Are Emotional Support Animals Getting Out of Hand?
Not a week goes by without some weird emotional support animal story. Years ago someone boarded with a Pig as a support animal. A week or so ago someone tried to get a Peacock on the plane as a support animal, and United said no. This week hamster was flushed when Spirit Airlines refused to let the passenger board with it according to this Fox News report.
The Latest Incident
A 21 year old girl, Belen Aldecosea, claims that she had received prior confirmation from Spirit airlines that she could fly with her pet pebbles, a dwarf hamster. Spirit Airlines ended up denying her from boarding the plane at the gate. They claimed it was not a proper support animal and that she couldn’t board as long as she had it.
Belen claims that a Spirit Airlines agent told her to release it or flush it if she wanted to make the flight. Belen missed the flight and tried to rent a car instead but couldn’t because of her age. She said that her family was already out of town and she had no friends in the area to take the animal. So that led her to flushing the animal so she could board a later flight.
She is now contemplating suing the airline since Pebbles was a doctor prescribed support animal and she claims they forced her to make a heinous decision.
First off, flushing an animal is never the way to go. But, I am not going to pretend that 21 year olds, myself at that age included, are the best problem solvers. If they did clear the animal before the flight then Spirit should have held up their end of the bargain. It just goes to show that you should always get documentation for things like this when you can. Having said that it still comes down to the flight crew and the gate agent. Even with a written confirmation you may run into trouble.
Now onto the topic of support animals. This has gotten entirely out of control and I believe that a majority of people claim their animals as support animals so they don’t have to pay for them to fly. It also ensures they fly in the passenger area instead of in the cargo hold. These people are abusing the airline’s policy.
There is no law that airlines have to allow emotional support animals. The airline can decide how they handle each case. I imagine that this policy is coming to an end shortly and United even updated their terms on support animals after the Peacock incident.
Airlines do allow service animals on planes but people have even figured out a workaround for that. You can get your pet licensed as a service animal online for a few bucks.
There is a saying that abuse brings control. And that is what is happening here. While Spirit probably overstepped some they are within their rights to refuse boarding. I honestly doubt anyone would have cared about the tiny hamster.
The emotional support animal craze has gone on for too long as a way to transport pets for free. I think the airlines are going to over correct and stories like these will continue until people realize they can’t use the loophole anymore.
My fear is the next abuse that will happen is in the service animal realm. Only time will tell.
What do you think about emotional support animals? Let me know in the comments.