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Donald McCaig

I have friends who need their dogs on planes. I had friends who cheated.

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Falsely claiming a service dog irritates me so much simply because it undermines those who ACTUALLY need a service dog. It is incredible what a true service dog can do. They and their handlers don't deserve to have to put up with this BS brought about by liars and their ill behaved dogs.

 

Unfortunately most businesses are hesitant to kick out false service dogs for fear of negative backlash in the social media age. They are only allowed to ask if the dog performs a task that aids the handler's disability. Per the law, however, ANY dog who is misbehaving can be legally kicked out regardless of what the owner claims. I wish more businesses had the gumption to do so, to preserve goodwill for those who need a legitimate service dog.

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I watched a news segment that addressed this issue. It mirrored the NYT article, but also noted that the new 'requirements' should not be too onerous on legitimate Service Animals/ESAs as they should already have the documentation. The reporter also demonstrated how easy it is to get a letter 'signed' by a mental health professional - there is an online service that takes less than 5 minutes to get the letter.

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Over the summer I was in a Weis grocery store and saw a man entering with a lizard on his shoulder. It was completely unrestrained, no collar, leash or harness. He went with the lizard to the produce area. When I was checking out I mentioned this to the clerk. She said "Oh, I know who you mean, it's an emotional support animal, we received a notice last week that even if someone comes in with a snake, if it is an emotional support animal, we have to allow it." I asked, "What about salmonella? Reptiles naturally harbor salmonella. The lizard is unrestrained, what is stopping it from jumping into the produce and spreading salmonella?" They just gave me a look and then said that they didn't like it either. I like lizards, actually, I thought it was cute, just not in the grocery store. When I got home I got on the Weis website and sent in a complaint, along with an article on salmonella in reptiles but I never heard back.

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Doesn't seem to me that it is extreme, as the article says some are saying, to request heath documentation online prior to the flight. If a human passenger needs special attention, like help boarding or a wheelchair, it is required that they notify online prior to the flight. Seems to me essentially the same kind of thing.

 

It also wouldn't seem the least bit unreasonable to require that the animal be on some sort of restraining device, collar or harness, or if a snake then in a carrier.

 

Service dogs are on leash all the time when in public; it is part of the communication system between the dog and the handler.

 

I think emotional support animals should have exactly the same privileges as service animals, because what they do is every bit as important. But having them well trained, well behaved, and on leash or otherwise controllable is by no means too much to ask, nor is verification of rabies vaccination. How to assure that they are well behaved before getting on a flight? Not so easy.

 

Sugar gliders are not opossums as the article says. Different species. Being such tiny pocket-size animals it seems to me it would be easy to take one on board and no one be the wiser.

 

It is not really that easy to catch salmonella from a reptile, although I do agree with the sentiment that they should be restrained and in control at all times in a public place, for their safety as well as others'.

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This was all before the Dexter the Peacock incident. Now, things are going to get really tough, getting your dog on board in the cabin.

Is it true that the airline told the owner several times PRIOR TO the flight date, that the peacock would not be allowed to fly as an ESA (or whatever the owner was calling him)? And yet, the owner showed up, with peacock in tow, to fly anyway?

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When people see dogs in places where dogs are not allowed unless they are helping their human partner, they are quick to note reasons why the dog is not a real service dog. I would suggest they look not only at the dog, but also at the human. When working with a service dog partner, part of your attention is always on the dog - as his or hers is on you. It's not the size of the dog in the vest but the relationship between dog and handler that counts. It's visible. You know it when you see it at a trial or on a farm. it's not hard to recognize on a plane or at the bank or anywhere else pets are not allowed and people are inspired to cheat. Service dogs are not perfect. But for the most part, they tend to be unobtrusive and because they are trained to focus on their person, they are always aware of when they are needed and know precisely what to do about that.

 

People who cheat with untrained dogs, snakes, beavers or even peacocks are making things more difficult for people who already have a more difficult time because of some disability. It's sad that after things got better and better for those of us navigating the world with genuine service dogs that now, once again, we are getting screamed at and being told we are gaming the system. I, for one, am delighted the airlines are backtracking on their comfort animal policy. I have all the credentials I need to get on a plane and my dog can go through the metal detector naked so that there's no buckle or leash clip to make it ding. More than that, lovely as they are from a distance, I have no desire to share an armrest with a peacock or to find out that the person sitting next to me has one of those comfort spiders I keep hearing about.

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Don't forget the Emotional Support Lizard. I know I won't. Each time I go to the Weis and see the salad bar I picture that lizard dancing a jig in it and I think "Nah, I'll pass on salad!"

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I think we may be reaching a tipping point where something will finally be done.

 

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/support-dog-bit-girl-on-southwest-airlines-flight-man-says/

 

Unfortunately, this article doesn't give any specifics about whether this dog was actually an emotional support animal or service dog, though it suggests the former.

 

Other outlets refer to the dog as a service dog. https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/national/service-dog-bites-girl-on-southwest-airlines-flight-from-phoenix-according-to-passenger

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Seems to me that the main problem of whether or not it is a service dog could be solved by having a standardized test that all potential service dogs would need to pass, whereupon they get a standard scan-able ID card, and then there is something that a shop owner or airline can ask for before permitting the dog inside or onboard.

 

That wouldn't be too much to ask of the people who have service dogs, it seems to me. Especially since you have to show photo ID for yourself so much of the time these days, and always to get on an airplane.

 

Of course, the test and ID would also need to be renewed periodically. And shouldn't cost the owners, so that it is not a hardship. That would still permit owners to train their own dogs, as well.

 

With the emotional support animal, it's a bit trickier. I truly do believe that people should be permitted to have emotional support animals, who are allowed to accompany them on air flights in particular. But again, there should be a standard test, and a scan-able ID card that states that the dog has passed the test.

 

If these tests were fairly rigorous, not just the CGC or something equally easy, that would take care of a certain aspect of the problem. A peacock, for instance, is not going to pass the test. Nor is a lizard, or a chicken, nor would a hamster be likely to do so. It would limit the emotional support animals essentially to dogs, unless someone could actually train another animal to pass the test.

 

The test would involve such things as staying quietly under a table or chair for long periods of time, ignoring other people or animals under all circumstances, responding to the handler even in highly distracting conditions, remaining quiet in one place when told etc.

 

The owner would also be held to a certain standard of behavior, most especially being aware at all times where their animal is and telling unaware people that this animal is not to be approached or petted or talked to. If this were a rigorously held standard there would not be nearly as many incidents as there are now. And if a person or animal stepped outside of the standard, there could be a penalty for that, which would include removal of the ID card's validity until further training is done and a new test is passed.

 

No matter what you do there are people who will go outside the rules. But making it possible for the individual to do it correctly and prove they have done so would be very likely to cut down significantly on the number of people getting away with what they shouldn't.

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I agree with D'elle that there needs to be a fairly rigorous test for ESA's, and this is from someone who has derived emotional comfort from more than one dog in my lifetime.

 

After landing in my second foster home at the age of 14 with PTSD, I was so frightened of EVERYTHING (except, oddly, dogs) that I would not go to sleep for fear of the nightmares. I don't mean to sound overly dramatic, but... a dog saved me.

 

Still, Hannah would not be of any help in a situation where I felt imminent harm [ETA: other than at home], mostly because I would worry about HER being harmed. LOL! Go figure.

 

There is no doubt in my mind that there are those who can be served by an ESA. However, I agree (again) with D'elle. It seems a dog would be the most reasonable choice; certainly not a lizard.

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What if you are the DOG's emotional support animal? I guess we are doing it wrong! :unsure:

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One thing I have observed is that people who have real service dogs are always aware of where their dog is, and they tell people not to pet the dog and/or have a No Petting patch on the harness. They protect their dogs as much as the dogs serve them. I see a person with a dog on the end of a leash wearing a service dog vest and the owner is just going along paying no attention to the dog, and I figure that's not a real service dog.

 

I want to train and have an ESA dog. I have good reason for having one. But there is no place where I can get help or official training for this, nor would the dog legally have all access and I think there should be such.

 

There is a place where I live that does official service dog training, but not ESA training. Of course it's easy to find someone who will charge you a lot of money to train your dog and get you some kind of ID and I know people who think that makes their ESA a Service Dog. They put on the vest and take the dog everywhere with them, into doctor's offices, cafes and so on. But they don't have an actual disability according to law as written. They have emotional needs. They don't want to hear that this isn't actually legal. No one dares challenge them because they have a vest and ID.

 

I want there to be a way it can be legal.

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D'Elle, you might contact Bergin Institute for Canine Studies. Bonnie Bergin is a leader in breeding/raising/training dogs for work other than with blind folks. I can get you contact info if you like. They might be able to point you in a good direction.

 

Good luck ~ I don't believe I have the level of need for an ESA that some folks do, but I know my life is much better with a dog.

 

Ruth & Gibbs

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Thanks, Ruth. I will Google it and if no luck will PM you for info. :-)

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Looks like change is coming. The question is, will these new laws actually have any teeth (pun intended) if there aren't some standardized certification and IDs for legit service dogs. And penalties more substantial than $100 or even $250 fines, which for some people wouldn't be that much of a deterrent.

 

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/collared-new-laws-crack-down-fake-service-dogs-n871541

 

https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20171221/pets-on-planes-emotional-support-or-sham

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Thanks for posting that info, Gentle Lake. Of course, as you pointed out, the new wording doesn't really change anything.

 

It is already in the law that if a dog comes into a business and misbehaves, even if it is a true service dog, the business owner or manager has the right to make dog and handler leave.

 

That being the case, why would any business owner, after evicting the unruly dog, then follow the person, attempt to obtain his or her name and information (which the person would not be under legal obligation to provide), and further attempt to go after the person with the new law, take it to court, and get the person fined?

Not going to happen. And if the dog is well behaved, why would any business owner confront the team at all?

 

As you also said, since there is no incontrovertible proof in existence, no license with hologram or other such thing to prove that a dog is a service dog, there's no way for anyone to know if the dog, well behaved or not, is a service dog or not.

 

The other thing that seriously annoys me is that an exception is made for emotional support dogs who assist people with PTSD only if they are veterans.

PTSD is caused by many different kinds of trauma, not only warfare, and PTSD caused by a different kind of true trauma is just as debilitating as that caused by warfare. This means that those people suffering genuine PTSD from kidnapping or hostage situations, rape, serious abuse by spouse or parents and so on are excluded.

 

Also excluded are those who suffer from serious anxiety and/or depression, whose lives are thereby severely curtailed, and who find that they can manage to go out of their homes and into public places if their well behaved and trained dog is with them.

 

So much more needs to be done in this area to make the use of service and support dogs fair and equitable for those who need them, while protecting other people and dogs from badly behaved dogs who have not been given appropriate training and whose company is not genuinely needed by their owners.

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At least one part of these new rules will be challenged.

 

The size restriction would eliminate guide dogs for the blind, who are never little dogs that would fit under the seat or in the lap.

 

"At your feet" would depend on how big the dog is and even more on how big the person is. A golden retriever, for instance, is the dog most commonly used as a guide for the blind. I doubt that I could sit one at my feet on an airplane, and I only weigh 107 pounds.

 

It would eliminate service dogs who are there as physical support animals for people with mobility issues (again, never small dogs)

It would eliminate service dogs trained to pull a wheelchair, who have to be mid-to-large in order to perform that task..

Etc. That's most of the service dogs out there.

 

I suspect they will have to lift the size restriction or lose business and good will. I don't understand why they did not think of these things.

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My friends with SAR dogs fly with Labs, Goldens, GSD and the like. These dogs all curl up at the feet fine.

 

ETA - there are a few places on the plane that can accommodate large dogs easier. If you cut out the fake service dogs it will be easier for the airlines to accommodate the actual ones

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