Seated next to a pooch on a plane? Too bad

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Some airline passengers are more equal than others, as Michael Morris found out when his daughter and 2-month-old granddaughter visited him from Los Angeles this summer.

On their first flight on Sun Country Airlines, they shared the cabin with two small dogs. “My daughter suffers from pet allergies,” says Morris, who lives in Minneapolis. “As you can guess, she had an allergic reaction.”

It happened again on the trip home.

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“Across from her, the same passenger with her dog were also returning to L.A.,” Morris remembers. “My daughter told the flight attendant about her allergies, and they moved my daughter to a seat in the very back row.”

Morris wants to know — and so do other passengers who contact me regularly — who should be moving: the pet or the passenger?

Fortunately, human-animal conflicts on planes appear to be relatively rare. The DOT recorded only 22 complaints about pets on aircraft in 2013, and so far this year, it has received 18. Grievances about service animals used by passengers with disabilities are also minuscule — a total of 35 to date, compared with 45 last year, according to the department.

Airlines are concerned about the welfare of passengers who suffer from allergies. For example, Delta Air Lines in 2012 adopted a new policy for passengers with peanut allergies, and, when notified of an allergic passenger, will refrain from serving peanuts and peanut products aboard the flight.

But pet allergies are more complicated. Pets generate sizable revenue for airlines in the form of extra fees and are unlikely to be removed from a flight just because another passenger complains. What’s more, the Transportation Department requires that they allow service animals on flights.

“Carriers should do their best to accommodate other passengers’ concerns by steps like seating passengers with service animals and passengers who are uncomfortable with service animals away from one another,” it says in a 2009 rule on nondiscrimination and air travel.

A closer look at the federal regulation reveals one or two loopholes that could come to the rescue of passengers like Morris’s daughter. First, there’s no requirement that all pets be allowed in the cabin, only service animals, although many airlines allow pets small enough to fit in a carrier under the seat. Airlines must accept service animals in the cabin as long as they don’t “pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others” or cause a “significant” disruption in cabin service. The DOT lists as examples an animal that would display threatening behavior, such as “growling, snarling, lunging at or attempting to bite other persons on the aircraft.”

The small dogs on the Sun Country flight might have qualified as “emotional-support” animals, a type of service animal. Sun Country did not respond to several requests for comment, but its policy on these four-legged passengers is available on its Web site.

Specific to what it calls “psychiatric-assist and emotional-support animals,” as permitted by DOT rules, the airline requires a letter from a licensed mental health professional or medical doctor specifically treating the passenger’s disability. The letter must also be dated and have been written within a year, and the disorder must be recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition.

The government draws no distinction between a service animal — which is identified by the presence of harnesses, tags or the credible verbal assurances of a qualified individual with a disability using the animal — and one used for emotional support. But passengers do. An incident in October 2000, in which a 300-pound potbellied Vietnamese pig used by a first-class passenger for emotional support reportedly ran amok on a US Airways flight, drew something of a line. An FAA investigation cleared the pig’s owner and the airline of any wrongdoing, but US Airways reportedly vowed to never allow a pig to fly in the passenger cabin again.

Passengers are understandably skeptical of these special designations. “I’m not allergic myself but am of the opinion that there is a time and place for pets, and people are really pushing those limits,” says Scott Hassel, a San Francisco marketing executive. “I love animals, but they don’t need to be inserted into everyone else’s lives. I see people bringing pets on airplanes, trains, into grocery stores and restaurants. No one has any consideration for those around them anymore. Just another symptom of the ‘me, me, me’ culture we live in.”

Unfortunately for allergy sufferers, it usually doesn’t matter why the animal is in the cabin. Chances are, unless it’s growling, hissing or biting other passengers, it’s staying on board. That means allergy sufferers must take sensible precautions. Calling the airline before your flight to let it know about your allergy is a good first step, although it won’t guarantee a pet-free flight. Carrying an EpiPen or allergy medication is a must, particularly when you’re in an enclosed cabin.

A DOT insider noted that if a passenger’s allergy is severe enough to substantially limit a major life activity, that would meet the definition of a disability, and under the rules, the airline must make a “reasonable accommodation,” which could mean moving the animal. That’s an argument you should make long before your flight by calling the airline’s special services desk.

One of the best ways to avoid an allergic reaction to a pet or service animal is to do what Morris’s daughter did on her return flight, and ask to be moved. That’s what Debi Rivkin, an accountant from Las Vegas, does when she travels by plane. “I’m allergic to most dogs,” she says. “I once was seated next to someone who had a dog with them, and I simply asked to be reseated. It was no issue.”

If the airline won’t act, ask a passenger for help. Anne Nelson, a government researcher from Chevy Chase, Md., did that when she found herself sneezing uncontrollably on a recent flight from Atlanta to Washington. The culprit? A long-haired cat under her seat.

“The plane was full, and there was no place to move me,” she remembers. “But a nearby passenger saw my predicament and offered to switch seats.”

If your pet allergies are severe, you’ll want to have the proper documentation on hand. “Get a doctor’s note about the pet allergy to avoid change fees,” says Victoria Day, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, an airline trade group.

When it comes to the conflict between pets and allergy sufferers, pets and their owners seem to have a little edge. Day suggests complaining to the Transportation Department, which could prompt it to review its rules on pets and service animals in the future. But probably not in time for your next flight.

Who should have more rights on a plane?

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133 thoughts on “Seated next to a pooch on a plane? Too bad

  1. I’d much much much rather be seated next to a dog, cat, horse, lizard, or really almost any animal over a crying child. Even though I’m allergic to cats, I’d rather take a Claritin and deal with itchy eyes and a scratchy throat. Crying kids, fussy kids are the worst.

    Just an FYI though, you can get your dog a piece of paper saying it’s a service animal for emotional support simply by paying a bit of money. A psychiatrist online will mail you all necessary paperwork and you can buy the special harness and tags online too. It’ll run you together about $200, which is a great deal if you can fly your pets for free.

  2. Specific to what it calls “psychiatric-assist and emotional-support
    animals,” as permitted by DOT rules, the airline requires a letter from a
    licensed mental health professional or medical doctor specifically
    treating the passenger’s disability. The letter must also be dated and
    have been written within a year, and the disorder must be recognized by
    the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth
    Edition.

    Unfortunately, this basically means anything, as the bar is about one inch off the ground. A mental health professional can be just an underemployed social worker or counselor. The DSM-IV designation can be something as broad and vague as ‘social stress disorder.’

    I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate PTSD-related service animals, for example. But the number of pet related complaints will continue to be bolstered when the airlines allow “service” animals with such wide latitude.

  3. I thought on international flights, pets have to be checked in a special pen, and place in the cargo with the luggage? And are not allowed to travel with passengers? As I have never seen a pet on my many int’l trips…please advise, thanks

  4. “Emotional support” animals Are NOT Service Animals!!!! They are NOT covered under the ADA rules! The DOT may define a service animal differently, but to truly get the legal protection of the ADA law it has to meet certain requirements, and that includes being properly socialized to being in public. No true service animal would *ever* be a threat to anyone around it.

    And a true service animal is NOT required to be under harness, in a vest, or in any other way identified as a service animal. It causes some confusion amongst those who don’t understand these distinctions, and my dog wears a vest if I think there’s going to be any question of what she is, but I’m not *required* to announce to the world that she’s a service dog.

  5. Requiring a letter like this violates the ADA. The only thing anyone can ask of the owner of a service animal is:
    Are you disabled?
    Is this a service animal?
    Is this animal trained to handle YOUR disabilities?

    That’s it. I don’t have to explain to anyone how I’m disabled or how my dog is trained to accommodate it, just that I am and she is. This means my husband couldn’t travel with my dog and expect the same accommodations for being with a service dog.

    And yes, it irks the hell out of me that people falsely claim they have service animals and then tear up hotel rooms, run amok on airplanes, or are generally nuisances in public since that makes people who have true service animals have to fight against that example. I wouldn’t for a moment consider the alternative, tho, which would be to require me to have to answer intrusive questions or provide a doctor’s documentation every time I want to go somewhere with my dog. I don’t mind talking about my issues or my wonderful helper, but I won’t be obligated to do so.

    ETA: Oh, and if the DOT is still tracking off the FOURTH edition of the DSM, they’re way out of date. They went to the IV-TR years ago and are now on the 5th edition.

  6. I don’t know about pets, but you can’t force a person with disabilities to check their service dog*. I would think that it’s just a lot more uncommon for people with those kinds of disabilities to fly internationally and you just might not have seen one.

    *I default to service dog because that’s the most common type of service animal. Others are appropriate depending on the disability of the owner. I myself would love to have a service pony. :-)

  7. Great article. Lots of people don’t understand that psychiatric disability includes such things a social anxiety, ptsd, anxiety and Emotional Support is a necessary and very useful part of treatment to overcome it.
    I would feel uncomfortable with a pig on a plane but it’s not for me to say it shouldn’t be there. Asking to move is an alternative when we don’t have the foresight to call ahead and make sure we can get a seat away from animals if we have any issue with this.

  8. There is a difference between an “emotional support animal” and an animal trained specifically to perform tasks to alleviate social anxiety or PTSD attacks. There are such animals and they do fall under the category of service dogs, but if the animal is not so trained, it doesn’t count.

  9. My husband is HIGHLY allergic to animals. We were at a Town house Board meeting (where we live) and some woman brought in a lap dog (COMFORT?) My husband who was about 3 seats away could not breathe!! I had to escort him out. A woman followed us (she was a doctor and wanted to know if he had chest pain.) No, he did not, but could not breathe. And, I ask WHY DOES A LAP DOG BELONG AT A MEETING!!!????? And, as someone in the business of flying aircraft said: “if that plane goes down — a lot of good that “lap dog” would do for the owner. They’d all be going down and nothing could “COMFORT THAT SITUATION.”

  10. Howard: You might prefer to sit next to a dog or other animal, but if you have allergies you would be unable to breathe and you can’t get off a FLYING PLANE. Husband had to leave and had breathing problems until we walked a bit in the fresh air. It is “not a pretty sight” to see someone struggling for breath. And “so called” comfort dogs — if you need so much comfort stay home with your DOG!!!!!

  11. Years ago I was flying to Europe in first class and a woman had a dinky little dog she was letting run around the cabin. I called the flight attendant and she made the woman put it into its “cage.” Have not had that happen since. And, I work in the theaters in town and most allow “service animals.” Husband cannot work around them either. At one point “service ponies” were permitted and “service snakes” BUT THANKFULLY THE CODE WAS REWRITTEN and those two were removed. Can you imagine someone petting their service “lap snake?” No, neither can I!!!

  12. Is it really necessary to shout? Your husband must have a very difficult time of it if his reaction to all animals is as bad as you say it it. It sounds like he needs to stay at home.

  13. I accidentally had the CAPS on from a previous article. I beg your forgiveness. He cannot stay “home” because we travel all the time – part of our life. If you had someone in your family who is allergic, perhaps you would be “kinder” and “more considerate.”

  14. Naoma… question: Would a dust mask help your husband? In bulk, they’re something like fifteen cents apiece on Amazon. It would seem that severely allergic people could carry them, as folks with peanut allergies carry EpiPens. No?

  15. The fee for the pet is a big issue, I am certain. I’ve been made aware of how easy it is to get any dog or cat certified as “emotional-support,” enough that it is meaningless.

    This year I have not been on a domestic flight that did not have at least two support animals, and did overhear one passenger tell another that it cost her “$20 to get this doctor to certify her pet dog as an emotional support animal.”

  16. For a service animal, you’re correct. For an emotional support animal, it doesn’t apply, as I understand.

  17. There are legitimate reasons for an emotional support animal — but I am suspicious, I suspect there is significant abuse of the term.

    I’d require some evidence of ongoing psychological or psychiatric treatment, but then you have privacy issues.

  18. Ha! What a great dodge… $20 vs. $100-$150 to fly your pet AS a pet. I’ve got eight cats, I wonder how many of them I can fly as “support animals”?

  19. How about getting your Cap Lock key fixed it seems to be able to turn on and off when it wants to. Also have the ! & ? keys checked they seem to be sticking. Finally. Travel is part of your life? Unless travel is necessary for employment it doesn’t have to be a part of your life.

  20. “There are legitimate reasons for an emotional support animal — but … I suspect there is significant abuse of the term.” Gee, ya think? :-) I just read another post that said you can get a pet “certified” as a support animal for $20! Versus $100 to $150 to fly a regular “pet”?! Yup… I’m gonna need a lot of emotional “support” from now on. What a scam.

  21. Naomi, I also have severe allergies and I deal with them appropriately. Do not suggest I am unkind or inconsiderate. That is a particularly judgemental opinion of someone who you don’t know.

  22. I flew to Paris seated next to an elderly German woman who was traveling with TWO dachshunds in soft-sided carriers under her seat and the seat of her son. Thepups were sedated and she opened their carriers once during the flight to check that they were ok. She was nice enough to ask me first if I minded that she checked on them. Absolutely no problem as far as I was concerned. This was a Delta flight.

  23. I know this is a “sore” subject right up there with peanut allergies but I still ask – why do YOUR psychological and physical issues become my problem ? Checking people in today is like working hospital admissions. I don’t care about your hip replacement, c-pap machine or pacemaker or service animal; though I’m obliged to keep my mouth shut but that’s what we’re thinking. To me it’s all for attention and a want for more pampering.

    Working for 30+ years for an airline I’ve heard it and seen it all. Yes, of course people with obvious physical disabilities (wheelchairs, blind, deaf, etc.) need to be treated with great consideration but a service animal for anxiety ? If you can’t handle it, don’t travel. If you’re so “crippled” with being in public, stay home. Have your friends and relatives visit you.

    We recently traveled non-rev and a woman behind us (holding an emotional support dog) on the security checkpoint line got extremely annoyed and impatient when my husband stopped for (literally) a few seconds to sign his new passport. She kept saying “move up” while waving her hand at us. She could see what he was doing and my comment about it was met with a wild-eyed staring glare. I couldn’t resist…”Oh, I guess that’s why you need to cling to your fake emotional support dog, unfortunately it can doing nothing to cure your rudeness”.

  24. If Naoma had simply replied I was upset at the time I posted and I was venting my anger I would have totally understood. Sadly we do not live in a perfect world. I do feel badly for for anyone who has allergies. It must make life difficult and sometimes downright dangerous. Fortunately I do not suffer from allergies. I can also understand that some people need service dogs too. None of us can always have everything we want to have. The best we can hope for is to have more good things and fewer bad things in our lives. I will close with a quote from Maya Angelou– “Try to be the rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”

  25. Ha! I use a CPAP, and I’m allergic to cats, too (even though I’m “Dad” to eight of them), but I love your comment. :-) You’re absolutely right… in today’s America, everybody’s psychological and physical problems are your problem… and mine. Whatever happened to the good old kick in the pants… and a recommendation to “Suck it up”? Doesn’t happen anymore. Nowadays, everybody’s a “special snowflake.”

  26. Thanks for this article. I, too, am VERY allergic to pets and have seen more on recent flights. On my last flight to see my son, DIL, and grandkids, there was a service animal seated three rows from me. I went into an asthma attack. My form of asthma is coughing and burning lungs. I asked for a mask, overloaded myself on meds, and suffered thru the entire 3 hour flight. By the time we were landing, the flight attendant insisted on calling the paramedics for me. Of course, the damage had been done and because of the stress on my lungs I got a respiratory infection which I promptly shared with my family. We were all sick for weeks. My trip was ruined. I inquired about how to avoid problems in the future and was told that I could get a letter from my doc, but could then expect to be re-routed if the service animal (or any animal) checked in before me! On the trip home they wanted to put me on a flight the next morning, and then said the pilot might not even let me fly! Please don’t tell me to stay home. I have as much right to visit my family as do the owners of the service animals. It’s a terrible feeling to be at 35,000 feet and not able to breathe. I don’t know the solution for service animals. How do you distinguish between disabilities? But certainly the ability to breathe should be a right. And re-seating isn’t going to be a lot of help if they recirculate the air in the cabin. We are all being exposed to all that pet dander for the entire flight. Pet owners, I know you love your animals, but please consider those with allergies and asthma before taking them to public places. This new trend of “my pet has to go everywhere with me” is causing health problems for those of us with respiratory issues. Smokers who would not be considerate of others breathing their air years ago led to the bans in most states for indoor smoking. Perhaps if enough of us complain, we can get the same laws for pets. Or perhaps, pet owners could be thoughtful.

  27. Who should have more rights on a plane? Obviously, those who feel more entitled, he said sarcastically. I’m waiting for the day that two über-entitled people get into an argument on a plane about which is more entitled than the other. I’d pay frequent flyer miles to see that! Could be a good comedy skit.

  28. Anyone with allergies should be prepared, but I also question why that dog was at the meeting. Little foo-foo needs to stay home. I personally am tired of people thinking their pets are welcomed everywhere. Was in Best Buy yesterday where an older man had a large dog, like a husky in the store with him. Nice dog, well behaved, but why was it with him in the store? Pets belong at home.

  29. Animals are not passengers they are cargo and belong in the hold.

    What greatly troubles me is the number of emotional support animal scams. Your pet belongs in the cargo hold if you can not fly without one you should take another mode of transportation. Anytime I’m seated next to an animal on a plane I complain the animal groweled at me in a threatening nature, and I have serious concerns for my safety and well being and I email the airline from the flight on my phone, to establish that they have been advised of the potential liability by permitting this animal to fly with passengers.

  30. I have flown with my dog, who is a 100 lb lab/bernese mountain dog. In order to fly from Chicago to San Diego, it was nearly $600 just for his spot in cargo. I also had to get a special crate, which was around $250. I love my dog and would never subject people on an airplane to him. He is very well trained, but I do understand that some people are afraid of dogs and some are uncomfortable around animals. He is well behaved enough that I could have him qualified as an “emotional support” animal and brought him on the plane, which also would have been much cheaper. However, you shouldn’t have a dog (especially a large one) if you are not prepared to take on the extra expenses and responsibility. Those people I see that bring their dogs everywhere tend to have a very selfish attitude and very poorly trained animals. Responsible dog owners don’t bring their dogs everywhere people go.

  31. DOT regulations trump ADA regulations, if your service animal regardless of disability presents a threat to the airplane, staff or passengers you can be denied boarding and removed. Your “right” to a service animal ends at my right not to be attacked.

  32. How about a service cobra, or service alligator? Don’t laugh I know someone who has a service tarantula.

  33. If your allergies are so bad then stay at home with them!
    This is the stupidest type of thing people say on any controversial topic. You don’t want to “stay home” anymore than people who NEED an emotional support animal or someone with a baby.

  34. Lawyers, all these problems would go away if business’s (including airlines) weren’t sued and then faced with large judgements.

  35. Pat, would some kind of a dust mask help? I ask because I’m afraid that bona fide service animals are just something you’re going to have to learn to live with. Emotional support animals, on the other hand… we need to start raising hell with congress to put a stop to that nonsense. Emotional support… give me a break. If you can’t take a flight without your dog, I’m sorry, but stay the hell home. The rights of Pat, and folks like him, to breathe trump whatever “rights” you think you have.

  36. As scary as those things may be, I’d prefer either of them to a service guinea pig, the never ending sound those things make would drive me nuts on an enclosed plane.

  37. If that’s true, why would anyone EVER pay the fare to fly an animal? Hey… “He (or she) is emotional support!” Scam!

  38. Absolutely, a one time or once a year $20 is far far cheaper then paying $150 for a pet, but thats even cheaper than the cost of boarding a family pet during vacation.

  39. What about a service companion, can I fly a friend, child, or spouse for free if they are part of my anxiety treatment? Humans are animals (we’re in the same kingdom of animalia as dogs, cats, etc), so can a person count as a service animal?

  40. Well, you can have one support animal and then each of the animals needs another for support, and so on and so on.

  41. Internationally, there is no distinction between pet and service animal when it comes to quarantine. Many foreign countries require months of quarantine time before your animal can be set free. I would think this would discourage most people from taking an animal with them.

  42. I took a Megabus trip and 2 large dogs were on board with their owners and seated with them. At a rest stop, they went out and did they business, came back and climb on the upholstered seats. So any possible lingering of feces/urine would have soiled the seats. I was very uncomfortable seeing this. I commented of their website but the ‘corp-speak’ reply was a carefully worded apologetic reply.

  43. I need to carry a huge coil of garden hose to a friend at my destination. I’ll be trying to avoid the cost of checking it by getting my family doc to certify that it is support hose.

  44. There are special masks for people with severe allergies. They are not just dust masks, but serious, well-made, and even somewhat “stylish” (if such could be said about a face mask). A friend of mine has to wear one whenever he is outside, because *anything* flowering or putting a scent into the air causes him a severe allergic reaction.

    Like with flowering things, a person with severe allergies cannot really expect that they can simply avoid the offending thing. If one is highly allergic to animals, one has to take simple precautions. I don’t think it is reasonable to expect the airlines to start running animal flights vs. non-animal flights.

    Talk to your doctor. Get medicine. Get one of these masks. Call ahead. Ask to be seated away from the animal.

    And, since I understand that it would be a simple (and not all that expensive relative to other things) solution for the airlines to put in filters in their systems (which would also protect us all from “french kissing” all the other passengers just by breathing on a plane), maybe we all ought to be complaining to the airlines and the FCC that airplane air systems be properly filtered rather than just recirculating contaminated air.

  45. Many Americans think they’re “rights” are protected world wide. They don’t realize once you leave the US borders your animal whether a support, or service animal is simply food you’ve made a house pet.

  46. What about a support tiger, or even a support serval, now that would look cool on the plane. My “support animal” will have the steak tartare, or absent that the screaming toddler back in row 22.

  47. We are animal rescuers…and resent the mis-use of the term “service animals” when people want to avoid paying for their animal’s flight/placement in the cargo. A woman had Service Animal embroidered onto her dog harness for this express purpose. It also garners her extra attention and easier access whether to grocery stores, planes, etc. We see it happening over and over and so totally object since this type of misuse makes it hardeer for the truly disabled.

  48. Just remember, I had to sit next to an “emotional support snake.” The nutjob who had it kept taking it out of its carrier and stroking it, despite the FA telling her to put it away.

    Ugh.
    If you can’t leave home without your snake, stay home.

  49. Yup, on the phony letters…just Google it. There are plenty of shady places that will generate the necessary letter for the right amount of bucks.

  50. Air Carriers Access Act applies in the case of air transportation. ESA are not classified as service animals under the regulation.ADA regs cease to apply once you are on the plane

  51. Why even bother with that, just make your own letter. Create some stationary letterhead, type out a letter and include a generalized anxiety disorder in the body and makeup a doctors name.

  52. I’d be really upset if my wife couldn’t fly with me. Can I get a certification and have her fly free? (I think I see a business possibility….)

  53. I will flip the question around. What if I dont have an allergy, but just uncomfortable having an animal next to me? Do I have a right to be reseated?

  54. Yes, and the same is true on planes. The dander remains on the floor and the plane is not cleaned on turn around. I have often found myself reacting even if there is no pet on board because there was one on a previous flight.

  55. Good point. I had a coworker deadly afraid of dogs and this was her biggest fear.
    Still, I think it is the offending party, not the victim that should be reseated. Travel with your emotional support dog ?,….then with it should come the consequences of being reseated (the horror) and let the “emotional” support dog comfort you for the trauma of having to be reseated (most likely into a less desirable seat) to your destination – isn’t that what they’re there for ?

  56. If you are falsely complaining about animals then you are causing other problems. I have to assume that at least some of the time your complaints are made up, because you said that you do it any time you are seated near an animal on an aircraft and I find it highly unlikely that every animal you encounter on an aircraft acts toward you in a threatening manner, unless you are deliberately provoking them.

    When you file false complaints with any company, you are just making it harder for people with legitimate complaints to be heard and trusted. There is a reason that people with legitimate complaints are regularly disbelieved by all sorts of companies, it is because they are regularly deluged with people making fake allegations or fake reports.

    So thank you, for being a part of the problem and not the solution.

  57. am one of those people who traveled with my pets in the cabin, not once but twice. However, my wife and I didn’t do it because we travel with our pets, but we had to for two reasons. 1) We were moving from England to Florida in 2003 and since it was the summer time, the temperature on the ramp of the airport was too warm (over 85F). 2) We were moving back to England after my military assignment in Florida.

    Granted we try our best to put our pets in the cargo hold, but if it is too hot at any airport, one has to change travel plans. The first flight was on the leg from Minnesota to Atlanta and the temperature limitations were exceeded so we flew in the cabin. The second flight was from Atlanta to Newark and ramp temperature was an issue.

    As a person I understand allergies, and as a traveler I am really considerate when I reserve my seats by picking the last row.

    However, as a service member, 17 years in the USAF my wife and I will take our pets with us every time we move. Therefore, the airlines still need to allow pets in the cabin even it might cause someone’s allergy fits. There is always another side to the story like I tried to explain mine to you.

  58. You are incredibly misinformed. Let’s start by the fact that airlines are bound by the Air Carrier Access Act, not ADA.

    A letter is absolutely required for air travel (as easy as it is to get one) and that violates nothing.

  59. this is nuts. Only in America. Don’t you still have Rabies in USA ?
    U.S. Lawyers going crazy again.
    If you actually going to allow pets in the cabin, shouldn’t they have paperwork to say they don’t have Rabies & many other diseases ?
    With all this Ebola going around, the last thing I’d want is some disease ridden animal in the cabin anywhere near me. Next, what pets rats allowed on board ?

    Animals shouldn’t be allowed into hotels either. Many diseases can be transmitted from pets to humans.

  60. Or monkeys! Wouldn’t a panicky “support” monkey screeching and flinging feces be great? You watch… this IS America; it’ll happen.

  61. I don’t think you’re presenting the issue properly. It’s a given that those with service animals have a right to have those animals on board and that those with severe allergies have a right to be seated away from animals which they are allergic to. Additionally, many airlines do allow small dogs to be in a carrier .

    The real question is that in such a case, should the human or the human with the animal be required to move? Right now it’s up to the flight crew to decide. Another issue that when a person is asked to move, then there’s the obvious response of “that dog is more important than me?”

    I love animals. but I certainly understand that not all people do nor do even those that do can be in their presence.

  62. In some towns and cities, yes; in most places, no. My cats never set foot (paw?) out of the house, but the county I live in requires that they be licensed. It’s just a money grab by politicians and bureaucrats with too much time on their hands.

  63. The Dept of Justice specifically has noted that only dogs are recognized as service animals for the purposes of the ADA. However, this doesn’t apply to air travel, which has its own law regarding service animals.

  64. Aussietraveller:

    In general, in the US, in order to ship an animal or take one on the plane, you are required to have a certificate from a licensed veterinarian showing vaccination status and a recent health exam. (That’s actually also true if you’re transporting a pet across state lines, in for instance, a personal car, though I’ve never been asked for a certificate in car travel. Typically, these certificates require vaccination and being free of major parasites, and in something resembling good health. For instance, Canada let me in with a cat who’d just had major teeth extractions and wasn’t eating well, so wasn’t in sterling health, but certainly not contagious.

    In addition, if you’re crossing international borders, you may need an official USDA/APHIS certificate. http://www.pettravel.com/passports_USDA_certification.cfm or other certificate.

    As to rabies vaccinations, by the 1990s in the US, most cases of rabies are in wild animals, particularly bats and carnivores like raccoons and foxes, not in pet species. That’s been true ever since rabies vaccines became a public health push. Human rabies deaths in the US run 1-2 a year now, down from 100 or so a year about 1900. If you’re worried about rabies, stay on that plane with the vaccinated animals… it’s safer.

    Interesting that you’re choosing “with Ebola going around” as a reason to worry about animals in planes. In all my 60+ years of being around animals, some of them quite ill (my great uncle was a veterinarian, I often went on calls as a kid), the only thing I’ve ever caught from an animal are a some flea bites and a couple of instances of well-deserved cat bite. The infection was probably Pasteurella multocida, and pretty easily handled with a short course of antibiotics.

    I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve picked up communicable diseases from fellow humans, though, including everything from mild colds to some real nasties like measles, chicken pox, whooping cough, etc. (And yes, I do predate most of those vaccines!). Mostly, I don’t fly — some of it is the TSA hassle, but much is that I seem to catch a respiratory infection from fellow travelers every time I fly.

    Given the choice between traveling on a plane with, say, 100 other human passengers, many of whom will be flying sick or well, and a plane with 100 assorted pets straight out of the local animal shelter — well, you’ll find me on the animal shelter flight. I like the odds of not catching anything from the animals far better.

    Don’t get me wrong… I have empathy for the folks with animal allergies and phobias; I have family and friends with real service animals, and I know how much they depend on them. And I have some really nasty allergies myself, though not to animals. I do carry medication for my allergies at all times, and am pretty good at even improvising masks for inhalant allergens if needed. Unfortunately, if you’re using public transportation, and you’re allergic to something you will likely encounter, that’s what you need to do. Or you’re going to get sick.

  65. Funny…not. There are fees for animals to fly with you. They don’t fly for free and sometimes it cost more than your ticket cost.

  66. Doesn’t HIPA also apply? You have 2 sets of laws saying one thing and another saying something different. HIPA makes is so medical records are confidential, and that includes what type of medical condition a person has.

  67. Wait, it’s not a service pony, it’s a service HORSE. What’s available are miniature horses. Check out guidehorse.org and hiddenhollowminiatures.com/Service_Animals.html . Most of the horses are trained as guide animals for the blind, but can be trained for other service work.

  68. I remember when people were prescribed medication in order to handle their “anxiety”. I would think this could still be done rather than claiming an animal “soothes their anxiety”. I think in this case, sometimes change isn’t good.

  69. Depends on the municipality. My county doesn’t require that cats be licensed, but it’s optional. If they are licensed, they must be vaccinated against rabies. Dogs are required to be licensed once they reach 4 months of age.

  70. No they are not. Service animals are trained to assist a person with needs. An Emotion support animal is the same as a child’s blankie or pacifier. Very different.

  71. A friend of mine had her beloved pet certified as a support animal and now it flies with her on all but international flights where she does not need the “support”. A medical professional in her family completed the certification forms for her.

  72. There are generally two types of “passengers who bring their pets aboard” that I’ve encountered. The first type boards early, places the pooch under the seat, and leaves it there for the whole flight. Those people are generally pleasant to sit next to, because they want to transport their pet safely but also take into consideration their fellow passengers. I sat next to one woman last week on a four hour flight who traveled with her little dog and I only noticed when we disembarked. You never knew it was there. The second type has the animal on their lap, on the tray table, in your seat if you stand up or arrive later, talks to the animal in baby voices, demands all sorts of extra accommodation, and doesn’t hesitate to play the imagined discrimination card as soon as someone objects to the animal’s behavior.

  73. I have asthma, and even MY cats can sometimes trigger a horrible episode. So I always take my meds – there is no way to know if the person next to you has a cat at home, after all (unless you see a lot of fur) – and sometimes its enough. IF you let the airlines know as soon as you book, they are more likely to ensure you are seated far from the culprits – but if your illness makes this a difficulty, it really is YOUR responsibility to cover your bases.

  74. They HAVE to allow these – they require the letter to assist in case of changes (avoids fees) and to ensure THEY are not bumped

  75. Actually, the letter helps give them leverage OVER the allergy sufferer – and when changes occur, it eliminates the hassle of arguing over unneccessary change fees. You could still fly without, but then you pay.

  76. Yep – worked for United, and they used to take the service dogs for their “final exam” on the flight from Denver to Aspen — used to have to note how many where on each flight, as these were smaller planes. MOST graduated. :)

  77. Actually, have allergies, and my asthma is a hair trigger (sorry about the pun). I have 2 cats, but even THEY can trigger an attack sometimes. When you have such extreme allergies, and know you are going out into public, ALWAYS carry your meds – just because the dog wasn’t there, does NOT mean he would not have a problem sitting next to her (she will carry the dander after all)

  78. Service animals have the right to be there. IF you have such a problem with your asthma, medicate before hand, and AVOID the attack. Its what I do. After all, what’s to say you don’t sit next to crazy cat lady, covered in 1/2 pound of cat hair? :)

  79. Now THAT would freak me out – BAD phobia about snakes — but on the other hand, I can pretty much guarantee it stays in its case for the remainder!

  80. Service dogs – you CANNOT force them to move, especially if they are assisting the visually impaired.

  81. True – we flew cross country couple years ago, and only when we were getting off the plane, and the carrier come out, did we hear a little yip, and I realized a puppy had been travelling overnight with us!

  82. Right, visually impaired, that’s a different subject. – we’re talking in general about emotional support dogs and YES, the person traveling with the dog should be moved if they are an inconvenience to another passenger. I would do it and I have done it as a gate agent.

  83. I don’t think HIPAA applies because the health care provider isn’t sharing your medical information DIRECTLY with the airline. The provider is giving YOU the letter, which is allowed if you’re the patient; that YOU share it with the airline is your decision / requirement.

  84. I travel with my mini dachshund all of the time. It is amazing how many people have said to me or actually given me the information to have him ceritfied as an emotional support dog. I have no intention of ever going through with it. He is much happier in his travel house while we fly!

  85. I must be older than you. I remember the good old days when people were told to just suck it up… or stay the hell home. Today, everybody is “entitled” to special treatment.

  86. Yes there are, had an FA reseat a blind woman with a service dog away from the galley because she claimed it was a health regulation.

  87. Sorry – stand corrected – in that case, yes. But just because someone wants you moved, not happening.

  88. Airlines are not covered entities under HIPAA, unless for some reason they are acting as your health plan or health care provider. It’s about unauthorized disclosure, You are providing the information, your options are to supply it or not fly with your pet so its authorized disclosure

  89. in jan i was in econ + butat the gate was given a seat 2 rows back (3 cross) end seat ..The seat was occupied by a large german shepherd dog.(FBI service) .. His handlers got him off the seat for me and i sat down… He was not a good flyer and was scared– agitated… He got worse when one of his handlers had to go to the ladies room… He also slobberd all over the place and jumped on me as he was scared when his usual handler got up… i was covered in saliva and dog hair by the time i got off the plane… i had hand wipes and used them..;. so that is my dog story,,.he finally fell asleep as we landed and had to be carried off/////

  90. If you use an airlines that allows animals, then you should be prepared for a potential animal on the flight. The passenger with the pet is perfectly within their rights, and if you have allergies, it’s your responsibility to manage them, not the other people on the plane. It’s a risk that is taken when choosing to fly with a pet-friendly airline.

  91. who should be moving: the pet or the passenger?
    1. If it’s a pet, not a a service animal, it would probably be an ADA violation to require the disabled person to move.

    2. If it’s an actual pet, and pets are allowed, the other person should be moved. Because, if two people are complying with the rules, but one has a problem with the other, the one who has the problem should move.

  92. I agree. I work with a gentleman who is blind and has Parkinson’s. He has a service animal, that is a German Shepherd. Beautiful dog. Serene. Patient.Trained. Devoted to him. When he brings her into the office, nobody knows. She settles under his desk or at his feet and only ever indicates her presence when she needs to go out to potty. That is what a service animal should be. I see these alleged service animals that are yipping and timid or shaking or aggressive or hopping all over the place and it’s obvious that the owners are abusing the term service dog and associated rights. Right up there with the 19 year olds who borrow Granny’s handicapped mirror hanger so he/she can park closer at the Mall. I once saw 2 young guys get out of a car parked in a “Expectant Mother” space and called out “Congratulations! Which of you is pregnant and when are you due?” I got the finger and an insolent laugh. So much to be proud of there…. Sigh.

  93. If you register under the airlines frequent flier programs you are able to list allergies. Most airlines make an attempt to accommodate most passengers with special needs, as a frequent flier roughly 250K miles a year I have seen this several times and sat next to several service animals that behave better than most people.

  94. I’m allergic to children and people that smoke so much they smell like an ashtray. I’m also allergic to people that can’t seem to check-in their too many bags. Can I call the waaaabulance, too?

  95. Howard, I think it’s important that people are aware of things like fake service animals. Not sure what we can do about it tho. A friend trains service dogs and was threatened at a shopping mall recently by a Rottweiler who lunged at her dogs, pulling its leash out of the owner’s hands. I had no idea that people would stoop to this level.

  96. Excellent, Lindabator, take responsibility for yourself, don’t expect others to take care of you.

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