Last updated: 04:30 PM ET, Tue December 08 2015

Report: Some Passengers Abusing Disabilities Act to Travel with Pets

Impacting Travel | Donald Wood | December 08, 2015

Report: Some Passengers Abusing Disabilities Act to Travel with Pets

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As shocking as it sounds, a recent report suggests that travelers are faking disabilities in order to gain the proper paperwork needed to board a flight with their favorite pets.

According to Beth Landman of the New York Post, the Air Carrier Access Act allows for passengers to bring their service animals onboard flights in order to help them with basic functions, but some people are taking advantage of the law by acquiring paperwork for emotional support animals through questionable means.

Before a pet can gain the proper documentation as an emotional support animal, the owner must get an official note from a licensed mental health professional. Now, websites are offering the proper paperwork, allowing people to simply pay a fee and see a doctor via the Internet to obtain the necessary letters, with prices ranging from $59 to $200.

Airlines are not calling into question the legitimacy of the documentation, as fines for refusing service animals can reach as high as $150,000. It’s not always easy, either, as passengers have brought pets such as dogs, pigs and even miniature horses onboard to aid in their emotional well-being.

Travelers with disabilities advocacy group Open Doors Organization Executive Director Eric Lipp has several examples of people possibly abusing the system, telling the New York Post:

“A guy had a miniature horse, which didn’t fit comfortably in the back, so he was put in first class. The airline made the horse wear these little shoes so it didn’t scuff the plane, but it pooped all over and the other first-class travelers weren’t happy.”

“A man once insisted that his emotional support monkey needed an emotional support bird. We have seen multiple people want bunny rabbits. One woman said she needed five of them, and the airline finally let her keep one in the cabin and waived the fee for the others, but made them ride in cargo. We had a woman who had an emotional support tarantula, and I actually believed her. She had a lot of anxiety over takeoffs and landings, and tarantulas require a lot of focus, which took her mind off the problem, but it terrified passengers.”

Unfortunately, travelers with actual disabilities are dealing with the outrage from other passengers, and many hate the idea of people abusing the system. Lipp told Landman, “The people who really need support animals despise people who fake it. I call it ‘the Paris Hilton effect,’ where people want to take their cute little dogs everywhere.”


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