Emotional support animals

I don't supose any of you are aware (I only found by chance) that airlines especially those operating into or out of the US will soon be obliged to carry emotional support animals. This means that Paris Hilton can get a letter from her Dr to say her dog needs to fly with her as emotional support, you get my drift don't you. I can't get within 10 yards of a dog without reacting and if there has been one near where I am sitting I know about it and I have medical clinical data to back that. This is not like the nut situation in that the airline has me with a letter from Dr confirming asthma severe allergy to dog and cats and someone else with a letter saying their pet pooch needs to fly with them for emotional support who is going to get on the plane?


This applies to cats and dogs only.

17 Replies

  • How on earth are they going to work that? I'm speaking as a besotted dog lover here (thankfully not allergic to them) & even before considering the allergy issues I wouldn't be at all happy flying with a dog in the cabin unless it was sedated, there was an onboard vet & it was in a securely fastened, locked cage, to which only the vet had the key. Not that flying's something I'd ever be willing to subject my dog to.

    People who ""need"" emotional support from cigarettes or excess alcohol to fly aren't allowed it (thankfully!) as it effects others, why on earth should this be any different?

  • That is utter MADNESS. There are going to be so many people that this could cause major problems for(me and chloe included),not to mention how unfair it is on the poor animals.

    I wonder if there is anyway we can get our views heard?

  • Of all the crazy things in the world!

    This raises all sorts of safety and hygiene issues too, quite apart from the allergy issue, and I agree with Hops, it's not really fair on the animals either. If people are really that emotionally unstable that they can't fly without their animals, maybe they should consider whether they are psychologically well enough to fly, in the same way that I would not consider myself physically well enough to fly at present.

    It's coming to something when you are not allowed to take a bottle of water on a plane with you, and we are all having to get our meds double-checked by the airport pharmacist, but Paris Hilton (or whoever) can take her pet pooch (or, God forbid, more than one pooch) with her. I can just imagine it running up and down the aisles, crapping and vomiting all over the place.

    On the plus side, I quite fancy getting me a non-allergenic emotional support fish to take with me everywhere - including, of course, work (if I ever get back there!) and of course all costa stays!

    Well take care all and make sure you keep your furry friends on the ground where they should be!

    Em H

  • of all the stupid things they come up with,i think this has got to be the worst,

    how can you sit with a cat or a dog for hours without it wanting to run round every where,its bad enough trying to keep kids stil

    even if the animal is sedated

    theres still the fact that some people have allergy's and some people are very scared of some animals.

  • Don’t want to sound alarmist but the following guidelines have been issued by American Airlines. Perhaps some asthmatics may find it safer/more comfortable to sit in the hold with their luggage!

    The maximum number of carry-on kennels allowed (on American Airlines flights accepting them) is seven per flight: two (2) in first class and five (5) in coach and/or business class. However, seeing eye/hearing service assist animals and search dogs are not counted in the maximum number allowed in the cabin.

    Barking mad if you ask me!


  • oh great, considering the last run in I had with cats (less than half an hour in the house with them) ended up very close to ITU, I don't think I'll be on the plane with them.

    Who comes up with these stupid rules?


    I don't mind the hearing dogs or guide dogs - at least they are properly trained and will stay with their owner, so long as I am not next to them its fine.


  • The FAA regulations from May 2003 have full details of all US regs regarding the transporting of animals on aircraft.

    Specifically, a passenger can only insist that an airline carry their pet (and this applies to ANY pet that their doctor has deemed is an emotional support animal - according to the New York Times this has included a duck and a miniature horse in the past!) if it ""doesn't pose a direct threat to the health and/or safety of any other passenger"".

    So, ensure that you have a doctor's note detailing your allergy and the airline will be obliged to ensure that your health takes priority.

  • It had to be American airlines, didn't it. How about letting them in the back of the plane and promoting all us animal fur allergy sufferers to Business class. i might cope with that.

  • My information and I am pretty sure it is 100% spot on. Is that cats, dogs and ferrets will be able to travel as emotional support animals and their owners will have the same rights as other disabled people, as mental illness is a disablilty too. I have no problem with mental illness being regarded as a disability but this smacks of political correctness gone mad. I understand this is to come in in about 6 months.


  • I think in the U.S. there are some certified support animals who stay with people who have depression etc. when they are in a crisis. I'm sure that like all other assistance dogs there has to be a strict code to be adhered to so they could be reported if they are running around the plane. You also have to have more than a letter to travel, even the official harness isn't enough. I know GDOs that have been refused on planes because they haven't got the documents for their dog. We get a little card when we pass which says we are registered as a guide dog owner and has the dogs number on it which matches the number which is on the guide dog tag on her collar. To fly with an assistance dog the dog also needs a car harness which goes round its waist and attaches to the seatbelt of the seat next to the owner. The dog has to stay in the harness for the whole flight. They are quite strict about this now, I know there was a lot of negotiating between the airlines and guide dogs before they came up with a plan.

    As a guide dog owner I have to groom Sandie every day (although I know lots of GDO's who don't do this!) I think its only fair when she is going in food premises and other places to keep her presentable and keep the hair down as much as possible allergy wise. She still malts though. We're trying to get a baby gate and a super duper hoover for my office at the moment because of other workers allergies. I think its only fair to make compromises. Sandie is also expected to lie in her bed or at my side quietly for hours at a time as part of her job and she does this very well. Assistance dogs have to be given a free run every week so they can let off steam and of course they have time to play when they are off duty too.

    I'm not sure I'd ever take her on a plane especially not to America as it is too longer flight. The plan could really freak her out as it makes different noises and the effects of changing air pressure on dogs aren't really know I don't think. What happens to the dog if you have to evacuate in an emergency or there is only emergency oxygen in the cabin? It wouldn't be fair as she couldn't work at the other end and she would struggle with the different temperatures anyway. Its also very costly, I was going to take her to Italy but its £500 at least and I thought she'd enjoy herself more with some boarders who have retired dogs by the sea. She had a lovely time and me and my cane had a lovely time sunbathing by the pool!

    Forgive me for asking a silly question is the problem the re-cycled air? Are you less affected if you are on a train and there is someone with an assistance dog in the same carriage?

    Maybe it should be first come first serve, so whoever books first as if you have additional needs you have to say before you travel anyway. Its not fair to either people as you should be able and entitled to travel when you want as independently as possible but both parties have conflicting needs.

    I'm guessing this situation wouldn't happen that often though.


  • That kind of puts things into perspective Beth. I am much better when dogs are groomed regularly and i find because of that some dogs don't affect me at all. Ungroomed ones however are an instant itch, cough, wheeze and even swell occasionally. The trouble is you don't necessarily find out which is which until you come in contact with them. I am also guessing that at that price the only people who can actually afford to take their dog in the cabin are the rich and famous so they would always be at the opposite end of the plane to me.

  • I think if it is a registered assisstance dog, like the guide dogs or hearing dogs, then it would be ok - but not the idea of any random dog who may not be properly trained like they are. The idea of cats is worse - they can't really be trained like a dog can, and even in the harnesses they can escape.

    Beth, it sounds like you are doing loads to help reduce the allergy load at work - that is great. I always wondered why I was fine with my friend's guide dog but not with others, and had thought it must be because Kirk was less allergenic, but the grooming makes sense, which is good, because he is due to be retired, and I was worried how I would manage with his replacement - camp is enough of an allergen challenge without dog allergies too!

  • A very interesting topic of debate, and it's really good to get a range of opinions, particularly from Beth (and Sandie!) as a user of an assistance dog.

    I agree, I don't think registered assistance dogs are such a problem in general, as they are much better trained than your average pet, and are used to having to lie still and not cause trouble. From the point of view of safety and hygiene an assistance dog would certainly be much more acceptable than some random family pet, particularly another animal such as a cat, which as Owl has said are pretty much impossible to train and can't really be restrained very easily! From experiences travelling in the family car with a cat in a box, and having it escape and get under the pedals, scratch, wail, vomit etc, I certainly wouldn't relish sharing a transatlantic flight with one! It's not really fair on the animal either having seen how distressed some animals get just with car travelling.

    From the point of view of allergy, my experience too is that assistance dogs are less allergy provoking than most, for a range of reasons I think. Most of the attacks that I have had due to allergy to dogs or cats have been due either to going to a house where the animal lives or due to dogs coming up to me and getting in my face, trying to lick me etc (my grandparents used to have a dog who was a big offender in that regard!). Generally if a dog was sitting still and quietly some distance away from me and not moving around, stirring up its fur and dander, etc, it wouldn't provoke too much of a reaction. For me, then, assistance animals usually aren't too much of a problem cos they tend to be much more well behaved and to stay away from people if their owners tell them to. Random pet animals, however, are a different matter!

    I know there are some people on AUK who are much more sensitive to animals than that, and would be affected if there was an animal anywhere on board. It's really difficult to know how to approach that one, as obviously it would be difficult to ban all animals including assistance dogs. To dredge up memories of my undergraduate Ethics teaching, it's a question of conflicting autonomies and rights - our autonomy and right to travel on a plane without being put at risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack/allergic reaction versus the right of those who require assistance dogs to enable them to be more independent. To go to extremes, if we argue that no animals are allowed on the flight at all, we could also argue that no-one on the flight should be allowed to wear perfume or body spray of any kind, eat peanuts or other potentially anaphylaxis-inducing foods for 24 hours beforehand, smoke in the clothes that they intend to fly in (I've had attacks due to sitting next to people who smell of cigarette smoke, even though I'm in a non-smoking place), etc etc. I believe there are particular flights or airlines that are peanut free, so maybe a partial solution is to apply the same thing, so that there are some flights which are animal free. I'm not sure though whether disability legislation would allow this - are the airlines allowed to exclude registered assistance animals from any of their flights?

    One thing that is clear to me, though, is that it is not safe, hygenic or fair on the animals for any untrained pet to be allowed to travel with its owner in the cabin. If Paris Hilton or anyone else really feels that they need an animal for emotional or psychological support, there is nothing to stop them from acquiring an animal which has been specially trained in a similar way to other assistance animals. Generally, though, I think it should still be restricted to dogs, as most other animals are not really trainable in the same way!

    Or the Paris's of this world could just do what the rest of us do and have a Valium or a few G&Ts and spend the flight too stoned to care about not having little Trixabell the pooch in the next seat.

    Em H

  • I found some information on the Miniature Guide Horse Foundation website about emotional support animals/miniature horses which outlines the rules for the USA about Emotional Support animals. There aren't any organisations who train emotional support animals in the UK at the moment as far as I know there is still only one guide horse who belongs to a boy in Nottinghamshire. In the USA they also have assistance monkeys (google it you'll find the organisation who trains them with videos of what they do its quite cool), assistance pigs (who act like Dogs for the Disabled helping to balance their owners and picking things up).

    I also forgot to say in my last e-mail that guide dogs most popular breed is lab/retriever cross and they are supposed to be good for people with allergies as they allegedly malt less. They used to give people with allergies curly coat retrievers (who are very stubborn) and labradoodles (I want one! lol!) as there curly hair also malts less (I bet they are a nightmare to groom though).

    Anyway here are the rules for emotional support animals:

    Miniature Horses as Emotional Support Animal

    Recent court rulings have extended the rights of the disabled to employ emotional support animals (ESA). To qualify, the disabled person must have a Psychological Neurosis (as delineated by the American Psychological Association diagnostic guidelines), and the animals must provide a legitimate service. Here are the official FAA regulations for Emotional Support Animals.

    For example a person who was traumatized by a mugging could get diagnosed with Agoraphobia and gain the right to keep a ESA pony in an area where no pets are allowed.

    On May 9 2003, the Department of Transportation (DOT) published new guidelines concerning service animals and air transportation as they relate to the Air Carrier Access Act (ACCA), ruling that ESAs fall within the scope of the ADA.

    The financial costs to those who violate the rights of ESA users can be substantial. In 2000, a Minnesota judge awarded a man Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) $190,000 in damages after his condominium association refused to allow him to keep a ESA dog.

    Miniature horses have been recognized as therapy animals. Miniature horses have the right to act as mobility aids, pulling wheelchairs and steadying those who could not walk without external support.

    There is a fundamental difference between a Service Horse and a Emotional Support Horse (ESH). It is a Federal offense for anyone to require documentation from anyone using a Service Horse, but people with an ESH are required to provide a doctors note, confirming a mental health diagnosis.

  • Some very interesting comments and and opinions here.

    Not too sure about suggestions that this is to come in in 6 months time, though. All the official documentation that I can find shows that this has been the case for over 3 years, and that ANY animal would have to be admitted onto a flight if it were classed as a support animal. But that the health of other passengers is paramount. Interestingly, the documentation clearly differentiates between ""registered assistance animals"" and ""emotional support animals"", and only the latter can be refused carriage on the grounds of passenger health and safety; guide dogs and the like HAVE to be allowed on board.

    Good points also about the fact that there's no oxygen supply suitable for animals, so what happens if there's a depressurisation in the cabin and the oxygen masks have to be used? Do the poor animals just have to rough it out in the hope that normal air supplies are resumed before they suffer harm?

  • peaksteve,

    Looking further into the miniature guide horse website there is a photo of a guide horse on a plan (he looks a bit squashed in!) and it also says that horses are very prone to respiratory problems and get lots of chest infections and stuff if they are kept indoors for too long.

  • Thanks, Beth. Seems like a possible animal rights issue too, then.

You may also like...