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What is the compassionate response? Animals and Airlines

Should we expect airlines to allow emotional support animals onboard their planes? To be clear, these are not the same service animals trained to help the disabled, such as a seeing eye dog. Should the fact that we now acknowledge that people suffering from post traumatic stress are helped significantly by emotional support animals, thus allowing them to take their animals with them into places they previously would have been denied like on an airplane?

We posed this question to our Grouchy Puppy community on Facebook and thought it would also make for a good post for discussion here. The issue of what is a service or support animal, and where should they be allowed to go is emotional. I feel a lot of compassion and empathy for anyone suffering emotionally who feels better thanks to a dog...I do, in my own way, every single time I volunteer at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. I can imagine how good a dog’s companionship or physical presence must feel to someone much further down the scale of need.

Since we have real positive examples of people, such as veterans, benefiting from an emotional support animal, shouldn’t businesses respond and update their customer policies? On the other hand, as this story shares, what about the negative situations with fake and untrained service animals? Why should people who don’t want to leave their pet at home be allowed to bring them everywhere with a fake vest they bought online?

Are we catering to the worst by trying to be compassionate?

As they say, there are three sides to every argument. I understand airlines who resist changing their policies because it opens their liability to those who don’t like dogs at all (gasp!), as well as those who find themselves on the short negative end of an unruly encounter. I also appreciate, at the very least, anyone who suffers from dander allergies and how that would feel while flying in an enclosed tube at 33,000 feet. I still dance for joy because of no-smoking, at all, in restaurants!

So what would you do?

Maybe the answer is greater oversight, and punitive fines for cheating of those passing off pets as trained service animals? Would calling them out help? How about banning them from airlines or places of business when they’re caught? Where does education come in? We’re certainly seeing the stories and learning about the positive role of emotional support animals on our veterans, and special needs children. 

How do we elevate this conversation? How would you approach this from the perspective of all sides, including the airline (and passengers)? There is still half of our summer travel ahead and then holiday travel tickets will need to be bought. I’m not sure anything substantial can be accomplished by year end but I don’t see why we can have a healthy discussion that positively influences customer policies as well as customer patience.

Am I too optimistic? Are we catering to the worst in people, or the path of least resistance for airline profits by trying to have a compassionate response? What would you do to elevate this conversation? Can we find a healthy balance that recognizes the needs of all or most?

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