The Role Emotional Support Animals Play on Planes

I recently posted on Facebook about a flight I had sitting next to a beautiful young woman traveling with two emotional support dogs. I included in my post about how I got to see first hand the important role such pets can play in easing anxiety for their pet parent, especially when flying.

Both dogs were properly registered and were wearing little vests detailing the role they played. As we prepared for takeoff, their owner was explaining to me her fear of flying and since getting her emotional support dogs, she no longer needed medication. It was then that a very rude flight attendant came along and demanded to know why she had two dogs and required paper work. But my neighbor had already properly checked in and was on board! The attendant’s approach was very rude — she should have known better than to ask such questions in public. Plus, the verbal attack immediately sent the woman into an anxious state.

I was truly amazed to see how her little dogs quickly sensed the anxiety and emotional stress and began cuddling into her until she was in a better state of mind.

An emotional support animal can be any kind of creature — a dog, cat, miniature horse, bird, potbellied pig, goat, and even a duck. Their role is to help relieve depression and anxiety and reduce stress-induced pain in people with certain medical conditions affected by stress. These amazing animals help their owner to function normally in situations that many people simply take for granted.

There is a big difference between service animals and emotional support animals as the latter doesn’t require special training. They are essentially pets.

However, to have an emotional support animal by your side and to go places requires a special letter from a licensed mental health professional stating the presence of the animal is necessary to the person’s health or treatment. And the letter has to be kept current.

It’s important to note that they are not service animals as defined by the American Disabilities Act and thus don’t have the same rights afforded them. But they play a very important role in terms of boosting a person’s mental health and general state of mind.

And the passenger I sat next to made a very valid point: namely pets are better than pills especially when it comes to airline travel.

Interestingly, emotional support animals are not required to wear a tag and a special vest although many do as a courtesy to the public. However, because these can be bought on the Internet with no questions asked, it has provided a lot of wiggle room for people to travel on planes with their pet for free and enjoy a lifestyle that includes their pets wherever they go.

This is truly unfair to people who really need to travel with an emotional support pet. Fortunately, various disability rights organizations are lobbying to rectify the situation so that the term emotional support animal is properly used and not abused.

 

 

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