Comfort Animals

Female Abroad

Lately comfort animals have been in the news recently as the newest loophole that people are abusing. Comfort turkeys? Flying squirrels? Spiders? Kangaroo? Diapered ducks? Emotional support dogs with their own emotional support dogs? I wish I was making these things up....

In January there was a woman who tried to board a flight with a comfort peacock named Dexter. United turned the animal away as it did not meet the size and weight requirements so the woman offered to purchase a separate seat for the animal. The airline still declined so the woman showed up at the airport with the animal and proceeded to try to board her flight with it. Could you image if that bird tried to spread it's tail mid flight?

In February a woman in Florida accused Spirit Airlines of forcing her to flush her dwarf hamster Pebbles down a toilet if she wanted to board the plane. The airline had stated that the agent she booked the ticket with was mistaken when they stated she could bring the animal. She showed up at the airport and that is when the mistake was found. Since it was the airlines mistake, they allowed the woman to change her flight to a later one without any penalties so she would be able to take the animal home or have someone pick it up. The woman instead decided to flush it and then tell all the news outlets that would listen about her story. Could you imagine if it had been brought on board, it escapes, and then starts chewing on some wires.... not something you want to worry about 40,000 feet in the air...

In 2014 a US Airways flight had to make an unscheduled landing as a service dog kept pooping in the aisle causing people to be sick.

In June 2017, a man was mauled by a support dog that jumped, attacked his face, and caused disfiguring wounds.

I could keep going with these stories but that is not what this post is about.

Comfort animals come in many different shapes and sizes but when it comes to airlines, there are rules in place for the safety and comfort of other people. The downside with these crazy stories is that the people who actually need these animals are having a harder time being able to travel with them. From new airline rules to people just being jerks to them in public; it's becoming messy.

By law Canadian airlines have to accommodate emotional support animals for people with disabilities but they are allowed to make policies that will support the need without discriminating. Currently:

- Air Canada will only allow support dogs on flights

- WestJet will allow support cats, miniature horses, pigs, and monkeys. Anything outside of these will be made on a case by case basis except rodents and reptiles are automatic no's due to health risks.

To fly with any of the animals on either of these flights you have to meet their policies and provide documentation from a licensed mental health professional certifying the need for the animal.

If you falsify your documentation, have a fake "support animal" vest, or provide fake documents to get your flight on board this was quality as fraud and could have your ticket cancelled without a refund or worse, have the police involved with charges pressed.

When it comes to US rules on comfort animals, it is very similar: Airlines must allow passengers with disabilities to board with trained service or emotional-support animals of many stripes, regardless of the animal's potential to offend or annoy others on the plane. However airlines have latitude to deny boarding to certain unusual service animals and can prevent them from boarding if the animal poses a threat to the safety of others - Washington Post

As more people come out with sensationalized stories or abuse this loop hole more, more enforcement will be put in place I'm sure.

What about people with pet allergies? The airlines deal with this different ways but all require a doctors note stating that you are allergic to the animal. From there they may rebook your flight, change your seat, arrange the seat assignments so you are far away, or give you some Benadryl. For people with allergies to peanuts, they don't have to jump through hoops but I guess this is not a loophole the airlines want abused...

Since this is getting so bad everywhere (not just on flights), in BC the government started issuing service dogs an actual ID to help get rid of the fakers.

UPDATE 2021.

A few carriers in the USA are now banning ALL comfort animals, no matter the breed, in their cabins so check with your airline before booking your ticket as to what their stance on the animals are.