Is That Dog (or Pig) on Your Flight Really a Service Animal?
Department of Transportation considers rules for passengers who falsely claim their pets are service animals
(Christopher Mele, New York Times) Sharon L. Giovinazzo, president and chief executive of World Services for the Blind, was recently walking through an airport with her trained service dog Watson when a “pocket pooch” growled and then bit him, she said.
The owner apologized and said the dog was her service animal. Ms. Giovinazzo, an Army veteran who lost her sight to multiple sclerosis in 2001, was not having it.
“‘Yeah, yeah. Sure, sure, lady,’” she recalled telling the owner. “‘Then your animal should be secured and trained not to do that.’”
Ms. Giovinazzo said the dog was an untrained pet masquerading as a service animal in what advocates for people with disabilities said had become a growing problem in the last few years.
“It’s gotten to the point where it’s almost funny unless you are the one with the legitimate guide dog,” Ms. Giovinazzo said.
Confusion over service dogs, which are specially trained to help people with disabilities, and emotional support animals, which can be pets that provide comfort and companionship but require no training, cloud the issue.
Recent headlines about passengers trying unsuccessfully to board flights with what they said were support animals — a peacock in one case and a hamster in another — as well as federal regulations that are subject to misinterpretation or abuse have made matters worse, experts said.
Regulators and airlines have taken notice.
Cracking Down on Fraud
Delta and Alaska Airlines have tightened their rules for transporting service and support animals, and the federal Department of Transportation is exploring new rules to reduce the likelihood that airplane passengers falsely claim their pets as service animals.
The department plans to solicit public comment about the “appropriate definition” of service animals, a spokeswoman said. Read the full story at New York Times.
“We only have room for six pets on each flight”: Southwest publishes pet rules
(Headline Health) Thinking about flying with your pet? Wondering about fellow passengers who do?
More airlines are publishing detailed pet policies, so you may want to check your airline’s policy prior to your next departure.
Here’s the policy of Southwest Airlines:
Southwest Airlines allows small vaccinated domestic cats and dogs to travel with you in-cabin under the seat in front of you. All pets must be carried in an appropriate carrier, as indicated below. Southwest Airlines will not accept pet remains as carryon or checked baggage; however, a Customer may take cremated remains onboard a domestic U.S. or international flight as a carryon item under certain conditions.
Pets are not allowed to travel in-cabin on international flights or any itinerary that includes an international flight.
Pets will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity is reached. Six (6) pets are allowed per flight with a limit of one pet carrier per paying Customer traveling on the same flight. However, from time to time, circumstances may allow for more (or fewer) than six (6) pet carriers per scheduled flight.
Pets must be checked in at the airport ticket counter, however Customers can still secure their boarding pass online, at curbside checkin, the airport kiosk, or the ticket counter.
We maintain the right to refuse acceptance of a cat or dog exhibiting aggressive behavior or any other characteristics that appear incompatible with air travel.
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