The inherent stress of plane travel continues to increase each year as security lines get longer, airlines charge you for amenities that were once free, the unfathomable lack of overhead space seems to shrink, and now a growing number of pet owners are seeking to ruin your trip even more by bring their precious pets on flights under the guise of emotional support animals.
While there surely are legitimate service animals like seeing eye dogs and emotional support animals that help owners handle debilitating anxiety among other mental health issues, the ease of attaining the necessary papers and pet attire that allow passengers to claim their pets as service animals have led airlines to become skeptical of their validity. Websites offer official looking vests for $39.99 and doctors notes for $100 that can be used to trick officials into letting a passenger bring their animals on the plane for free.
Under the Department of Transportation’s Air Carrier Access Act, U.S. carriers are required to transport all service and support animals with expectations to the weight, size, and species of the animal. Dogs, cats, turkeys, pigs, and even monkeys have all been seen on planes being used as emotional support animals.
Medical ethicist Art Caplan was quick to condemn plane passengers lying about the pets being service animals on Boston Public Radio Tuesday. Caplan acquainted the practice to use someone else's handicap pass to get a prime parking spot.
“You’re taking this important status assumedly people need,” Caplan said. “They need pet therapy because they have a real problem or they get anxious or they’re afraid to fly. It is a serious thing. Plus, you are going to deny somebody a space on the plane where the dog might be. No, I think it is complete nonsense.”
Listen to our interview with medical ethicist Art Caplan above.