First, a disclaimer, I don’t know anything about “emotional support animals”.
So when I heard today’s story about American Airlines revising its policy regarding emotional support animals on their flights, I was somewhat taken aback.
I can understand how a cat or dog could provide comfort to passengers who would otherwise find a flight too stressful.
But a goat? or an insect, or a ferret, or a spider, or a chicken, or a hawk, or… a hedgehog? Well apparently some people must have tried to bring such animals on to a flight for “emotional support”, because American’s new policy specifically bans such animals.
The airline states that it’s new policy is in response to a 40 percent rise in service or support animals on its aircraft from 2016 to 2017.
Here’s an excerpt from the press release: “At American, we want to have policies and procedures in place that protect our team members and our customers who have a real need for a trained service or support animal.”
While passengers with a support animal have always had to provide a letter from their mental health professional, the airline said it will be stricter about contacting these professionals well in advance of flights, in order to verify their notes.
Here’s the full list of banned animals:
- Sugar gliders
- Non-household birds (farm poultry, waterfowl, game birds, & birds of prey)
- Animals with tusks, horns or hooves (excluding miniature horses properly trained as service animals)
- Any animal that is unclean / has an odor
I am an animal lover, it’s one of the main reasons I’ve chosen to be a vegan. And I know that people can form incredibly strong bonds with animals, and those bonds can provide tremendous emotional support during stressful times.
But I would have to admit that I would be a little bit freaked out if I saw a hawk on an airplane. And can you imagine if another passenger brought a chicken on the same flight? Seems like you would be asking for trouble.
I’d also be freaked out if I boarded a plane and saw a snake sitting in a cage on a seat. And if there was an alligator, I’d walk right back up the runway. So I’m glad American has put this ban in place.
Again, I know nothing about the need for emotional support animals, but my guess is that someone who claims to really need to have a snake with them for comfort might be able to get by with a dog or a cat for the duration of a flight.
Or perhaps even a miniature horse, which is still on the approved list.
And it seems like kangaroos can fly too.
Now that would be something to see…