Flying commercial airlines lately has meant being in a true zoo in some cases. How do you react when the person sitting next to you has a squirrel or a turkey for emotional support? Passengers have tried, with varying degrees of success, flying with ducks, pigs, monkeys, spiders, snakes, and a peacock, all of which were presented as emotional support animals. That’s in addition to a large number of the usual suspects – dogs and cats.
Flying with animals with emotional support makes flying manageable for fearful passengers who need an animal to feel safe and secure. Unfortunately, the fear of many other passengers as well as the airline’s employees rose so to speak. This is because numerous people tried to defraud the system by claiming that their pets were animals for emotional support in order to avoid paying animal transport costs. The resulting high rates of urination, bowel movements, barking and biting on board commercial flights understandably led to policy changes.
Delta Airlines tried to ban Pit Bull-type dogs from flying in the cabin as emotional support animals. This may be due to a specific incident where a flight attendant was bitten so badly that stitches were required. Other airlines have banned a variety of animals from flying as emotional support animals, including snakes, ferrets, goats, and chickens. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s guidelines for the aviation industry stated that airlines cannot ban certain breeds of dogs because the airlines consider them dangerous. The agency was very clear that some pit bull cases, while spreading the word, did not provide evidence that any breed is inherently more dangerous than other breeds. They upheld bans on various species, with snakes topping the list.
Breed prohibition is problematic because it unfairly affects perfectly lovable dogs and responsible guardians. (If we look at whole groups of individuals differently and treat them differently from individuals from other groups, we speak of bigotry and discrimination.) Any breed of dog can bite, and knowledge of the breed is not a good predictor of whether that dog will behave aggressively . As I specialize in working with aggressive dogs, it is almost impossible to name a breed of dog that I haven’t seen in my practice due to an aggression problem, but I’ve also met dogs of the same breeds that don’t behave this way. If you consider a dog dangerous because of the breed of that dog, it will not make anyone safer because the breed does not inform us of any individual dog’s behavior.
Most airlines now only allow dogs and cats to fly as emotional support animals, although at least one also allows miniature horses. While we won’t see the biodiversity on board as we have seen in recent years, we can still hope to see dogs of all breeds.