While many airlines allow comfort animals to fly with their owners in plane cabins, that may be about to change.
Have you ever shared a plane flight with a dog or cat? What about a pig, turkey, or monkey? Most airlines have allowed travelers to have their comfort animals in the plane cabins with them, rather than in the cargo area. Travelers whose pets are allowed in the cabins don't have to pay additional cargo fees, and aren't separated from their pets during the flight.
But officials in the Department of Transportation feel that travelers have been taking advantage of the "comfort animal" designation, using it to bring all sorts of animals into the plane cabins. In truth, it can be a difficult line to draw. Service animals are allowed in plane cabins, but emotional support animals don't have to be allowed in plane cabins by law.
There's a reason for that: service animals go through rigorous training and certification, and perform specific behaviors which help their owners. Emotional support animals are governed by far more lax regulations. Just about any animal can be an emotional support animal, but that designation doesn't come with the special public area access that is granted to service animals.
The Department of Transportation is meeting on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to discuss proposed changes to the animals allowed in the plane cabin. If officials decide to allow service animals but no longer allow emotional support animals, their decision could have major implications on people who generally depend on emotional support animals.
— Dr. Romie Mushtaq MD (@DrRomie) January 13, 2016
Emotional support animals can help people with conditions like anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, having an emotional support animal has become a bit of a trend, in that people have been taking advantage of the option in order to have their pets travel with them and stay in apartments which otherwise wouldn't allow pets.
Is there one good solution to the issue? Not really. It will be interesting to see what action the Department of Transportation decides to take.