It’s Going To Get Harder To Bring Support Animals On A Plane

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No one would deny a blind person's right to take his or her guide dog on a plane. Likewise, we're beginning to accept that there are people with real anxiety disorders, autism, and other mental health issues who really do benefit from holding their animals on a plane. But at the same time, many other pet owners wish they could take their animals everywhere they go without the risks associated with stowing them in the cargo hold. Because of that, the practice of allowing "emotional support animals" (ESAs) on planes has become a subject of abuse. Airline insiders fear that untrained animals could misbehave onboard and asthma sufferers fear they are being exposed to allergy-aggravating dander. When one woman made it on a flight with her turkey earlier this year, it was just one sign that the regulations surrounding such animals could use some revision. The U.S. Department of Transportation's Advisory Committee on Accessible Air Transportation (also known as the ACCESS Advisory Committee), which consists of airline industry leaders as well as the heads of several organizations for the disabled, has been meeting regularly since the spring to come to an agreement on service animals, ESAs, and other airplane accessibility issues. According to the Los Angeles Times, ACCESS is looking to cut down on the types of animals that can get onboard. Airlines would like the list to include just service dogs and miniature horses that have been trained as service animals. They'd also prefer the animals stay in carriers during the flight.
Advocacy groups, such as the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, counter that they'd like to include cats, rabbits, and birds (except chickens, ducks, and turkeys). Some would also like to eliminate the need for people to carry notes from their doctors about their ESAs to avoid stigmatization. Right now, as the Today show demonstrated in February, taking a pet — even a potbellied pig — onboard as an ESA is as easy as filling out an online form and paying a fee for a letter from a licensed medical professional.

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