Sign In

Emotional Support Dogs

December 9, 2020

In a rule change that could impact select veterans, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that dogs — and no other species — will soon be the only service animals allowed on board U.S. flights.

The updated policy eliminates the option of flying with animals previously categorized as emotional support. That means no horses, peacocks, rabbits, snakes or quokkas, no matter how much emotional support their gigantic, cartoonish smiles provide.

The previous policy, one that the Transportation Department said “eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals,” permitted emotional support animals to travel free of charge under guidelines that irked many in the industry who felt passengers were merely scamming airlines out of pet-associated costs.

Additionally, passengers and flight crews alike were seldom fond of sporadic biting or bladder and bowel evacuation by animals that seem more suited for the Serengeti or Amazon rainforest.

“The days of Noah’s Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told USA Today.

The refined guidelines, which now define a service animal as “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability,” received support from more than 80 veterans groups that have, over time, argued that the transport of untrained animals jeopardizes the ability to bring a service dog by those who actually need it. “This is a wonderful step in the right direction for people like myself who are dependent on and reliant on legitimate service animals,” said Albert Rizzi, founder of the advocacy group My Blind Spot. Rizzi added that too many people “want to have the benefits of having a disability without actually losing the use of their limbs or senses just so they can take their pet with them.”

Southwest Airlines reportedly transports more than 190,000 animals classified under emotional support per year. American Airlines, meanwhile, saw the number of emotional support animals they carried jump 48 percent from 2016 to 2017, a timeframe during which the number of pets that were checked fell 17 percent.

For now, disappointed pet-free passengers will be forced to take extraordinary measures to attain emotional support, such as employing the company of another human being, reading a book, or enjoying the soothing cracks of an airline bottle of vodka’s twist off cap.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Former Victoria man’s diabetic alert dog helps him get back to life

    When Luke Hengen’s diabetes worsened in his early twenties, it stripped him of the outdoor activities where the country kid felt at home. Countless wilderness adventures and years of hard-fought football games took a toll on his body, to the point where he could no longer sense when his blood sugar was too high or […]

    Read more

    Students Get Therapy Dog

    When middle school students return to class on Jan. 11, they’ll find a new face at the door: Daisy. Daisy is a therapy dog and the personal pet of Rob Kreger, principal of the Rock L. Butler Middle School. The five-year-old golden retriever is not a school pet or mascot, but rather a working dog […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dogtor

    Last March, Caroline Benzel, a third-year medical student, began to notice the stress and discomfort her nurse friends were feeling from the pressures of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. “[Personal protective equipment] can be really rough on the skin,” Benzel, 31, tells PEOPLE. Benzel and her 3-year-old Rottweiler, Loki (who’s also a therapy dog) hatched a […]

    Read more

    Therapy Dog Pups

    When Stanley the miniature fox terrier’s owner passed away, the little dog started a ‘paw-some’ new role – bringing puppy love to some of the Gold Coast’s oldest residents. After Carinity Cedarbrook Diversional Therapist Julianne Staff adopted Stanley, he began visiting the aged care community at Mudgeeraba as a therapy dog. Therapy dogs help to […]

    Read more

    Puppy Cams

    A nonprofit is providing an unusual form of therapy for those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic – puppy cams! “You spend five minutes with a puppy and try not to smile,” said registered nurse Robin Lingg Lagrone. Lingg Lagrone says watching little furballs wag their tails and prance on their paws helps […]

    Read more

    Pet Committee

    When Moore County’s school doors were abruptly closed earlier in 2020, two- and four-legged volunteers from the Moore County Citizens’ Pet Responsibility Committee (PRC) were in their 12th year of presenting a six-session Pet Responsibility Education Program for fourth-graders. The PRC quickly shifted gears and placed its program materials online as part of a home […]

    Read more