United States

Proposed Amendment Would Tighten Rules on Airline Animals

A proposed amendment to this year’s funding of the Federal Aviation Administration, would require stricter rules for so-called “emotional support animals”, which airline and cabin crews complain are all-too-often merely family pets which crowd the cabin and pose a threat to aviation safety. 

And, to hear passengers’ tales of flying chickens, horses, and even in one notable case, a kangaroo, the animals further erode the sanity and sanctity of the entire aviation experience. 

The proposed amendment, introduced by House Transportation committee chairman William Shuster of Pennsylvania, would require a new definition of service animal, and revised standards for emotional support animals on U.S. flights. 

In contrast to service animals which are most commonly used by the blind or visually impaired, emotional support animals fall under a broad category of pets whose owners maintain they need to fly. Requirements attached to the animals are minimal, usually only a letter from a qualified physician. 

Shuster’s proposed legislation would consider whether to require photo i.d.’s identifying the animal and the service it provides; whether to require documentation indicating if the animal was trained by the owner or an actual approved training organization; documentation from a doctor describing the task the animal performs; health and vaccination records; and potential third-party proof of the animal’s training.

Flight attendants and passengers alike have raised complaints of veritable flying menageries, as some passengers attempt to avoid costly fees to fly their pets, by claiming the animals are actually needed for emotional support. Web sites have been clogged with photos of flying dogs, cats, turkeys, even peacocks and goats.

Flight attendants say the animals are known to engage in fights in aircraft cabins, and complain they pose a threat to passenger safety.

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