By now you’ve seen some of the crazy tweets and stories about emotional support animals on flights.  That, or, you actually sat next to one on a flight.  Or, more specifically, a fake one.

I’ll never forget the disgust on my mother’s face when a shih-tzu, wearing a red vest, peed in the middle of the terminal.  The owner quickly wiped up the mess and went on her way.

My mother used to work as an educator in a school that had service and emotional support animals for some students.  So, she knew right then and there that little dog was a fake.

First of all, the dog barked at everyone who walked by it.  Secondly, it refused to stay still.  Thirdly, it relieved itself in the middle of an airport.

My point is, people putting little red vests on their “little baby” endangers everyone.

Fake service animals are the biggest threat to real service animals.  There’s several stories of fake ESAs attacking REAL service dogs.   There’s a myriad of consequences that happens after, but the biggest one is retiring the real service animal.

For example, a real service dog costs about $25,000.  They do more than assist the blind, they also detect oncoming seizures, panic attacks, or sense low or high blood sugar in diabetics.  Plus, they’re invaluable to those with autism or PTSD.

That’s why Delta announced that, come may, they will crack down on fake emotional support animals.  Especially since the animals coming on board are somewhat… unique.  Like pythons, spiders, ducks, and turkeys.  Oh, and sugar gliders!

Buzzfeed reports that unauthorized ESAs caused an 84 percent spike in animal-related incidents on board.  For example, an ESA bit another passenger in the face last July.

So, they will begin implementing documentation checks before boarding.  Passengers traveling with an ESA will now have to submit paperwork in advance, such as an UTD vaccination record, a note from a mental health professional, as well as document proving that the animal can behave and is trained.

Delta says they implemented this change for the health and safety of ALL flight staff and passengers.  Animal attacks aside, the airline also deals with defecation, urination, aggression, and even animals attacking other animals.

Plus, they have to account for passengers with animal-related allergies, too.  Also, some people legitimately fear animals.

In addition, bringing unauthorized emotional support animals aboard, it damages the integrity of real ESA and service animals.

Would I love to take my cat with me during my next flight?  Absolutely.  But, I realize Phoebe does not have the proper training (or temperament) for that kind of activity.  I do not want to endanger her or anyone around me.

And I will not force it, either.  Even though I can go online, buy her a fake red vest and “documentation.”  I call this decision “common sense.”  I refuse to put my animal in a stressful situation where she may react out of fear.  Even though I really would love having her with me.

But, this doesn’t mean I am against all ESAs.  I only have beef with the fake ones.  And the people who use the umbrella ESA term to take their pets everywhere.

I understand the value and need of real emotional support animals.  Anxiety doesn’t run in my family… it gallops.  My sister genuinely has a fear of flying (when we were kids, the oxygen masks dropped mid-flight without warning.)  She’s not the only person to have such an abject fear of flying, either.

Some people have a fear of crowds, tight spaces, or a fear of heights.   An ESA would help in any of those situations.

And, most likely, if they have an ESA, they have the documentation to back them up.

Also, people with disabilities turn to ESAs if they cannot afford a real service animal.  They make do where they can.

However, Delta might run into a small snare come March.  There’s a law, called ADA, that protects service animals.  It forbids institutions from denying service animals entry.  It also prevents staffers from demanding proof about the animal.  In doing so, it also protects the service animal’s owner from disclosing their condition or disability.

Interestingly enough, though, this law only applies to service animals and not emotional support animals.    Also, this law only affects service dogs and miniature horses.

Also, another act called the Air Carriers Act, does cover ESAs.   However, the law allows airlines to make decisions on ESAs and evaluate if they pose a risk or not, so they can technically deny boarding.

Basically speaking, to those saying Delta’s new rule is illegal: there’s a huge difference between emotional support animals and service animals.

So, if you want to bring your duck, micro pig, or purse puppy that pees in the middle of an airport on your next flight – better have the papers to back you up.

How do you feel about Delta’s stance on ESAs?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

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