Common Sense Winning on Fake ‘Service’ Animals in Planes

Not many of us want to drive behind “turkeys” on the roads. Even fewer want to sit next to actual turkeys on a flight. Thanks to new action by the Department of Transportation, the public can avoid having planes look like petting zoos.

Trained
service dogs, such as seeing-eye dogs, are necessary for the day-to-day life of
thousands of Americans. Over the years, canines’ remarkable gifts have extended
to assist those afflicted by diabetes, neurological problems, mental health conditions, and life-threatening allergies.

To
accommodate people who require service animals to accompany them at all times,
the Department of Transportation has stipulated that airlines must allow them on
flights. This caused minimal disruption at first, since properly trained
service dogs are extremely well-behaved.

But since
the federal guidelines were not specific enough, some pet owners and medical
professionals began to label untrained pets as “emotional support” animals. Airlines
hesitated to crack down on these abuses for fear of violating federal statute.

This led
to an explosion in the number of animals on flights (1 million in 2018 alone). In addition to all
manner of dog breeds, inconsiderate passengers dragged along emotional support
cats, miniature horses, pigs, ducks, rabbits, and even peacocks.

Needless
to say, airplanes are not designed for this. Under-trained animals can create
problems such as incessant noise and messy defecation. Worse, the conditions of
a cramped plane can cause distressed dogs to lash out violently. These incidents have
become all too common in recent years.

Thankfully,
the Department of Transportation has announced new guidelines for service animals
on airplanes that limit the protected service animal category to dogs with
specific training to help a person with a medical disability.

The new
rule, currently in the public comment phase, would give airlines the option of whether
to allow emotional support animals on their planes.

Unfortunately,
sloppy reporting could foment a backlash from pet owners. Mainstream media
outlets are spreading misleading headlines.

From The Washington Post: “Department of Transportation proposes ban on emotional support animals on planes.” From The New York Times: “U.S. Plan Would Ban All Service Animals From Planes Except Dogs.” From Bloomberg News: “The U.S. Department of Transportation proposed a ban on emotional support animals.”

There is
no federal ban. If Delta wants to allow a therapeutic wombat on board, Uncle
Sam will not get in the way.

If some
airlines crack down, others can market themselves as pet-friendly. Rather than
using the federal government to force airlines to allow these animals on board,
we should trust airlines and passengers to find what works best through the
marketplace.

That’s
exactly what the new rule seeks to accomplish, and both two-legged and
four-legged Americans will be better off for it.

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