For some people, leaving their pet at home when they travel is not an option. And the airlines are required to make reasonable accommodation for service animals and “emotional support” animals.
We’re all familiar with service animals; dogs that assist the blind, etc. But what animals provide emotional support, and who needs it? Well, quite a variety it seems. Aside from the usual dogs and cats, small horses have been seen in the passenger compartment, along with turkeys, kangaroos, and pigs (not all on the same flight, hopefully). Thankfully, the airlines may exclude snakes and spiders as they could pose a danger to the aircraft or its passengers.
So, persons with certified emotional or psychiatric conditions who find aid and comfort in the presence of their pet may bring them aboard. And the animal flies free, without being in a crate. But there are conditions: (1) you must carry a letter from a mental health professional stating your need to have the animal with you, and (2) the pet must be wearing an “emotional support” vest. The airlines may require a copy of the letter 48 hours before scheduled departure if they wish to contact the doctor. Airline policies differ, so be sure your travel agent is aware of your special needs early in the planning stages of your trip. You’ll also need to navigate quarantine or inoculation requirements for pets if traveling to foreign countries.
If this is your vacation trip, another consideration is finding a pet friendly resort. Thankfully, the number of hotels and resorts accepting pets is growing. This week we met with the representative of a hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that not only allows pets, they provide special exercise equipment and party hats for them. And not just puppies and kittens—they’ve also hosted penguins, among others. By the way, Puerto Rico is a great domestic island destination, no passport required.
Much of the glamour of flying was lost long ago. Still, no one wants to feel like they are trapped in a barnyard for a five-hour flight. So don’t be like that guy, the one who is gaming the system with pseudo documents, just to get a free ride for his potbellied pig. We should all respect the people with genuine special needs, and it’s reasonable to expect some consideration in return as we do our part to keep the friendly skies friendly.