The Ban on Emotional Support Animals on Planes Affects Those With Legitimate Mental Disabilities

PopSugar logo

“Emotional support animals (ESAs) are no longer covered by the Air Carrier Access Act,” I heard on the local news playing in the background. As soon as I caught a glimpse of the headline to confirm what I’d heard, I stopped everything I was doing and grabbed my phone to call my mother, who travels with an ESA wherever she goes. Worries filled my head as the phone proceeded to ring. “What if something happens to her on the flight and our dog isn’t there? How will she ever fly safely and comfortably? Will we have to do all our traveling by car now?”

These are major concerns that people with ESAs are currently grappling with in light of the most recent revision to the Air Carrier Access Act. In this revision, which will take effect 30 days after it’s published in the Federal Register, the Department of Transportation states that airlines are “not required to recognize emotional support animals as service animals and may treat them as pets.” This comes in response to the increase in service-animal fraud – when airline passengers claim their house pets as certified service animals in order to avoid extra fees. Flying a pet in the cabin can get expensive, as it requires you to pay $125 or more (depending on the airline) for each leg of your flight. The easiest way to get around this is to claim your pet is a service animal, and people unfortunately get away with doing so all the time. Purchasing “official” documents and service vests from websites like CertaPet is easier than ever, and it’s reached a point where people have brought pigs, ostriches, and Shetland ponies with them on their flights. It’s an exploitation of the Air Carrier Access Act, and because the Department of Transportation is now cracking down on its regulation, it hurts passengers like my mother who have a legitimate need to fly with a support animal.

Video: US Department of Transportation revises rule on emotional support animals on flights (ABC News)

  • Francisco Vallejo Pons, Joe Biden are posing for a picture

    November jobs report shows slowed growth

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • graphical user interface

    COVID-19 cases reaching record highs

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • graphical user interface, application

    Your Voice: Vaccine distribution centers

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • a car parked in a parking lot

    COVID-19 surges, but hope is on the way

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • Snowfall covers woods in Great Smoky Mountains

    Snowfall covers woods in Great Smoky Mountains

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • a group of people on a boat

    Giraffes saved from flooded island in Kenya

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • a close up of a logo

    NOTIFIED: Dec. 4, 2020

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • David Chang standing in front of a window posing for the camera

    Friday, Dec. 4: David Chang joins.

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • Joy Behar, David Chang, Sara Haines posing for a photo in front of a display screen

    Why David Chang risked it all on ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • graphical user interface, text, application, chat or text message

    Takeaways from Biden-Harris sit-down

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • Joy Behar, Pandari Bai, Sara Haines are posing for a picture

    Will Trump’s Georgia visit help or hurt GOP?

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • a person standing in front of a stage

    Selena's legacy persists through her music, and now, a new Netflix series

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • a man standing next to a plane

    ABC News Live Update: Airlines prepare to transport COVID-19 vaccine

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • background pattern

    Impact of Warner Bros. releasing its 2021 films in theaters and HBO Max

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • a large passenger jet sitting on top of a truck

    ABC News Live Update: United Airlines prepping to move COVID-19 vaccine

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • a person standing in a room

    Understanding the COVID-19 vaccine

    ABC News Logo

    ABC News

  • Francisco Vallejo Pons, Joe Biden are posing for a picture
    November jobs report shows slowed growth
    ABC News Political Director Rick Klein talks about weak job growth amid a new push for a COVID-19 relief bill.

    ABC News Logo
    ABC News

  • graphical user interface
    COVID-19 cases reaching record highs
    Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations reach record highs as U.S. waits for approval of a vaccine.

    ABC News Logo
    ABC News

  • graphical user interface, application
    Your Voice: Vaccine distribution centers
    Distribution workers talk about handling lifesaving vaccines and how they are preparing for the massive immunization process.

    ABC News Logo
    ABC News

UP NEXT

For as long as we’ve had our dog, she’s also been my mother’s ESA. Through years and years of behavioral psychotherapy, hospitalization, and constantly going in and out of the suicidal ideation ward, a certified emotional support dog has been by my mother’s side through it all – a dog who has been just as essential as any prescription drug, who can keep her safe when no other family is around to understand the unpredictable nuances of her behavior.

Service animals undergo different training than emotional support animals, but both are equally indispensable to their handlers, and both provide necessary and often lifesaving assistance. Not every disability is visible. Just because somebody doesn’t “look” disabled doesn’t mean they aren’t. Because my mother suffers from a mental disability rather than a physical one, I worry airlines will (and legally can) deny her the right to travel with the ESA she has legitimately been prescribed and has proper documentation for.

When there are people who literally buy service vests for their pets on Amazon and get away with bringing an emotional support rattlesnake on board with them, it makes sense that the Department of Transportation would want to tighten up the loopholes defined in the Air Carrier Access Act. But it would’ve made a lot more sense to establish stricter regulations and clearer guidelines for certification, rather than exclude ESAs entirely from the Air Carrier Access Act. People don’t need emotional support animals simply “to cope with the stress of flying,” as the Department of Travel continues to naively comment. I can say for a fact that my dog does way more for my mother than relieve her stress, and frankly, it’s ignorant to assume that’s what an ESA is all about. ESAs provide support in every part of their handler’s life, and for my family, airline travel happens to be part of it.

Source: Read Full Article