Over the past year or two, airlines have been stricter on emotional support animal regulations. Emotional support animals are intended to allow people with disabilities or anxiety function successfully in their daily lives. Airlines are developing stricter regulations because many people frequently get their animals false identification to be in planes and airports with them. Recently, there have been many incidents in the news about ridiculous animals deemed to be emotional support animals, such as squirrels and peacocks. Since 1986, when Congress passed the air carrier access, airlines have been required to carry not only trained animals, but also any animals that assist the owner in physical, emotional, psychiatric, and medical support. According to the Miami Herald, 250,000 service and support animals flew Delta in 2016, which was an 150 percent jump from 2015. The Wall Street Journal also reported that United carried a significant amount of animals in 2017, 77,000 to be exact, which was a 77 percent increase from the year before. However, the increase has not seem to have had a positive effect overall. Many people seem to be trying to game the system, by faking emotional support animal documentation, resulting in many of the incidents that frequently make headlines, while also causing minor issues, but still issues that terminal workers have to deal with. For example, complaints about biting and defecation on Delta flights nearly doubled between 2015 and 2016. Besides the waste problem that some emotional support animals seem to bring with them, there are also unintended behavioral problems. Animal incidents, which include barking, biting, and urination, have increased by 84 percent since 2016. On United, onboard incidents have increased by 75 percent since 2017. There have also been several incidents in the news about exotic emotional support animals being brought aboard. Some incidents were: a dog that scratched a little girl deeply, a labrador that bit a man, a peacock, a hamster, a duck with a diaper, a defecating pig, and most recently, a squirrel. It is clear that tighter restrictions need to be upheld, which is what many airlines have decided to do. The current restrictions on emotional support animals are that a veterinary health form or vaccination form must be provided for the required animal. A letter signed by a doctor stating what the animal is needed for is also necessary, as is a signed letter saying that an animal is trained to behave without a kennel. As emotional service animal problems are still going up in light of these regulations, it is clear that even stricter regulations are needed. In an interview done by the Miami Herald, Christine, a quality insurance consultant stated that, “Last week, though, I was flying next to a couple with a dog that they assured me was trained,” she said. “But once the plane was in the air, it was clear that the dog wasn’t trained at all — it was just a mess, jumping around, panicky. And fur was flying… An hour into the trip, I could feel myself getting congested. And by the time the plane touched down, I was really close to the wheezing and shortness of breath you get with an asthma attack, which believe me, is not something you want to have in a crowded airplane.” As medical doctor Romie Mushtaq states in an article from USA Today, “Passengers are right to be skeptical when someone brings an exotic animal along. There is no medical proof that animals other than highly trained dogs, and in some cases horses are effective at calming down people with stress, anxiety, or phobias.” One of the few counter-arguments against tighter restrictions on emotional support animals is from real emotional support animal owners, and it is that tighter restrictions will hinder and make it much harder for people with real emotional support animals that they need to function fly. And while this is true, the negatives of these regulations being in the state they are now outweighs the positives. Emotional support animals need to have tighter restrictions on them so that fellow passengers do not have to be inconvenienced by attacks or allergies. Unless you have an emotional or medical need for an animal on a plane trip, either put them in baggage or simply just don’t bring them. Your fellow passengers don’t need the extra stress.


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