Alaska Airlines becomes first to BAN all emotional support animals

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In two weeks’ time, no pot-bellied pigs, miniature horses or peacocks will be welcome on board Alaska Airlines flights amid an industry-wide crackdown on emotional support animals.

The Seattle-based air carrier on Tuesday announced changes to its service animal policy, stating that beginning on January 11, the airline will no longer allow any emotional support animals on its flights.

‘Alaska will only transport service dogs, which are specially trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability,’ the airline said in a press release.

  • a group of people posing for the camera: Pigs won't fly: Alaska Airlines on Tuesday announced that beginning on January 11, it will no longer allow any emotional support animals, such as this jet-setting pig

  • a man and a woman sitting on a horse: In early December, the US Department of Transportation said that it will no longer require airlines to make the same accommodations for emotional support animals as for service dogs

  • a dog sitting in front of a mirror: Alaska will only transport service dogs, which are specially trained to perform tasks for a person with

  • a large passenger jet flying through the air on a runway at an airport: Alaska Airlines has become the first air carrier to ban emotional support animals on its flights

The move comes just weeks after the US Department of Transportation said that it will no longer require airlines to make the same accommodations for emotional support animals as for service dogs.

BIZARRE PETS PASSENGERS HAVE ATTEMPTED TO BRING ON PLANES

– Emotional Support Pig

In 2014, a woman was booted off a from Connecticut to Washington state because her large pet pig was being ‘disruptive’. A fellow passenger told CNN the pig weighed between 70 and 80 pounds, and began dropping things in the aisle and squealing

– Emotional Support Squirrel

In October 2018, Cindy Torok was left livid after Frontier Airlines barred her pet squirrel, Daisy, from accompanying her on a flight from Orlando to Cleveland. 

Torok appeared on numerous TV programs blasting the company, claiming she had a letter from her doctor saying that the squirrel helped with her anxiety disorder

– Emotional Support Hamster

In 2018, Belen Aldecosea, 21, admitted to flushing her emotional support hamster down an airport toilet after Spirit Airlines stopped her from bringing the rodent with her on the plane 

‘This regulatory change is welcome news, as it will help us reduce disturbances onboard, while continuing to accommodate our guests traveling with qualified service animals,’ said Ray Prentice, director of customer advocacy at Alaska Airlines.

Under the revised policy, Alaska will accept no more than two service dogs per guest in the cabin. Passengers will be required to complete a form on the airline’s website, confirming that their animal is a legitimate service dog, is specially trained and vaccinated and will behave appropriately during the flight.

Passengers who booked their flights before January 11 will be allowed to travel with their emotional support animals through February 28, but no later. 

The DOT’s new rule clamping down on emotional support animals that was announced on December 2 aims to settle years of tension between airlines and passengers who bring their pets on board for free by saying they need them for emotional help. Under a longstanding department policy, all the passengers needed was a note from a health professional.

Airlines argued that passengers abused the situation to bring a menagerie of animals on board including cats, turtles, pot-bellied pigs, kangaroos, pandas, and, in one case, a peacock named Dexter.

The agency said that it was rewriting the rules partly because passengers carrying unusual animals on board ‘eroded the public trust in legitimate service animals.’ 

It also cited the increasing frequency of people ‘fraudulently representing their pets as service animals,’ and a rise in misbehavior by emotional-support animals, ranging from peeing on the carpet to biting other passengers and flight crews.

The revised policy will force passengers with support animals to check them into the cargo hold — and pay a pet fee — or leave them at home. The agency estimated that airlines, which have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, will gain up to $59.6million a year in pet fees.

SERVICE ANIMALS VS EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS:

The US Department of Transportation’s Final Rule issued on December 2 defines a service animal as a dog of any breed or type that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.

The policy calls for airlines to treat psychiatric service dogs the same as other service dogs and no longer allows airlines to require a letter from a licensed psychiatrist attesting to the traveler’s need of the animal as a condition of transport. 

The Final Rule permits airlines to treat emotional support animals, including non-service dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles, birds and other creatures, as pets and no longer requires air carriers to accommodate them on board fliht. 

The policy does not prohibit the transport of emotional support animals. An airline may choose to transport them as pets for an additional fee. 

The number of animals on planes took off several years ago, and a cottage industry grew around providing papers, doctor’s notes and even dog vests for support animals.

Under the DOT’s final rule, which takes effect in early January, a service animal is a dog trained to help a person with a physical or psychiatric disability. Advocates for veterans and others had pushed for inclusion of psychiatric service dogs. 

Airlines for America, a trade group for the biggest US carriers, said the new rule will protect passengers and airline employees while helping people travel with trained service dogs. 

‘The days of Noah’s Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end,’ Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants told USA Today. 

Proponents of emotional support animals have been up in arms about DOT’s new rule, arguing that the animals help them with anxiety, post-traumatic or other issues that would prevent them from traveling. 

‘While it is no secret that we still remain far from a truly accessible transportation system in this country, the DOT rule will only serve to exacerbate existing inequities for people with disabilities participating in air travel and will instead almost exclusively accommodate the interests of the airline industry,’ Curt Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, said in a statement, as The New York Times reported. 

Defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability; 

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