Emotional Support Animals Are A Big Issue for Airlines
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Lifestyle

No Peacocks On The Plane, Please

People who abuse the system make it harder for those who need it.

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No Peacocks On The Plane, Please

Ahh, the Emotional Support Animal saga. Even if you're not familiar with the controversy that surrounds this, you've probably heard of the time when someone tried to bring a peacock on the plane, claiming it was an Emotional Support Animal. The list of animals being claimed as ESAs doesn't end here—it includes miniature horses, pigs, snakes, rabbits, and birds.

There are a lot of problems when it comes to flying with emotional support animals, and the added stress and anxiety of trying to get approved to travel with a pet isn't something new to me. I have an emotional support cat named Tubs, who was prescribed to me by both my therapist and my doctor. I had an official letter for her for a couple of years, which allowed me to live with her in a pet-free apartment, as well as fly with her.


That's where the benefits of emotional support animals end. I'm not allowed to bring her to restaurants or wherever I want and I always follow the rules about what I can and can't do with her.

I had great success when flying with airlines like United and Southwest, where getting her registered to fly was as simple as uploading a few documents. Southwest even let me medically pre-board with her, which hugely reduced my anxiety and made both of us more comfortable.

The last time I traveled with Southwest, the ticket agent had to check my carrier to make sure Tubs was, in fact, a cat. She told me that people often try to sneak rabbits onto the plane, which is not allowed under their current regulations. She was extremely helpful and noted that the airlines are would have to standardize soon as there is very little consistency across the board when it comes to ESAs.

I've ever had the worst experience traveling with Tubs and using the accommodations that I'm entitled to with an ESA this May.

I booked with an unnamed airline to get to Denver for the summer, where I was to get a surgery. My anxiety went through the roof with the end of school and knowing I was days away from my first major surgery. I submitted everything that the airline required: documents from my medical providers, Tubs' vaccinations from the vet, and my flight information. They said that they were being processed and I would hear back soon.

I was grabbing a quick bite with my roommate following her graduate school graduation at a Pret A Manger a block away from Times Square when I got an email announcing that my request had been denied due to the lack of "training" that my cat had.

I want to pretend I didn't cry in the Pret, frantically calling my mom in between calls to both the airline and the airport, but I did. Their reasoning was that I couldn't provide a valid confirmation that my cat had been trained to be an emotional support animal, so they couldn't guarantee she could get on the flight. Luckily, my boyfriend and his amazing family offered to take care of her over the summer, and she's been happily staying there since May.


What made me angry the most was that there is absolutely NO continuity throughout the airlines and they are free to choose whatever they want and make it a rule. Emotional support animals are NOT required to be trained as ESAs and there is no such training to the best of my knowledge. You're supposed to have a valid prescription, so to speak, from a medical provider and their health records, but that's it. I want to know exactly what this airline was thinking a cat could be trained to do. Tubs is an ESA because she can sense my anxiety or distress and helps calm me the eff down. She wasn't trained to do this, and she has never been required to in the past.

People who try to push the limits and travel with pets that they know are not ESAs are creating problems for those of us who have legitimate animals for our mental health. I've seen so many fake websites where you can take a quick "quiz", describe your symptoms to a "doctor", and then get an ESA letter and vest for your animal. This is in no way authentic and is scamming people out of their money for something that they could get from their doctor if they actually needed it.

These types of things are making life harder for those who need it.

I know you love your pet and so do I, but please stop claiming everything from your backyard snail to the peacock you somehow own is an emotional support animal. Please, please, let those who need ESA accommodations have them.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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