NROP: Best Service Animal.

Over a decade ago, I witnessed my friends leaving for the airport with their dog.

“Ummm, are you dropping her off somewhere? You know I could take her in,” I asked.

“No. She’s going with us,” my friend answered.

“She’s a therapy dog. We finally got the certificate this week,” his wife added.

Up until that point, I thought the only animals that had special privileges were those that led blind people down the street. My friends were were not blind, nor were they otherwise visibly disabled. Soon, I found out that there are service animals and emotional support animals. The moment I found out that people were allowed animal on airplanes for “support,” I knew that there would be plenty of people to abuse the system. Before we get to that, I think it is important to clarify the differences between specific animals.

First, those that I have always been aware of – service dogs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines them as specifically trained to work with disabled people. Their duties are directly linked to the person’s ailment, which means they are the eyes for the blind, the ears for the deaf, etc. It is those animals that are allowed in places to which other animals are denied entry, like restaurants, stores, and airplanes. Even though each airline has their own rules, most of them agree that the animal has to be either in the passenger’s lap, or at their feet, not blocking the aisle. Having a service animal on a plane is free of charge.

We all are probably aware of working dogs that are a part of the military (detection of explosives), police (search and rescue), or a farm (herding).

Even though their labels are often used interchangeably, it is important to note that therapy dogs are not the same as emotional support dogs. Therapy dogs do not work for a single person. Instead, together with their handler, they visit places like hospitals, schools, and nursing homes to provide comfort and affection. Emotional support dogs are prescribed by a mental health specialist for a patient who struggles with loneliness, depression, anxiety, etc. While my friends’ dog was supposed to be a therapy dog, ultimately, it remained an emotional support dog.

Some of you might have noticed that I keep mentioning dogs specifically, instead of animals in general. Apparently, only dogs and miniature horses can become service animals. That is under federal law. However, individual states can alter some of those rules, allowing other animals to become service animals as long as they undergo the necessary training. Additionally, some states allow emotional support animals to receive privileges of service animals.

Throughout the years, people have tested other people’s patience by demanding that their animal be allowed on the plane free of charge under the “emotional support animal” umbrella. My dogs were always too big for me to even consider taking them with me when I flew. Moreover, it never crossed my mind to put my pet through all the stress involved with airports (new smells!) and air travel.

Q: If someone’s dog calms them when having an anxiety attack, does this qualify it as a service animal?
A. It depends. The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to happen and take a specific action to help avoid the attack or lessen its impact, that would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.”
For this and more, see ADA’s FAQ page.

Leave it up to humans to abuse any loophole or anything that is good in this world. As predicted by me years ago, people went to use the “emotional support animal” as an excuse to bring any and all animals on board a plane. While service animals animals retain their privileges, animals that provide emotional support can now be denying entry onto an airplane. As of the middle of January, the Department of Transportation gave the power back to the airlines to decide what animals they will and those they will not allow on their aircrafts. Emotional support animals will be treated as pets and allowed in the cargo compartment or in a kennel under a seat, after an appropriate fee is payed. The new laws also define a service animal as a dog. No more than two service animals are allowed. I have never seen anyone with more than one service animal, but my research revealed that if a person has multiple disabilities, they can own multiple dogs, each trained to handle different tasks.

As you might expect, people are speaking out about the recent development, arguing that their pets are a “must have” while traveling. However, I am rather pleased with this development. Why? Do I want people to suffer without their beloved animals? No, not at all. First of all, I believe travelling by air can be very traumatic (and hard on their health) for pets (changing air pressure). Why do you think babies cry during certain moments (take-off, landing, turbulence, etc.)? Secondly, most (if not all) people will survive traveling without their furry companions. Chances are pets make ALL OF US feel better at certain times. Does that mean that we all need an emotional support animal with us 24/7? Maybe. No, not really. Thirdly, I think about those sitting next to (or in the vicinity of) such animal. Is the animal well behaved? Contained to their area or impeding on the neighbor’s leg room? Is the dog quiet or yapping the entire flight? What about the passenger that is allergic to cats or dogs and is stuck next to one for hours on end? Last, but not least, those emotional support animals which have not been trained can cause chaos and wreak havoc for the real service animals and their handlers.

I think this new regulation also helps tighten the rules, which will cut down the number of problems the airline crews used to have. In 2018, a woman boarded her plane with a squirrel, which, as a rodent, was not allowed on Frontier airline. The woman and her emotional support animal were subsequently removed from the flight. That same year, a woman tried to fly with a peacock, but was refused. The article states that the animal had its own ticket purchased, but was still not allowed to fly due to weight and size restriction. On their website, Delta airline says: “Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more.”

  • Have you ever had a service animal? Share your experiences.
  • What determines a specie to be a suitable service animal?

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37 thoughts on “NROP: Best Service Animal.

Add yours

  1. A peacock….
    Just when you think you have seen it all.

    I have heard that dolphins can also reduce stress, so I guess I will be taking Flipper with me next time 😉

    I think all pets can be service animals.
    Probably dogs are the most affectionate, but I turn into a liquid puddle when I look at our fish.
    They really do help me with my mental health.

    A colleague told me that his cat died after he moved from the US to Europe and took the cat with him. It was simply too much stress for the animal.

    I see the same with the fish when we buy them at the store.
    You can’t just transfer them into your own aquarium.
    It takes at least 1.5 hour climatize them and you always have to keep the lights off to reduce their stress.

    Traveling for leisure is not a necessity. Putting animals through that kind of stress is not something I’d ever approve of.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. If I ever see an article about a girl trying to travel with a dolphin, I will know who it was 😉

      Service animals being those that help with big disabilities (hearing, seeing) cannot simply be any animal (Who trains tarantulas to see and lead the way?), but different people are attached emotionally to different animals. It really is quite interesting.

      Indeed. I don’t think I’d take an animal on such a long journey.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with the fish. I know you went through quite a bit to get them. Glad they are alright now.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Leave it up to humans to abuse any loophole or anything that is good in this world.”

    This has the potential to turn into a big rant about people and the abuse of mental illness affliction to “get stuff” or just as a fun joke. I will refrain. I love that true line: we do abuse any privileges we get. Not all, but enough to annoy.

    I knew about the mini-horse service animal. They have the advantage of a long life (compared to a dog).

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Horses live 25-30 years and are actually very intelligent, (horses version of) emotional, and affectionate. I personally am not a “dog or cat” person but I have wanted a miniature donkey (lifespan approx 50 years) for years. They’re super cute and cuddly and all sorts of amazing things.

        That said, I, like you, think there’s a time and a place for “emotional support” animals. I think the bigger issue is: why are people looking to other creatures or inanimate objects to find their support?? We should be reaching out to humans. Humans are literally the only creature (so-called) to truly understand and respond the way we need and desire. The only other one is the Creator of all. If your emotional support is a person like your spouse, significant other, children, parents, friends… you can take them on the plane or in the grocery store with you. No hassles. Plus, you can emotionally support THEM. It’s a win-win.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. There are mini donkeys? How awesome.

          That’s a very valid question. I definitely get a lot of “emotional support” from God. There are a few people that help me and I them, but I’m aware that it’s not always easy to find people to lean on that you can trust, etc.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. There are indeed. I’ve wanted one for years and years. But I feel that if you have a pet, you should be a responsible pet owner. I’m not 100% I would be the best owner. I get so angry seeing people treat animals like people or children. Or like dog people who don’t take control of their pack. Or cat owners who torture their cats to get a “cat-response”… boils my blood. Pets and animals are amazing. But a dog is a dog and a cat is a cat. Etc etc. Both the owner and the pet would be more happy keeping the relationship within their bounds. Researching your breed. Knowing what they need and want. Realizing they are ANIMALS not humans. We can certainly gain so much love and joy and peace from our furry (and non-furry) friends. -steps off soapbox-

            Liked by 2 people

      1. I know what you mean – everyone seems to be getting a dog, but what about on return to work? I think our cat wishes she had a bit more peace during the day now we’re all working / schooling from home, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I once went from California to Florida with 2 dogs (long story — but it wasn’t my choice to have to rehome them and one of the reasons for a divorce). I could hear them barking and whimpering in the luggage compartment and felt terrible. My 4-footed family are just that, so I’d rather not go anywhere than to have them treated like baggage.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have never owned a service animal but I have seen trained service dogs in action. The services they provide for a person with disabilities are priceless. I would think there is major liability issues with untrained animals on planes. BAD IDEA!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Interesting. I have two friends who have guide dogs and they are amazing (both the dogs and the friends). I’ve heard about hearing dogs too, although never met one.

    When we emigrated we couldn’t possibly have left our cat behind, so she came by plane, and arrived unscathed. Her ticket cost more than ours! I think I’d have been okay in the hold in a box twice my size with a full sized bed 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  6. well I dont know about that generally this side dogs are more for security than emotional support and other animals are for eating unless they are cows which you first use to pull ploughs in the farm, then you eat them.. apologies to any vegetarians
    moving on swiftly I think I read somewhere that dolphins are closest thing to a non-human person too bad cant carry them around with us , hmm also I wonder if they taste like fish or some sort of giant chicken of the ocean .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s fascinating how, even in the global, digital world, things are so different in some parts of the world. I’m very familiar with dogs as protectors and other animals as food, but some Americans don’t even want to imagine such a ‘cruel’ world.

      I like to try different foods. Chicken really is a main flavor, isn’t it? People say that rats and cats taste like it… So why not a dolphin?


  7. Have worked in special education for many, many years, this is a very interesting post. Children with anxiety, specifically those with autism are getting support animals to keep them calm and help them prevent meltdowns. The Boards of Education are very concerned as families what their children to be able to bring them to school. The big argument they are using is allergies. There are many people that have allergies as well as young children having fear of dogs and many support animals are large. I support support animals in these cases. ON the flip side, I have a friend with a small dog. Yes, she is a widow and lives alone, but so am I. She got someone to certify that her dog is her emotional support dog and she is allowed to take him to Florida to the condo building that she books even though it is animal free. Personally, I think she is abusing the system.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You see? A perfect example of there being a good reason to have a support animal and a … not so much one.

      I don’t often think about allergies, as the ones I have really don’t alter my life too much, but there are plenty with allergies to pets. We’re really a society of “I’s” now. We care about what we want and not others.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. When I was younger I had a series of support hamsters. I never tried to take one on an aircraft, though I did take one to Pontins Holiday Camp, once (no complaints from the management, though I could swear that I heard muffled guffaws now and then). Unfortunately, the furry little teddy-bear-like rodents only live for about three years, so I stopped keeping them as pets because it broke my heart each time one died.

    Liked by 1 person

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