Our view: A welcome crackdown on non-service animals on planes
IN OUR VOICE

Our view: A welcome crackdown on non-service animals on planes

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Finally, the U.S. Transportation Department is laying plans to clear the air. Rather, the airplanes.

The “support animal” scam is finally taxiing to the hangar.

No longer will commercial airline passengers be subjected to the Noah’s Ark from the animal kingdom when they’re headed across the country on air flights.

In rules announced last week, the federal agency would tighten rules for service animals and only allow dogs to accompany their owners.

No more cats in the cabin, no reptiles, pigs, pheasants, turkeys. No more peacocks (yes, that has happened) and no more miniature horses to adorn the aisles (and, yes, that has happened, too.)

The varied beasts of the world have been flying scot-free for several years now thanks to a ruling by federal regulators that allowed “support animals” on planes. These are not trained animals like the highly trained “service animals” that actually help their disabled owners and shepherd them through the challenges of life – in the air and on the ground.

No, these are untrained animals whose function is to provide “emotional support” to their masters.

After they were allowed on commercial plans it soon created a whole cottage industry for those wishing to fly with Muffy and Snakey and a whole host of untrained and sometimes undisciplined critters who had no business being in the air next to paid passengers.

Unlike the disciplined service animals, all it took for a pet owner to get a “support animal” designation for their pet was to go to their “medical professional” and get a note saying they were needed for emotional support. We suspect at least a few of those notes were written because the doc wanted to get Muffy and Snakey out of their waiting rooms.

It was a thriving business for a while. Some airlines reported almost 50 percent increases in the number of support animals it accommodated between 2016 and 2017.

And, yes, there was also a drop in the number of checked pets. Why, after all, should someone pay the $100 pet checking fee when – with a note from the doctor – pets fly free.

So, yes, we applaud the U.S. Department of Transportation’s plan to rein things in. And, we’re not alone. The proposal was praised by airline industry trade groups, by flight attendant associations who had lobbied for it and by disabled veterans groups who felt it undercut the use of trained service animals.

“This is a wonderful step in the right directions for people like me who are dependent and reliant on legitimate service animals that perform a task to mitigate our disability,” said Albert Rizzi, founder of My Blind Sport, a group which advocates for accessibility for people of different ability levels.

The transportation department’s proposed tightening of the rules now go out for public comment for 60 days before they can be enacted.

Airline travel is already hectic with worries over connections, delays, getting through security and numerous other issues.

Soon, we hope, this scam will be put to rest and airlines passengers don’t have to worry about having an untrained critter in the seat next to them.

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