Tag Archives: air travel

Emotional support animals

10+ years ago when I was working as a science manager in a local council, I recall that a member of staff had been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant.  Her doctor suggested that she and her husband adopt a dog (which they did) because he felt that caring for the dog would help relieve the anxiety about not getting pregnant.

In effect, her doctor prescribed an emotional support animal.   This is an animal that, simply by virtue of its presence in the person’s life, provides companionship and support.

Such animals have been increasingly in the news for all the wrong reasons.  Untrained animals being brought onto US-based airlines and causing havoc including going to the toilet in the aisles and biting passengers.

Emotional support animals are not trained service dogs.   Whenever an incident occurs that makes the news, it makes life a little harder for people who truly need a service dog.

Denver International Airport

Photo courtesy of Denver International Airport

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service animal must be trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability, be it physical or psychiatric. Disabilities include things like being blind or deaf, using a wheelchair, relying on a dog to remind you to take meds, or having a dog around in case of an anxiety attack.

Under federal law, only dogs and miniature horses weighing less than 100 pounds qualify for the “service animal” designation.

The major airlines are responding with tightened rules for traveling with emotional support animals and I think this is a good thing.

Here are the steps passengers have to take to bring an emotional support animal into the main cabin on one of the three major US airlines:

  • American – Passengers must submit a document signed by a licensed doctor or medical health professional which states that the passenger has a “mental health or emotional disability” and needs the animal “for emotional support or psychiatric service” on the flight or at the passenger’s destination. The document needs to have been signed within the past year and must be submitted at least 48 hours before the flight.
  • Delta – Starting March 1, passengers will have to submit three documents if they wish to travel with an emotional support animal. In addition to a signed statement from a medical professional, passengers will have to provide vaccination dates and the contact information of the animal’s veterinarian and sign a statement that claims the animal is properly trained “to behave in a public setting” and take the passenger’s “direction upon command.” The document needs to have been signed within the past year and must be submitted at least 48 hours before the flight.
  • United – Passengers must submit a document from a medical or mental health professional which states that the passenger has a “mental health-related disability” and that the emotional support animal “is necessary to the passenger’s mental health or treatment.” The document needs to have been signed within the past year and must be submitted at least 48 hours before the flight.

I’m not against the designation of emotional support animals, particularly if a health professional has prescribed one.

That said, let’s be honest that most of us don’t train our dogs to the standard of a service dog because we don’t have to.  Subjecting the traveling public to a dog that you love but isn’t properly trained is just wrong.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Source:  Business Insider

 

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Virgin Australia’s pet program

It’s fairly common in the USA to have frequent flyer programs for pets.  But did you know that earlier this year Virgin Australia launched that country’s first pet frequent flyer program?

Photo courtesy of Virgin Australi

Photo courtesy of Virgin Australia

Virgin Australia’s pet program adds bonus points to the air miles that passengers receive when they are members of the Velocity Frequent Flyer program.

Red members (the entry level) earn an extra 300 points each time they fly with one pet carrier. Silver, Gold and Platinum members earn more points per flight.  Platinum members earn 600 points per flight per pet carrier, for example.

Well done to Virgin Australia for recognising travelers who need to travel with their dog!

Protecting pets on US flights

The US Department of Transportation has proposed a strengthening of regulations involving the transport of animals on airplanes.

The proposal would require 36 airlines to report companion animal incidents that happen in the cargo holds of their planes.  Currently, only 15 airlines are required to submit annual reports.  Carriers also would have to report the number of animal losses, injuries and deaths and the total number of animals transported each year.

The Humane Society of the United States has endorsed the proposal.  The Society regularly receives complaints about animals who are injured in cargo holds or – worse – die.  Animals transported as cargo are exposed to excessive temperatures (hot and cold) and rough handling.  There have been reports of poor ventilation and lack of oxygen, too.

Another significant change is that the regulations also would apply to dogs and cats being shipped for commercial sale. With an upsurge in online sales, particularly of dogs,  many operators of inhumane commercial breeding facilities (puppy mills) transport dogs to pet stores and to new owners via airplanes.

Inga Fricke, the Director of Sheltering and Pet Care Issues for the Humane Society says  “We applaud the Department of Transportation for proposing to expand this rule because it will keep dogs and cats safer on planesRequiring stronger reporting requirements of airline carriers will force carriers to better handle animals during transport, providing the oversight needed. It would also give consumers clarity when choosing an animal friendly airline, and travelers would be able to compare carriers’ rates of animal deaths and injuries.”