This video is mocking, but I think it’s really sad. Via Matthew a woman allegedly “wouldn’t put her growling dog in its carrier, got belligerent with the flight attendant” and so the United Express plane returned to the gate. Cops removed her from the flight, and she put up a flight. You can hear shrieks. The man traveling with her takes some time to decide whether to follow her off the plane.
Police come onboard to remove her and she went crazy, hurling profanities and initially refusing to get up from her seat until she received a full refund from United for her ticket.
She proceeds to call the cop a “louse” for touching her dog and warns she is going to sue “the country” for the incident.
The thing is, all she probably needed was a letter from her doctor that this was an emotional support animal, given her reaction to the situation that might not even have been far from the truth.
We have a really strange bifurcated system now where you have to pay ~ $150 each way to take a pet on board and they have to remain in a carrier throughout the flight. But call that same pet an emotional support ‘service animal’ and they can come out of the carrier and don’t cost anything.
The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 prohibits airlines from discriminating against passengers with disabilities, and thus they must make reasonable accommodations for them which allow them to fly — like having access to their emotional support animals. While in theory they don’t have to allow any animal that would be disruptive to the flight, there’s legal risk in a flight attendant or even captain making that decision on the spot.
If the facts prior to the start of the video are as alleged the airline would probably be fine — especially since an individual cannot sue the airline directly over alleged violations but rather must complain to the Department of Transportation (the 10th and 11th circuit federal appeals courts have ruled, consistent with the Supreme Court’s Alexander v. Sandoval, that there’s no private right of action for violations of the Act since such isn’t explicitly provided for in the text of the statute).
Still, this extreme example aside, it’s quite easy to get oneself and one’s pet certified to bring on an emotional support animal. You just need a doctor’s note.
There are companies that sell registration of emotional support animals, but that doesn’t really get you anything, you still need that doctor’s note.
I’ve taken my Yorkshire Terrier on many flights, usually when visiting family, but he fits just fine under the seat and simply goes to sleep for most of the flight. He gets a thorough walk before and after, and I’ve tried to time flights with his usual nap times. Other passengers remark at the end of the flight when he comes out from underneath that they didn’t even know he was there.
Have emotional support animal claims gotten out of control? Are people taking advantage? What should be done about it?