No More Snakes On A Plane: New Rules For Emotional Support Animals
PPicture this: you’re walking down the aisle in an airplane and when you find your seat, there’s a turkey sitting next to it. Or a pig. Or a monkey. It sounds like a comedy routine, but it isn’t. In the past few years, there has been an unprecedented rise in people having ’emotional support animals’, particularly when traveling on airplanes. While any step towards improving mental health is applauded, there have been many incidents involving emotional support animals on airplanes that really don’t belong there. We can’t blame these untrained animals for acting the way animals act, but we can question the laws that allow them on board. With new regulations from the US Department of Transport, things are about to change. We discuss these changes below, and whether they are for the better or the worse.
What Exactly is an Emotional Support Animal?
You may have heard the term being thrown around recently, but what exactly is an emotional support animal (ESA), also known as an assistance animal or support animal? ESAs are companion animals for people with mental or physical disabilities, mental health conditions or emotional disorders. Emotional support animals aren’t the same as service dogs, which are trained specifically to perform a function, such as assisting a blind person when walking.
Emotional support animals provide therapeutic or emotional support, and they don’t have to be trained for this. In fact, most animals emotional support animals aren’t trained – they’re just the animals that provide the most comfort to their owner. However, emotional support animals must be officially registered with an Emotional Support Animal Registry to be able to go with their owner to work and travel on airplanes.
While service dogs are only ever dogs, there is no restrictions on what animal may qualify as an emotional support animal. However, not just anyone can register their animal as an emotional support animal; people wishing to register their animal must be considered emotionally or mentally disabled by a licensed therapist and proven with an official prescription letter.
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