So, we generally don’t allow animals, uncaged and untethered, onto planes. We do make an exception for service animals – Americanese for guide dogs for the blind etc. Rational, sensible, lots of grey areas but still.
Emotional support animals. Hmm, well, umm.
As Habibi is trained to be an emotional support animal and be with her during a flight, such separation was stressful for the two of them, Egeto says. She opted to buy a car to facilitate trips back and forth from Boston and Florida rather than fly.
“Not being able to have my [emotional support animal] available to me while I’m transitioning out of the pandemic was insurmountable,” said Egeto, calling the situation “stressful.” Egeto says she was “grateful” she had the resources to buy a car, but did not want to; “I hadn’t owned one in two years,” she noted.
Egeto is one of thousands facing a harsh new era in air travel, in which emotional support animals are separated from their owners. In 2016, U.S. airlines carried 540,000 passengers with emotional support animals, according to Airlines for America. That number more than doubled to over 1 million by 2018. In 2019, Airlines for America, the trade association for major U.S. airlines, wrote in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao that emotional support animals led to an increase in “incidents” that have “ranged from mauling and biting to urinating and defecating.”
Emotional support animals were classed, by DoT, as something like service animals. They will be carried. Now they won’t be.
Largely because people were taking the piss. There was at least one incident of someone insisting that a Shetland pony was an emotional support animal and must be – and was – allowed on a flight.
“The regulations are fundamentally unfair, prioritizing corporate interests over the rights of Americans with disabilities,” wrote Curt Decker, an executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, in a USA Today op-ed. “We believe that the provisions dealing with emotional support animals should be rescinded.”