kicks: Dexter, the peacock, may not have "frequent flyer" miles but he has his own instagram account.

by Jenna Lee,