Emotional support animals, sock monkeys & pets on planes

Emotional support service animals are service animals that provide emotional support to an individual with a mental health related disability. On most airlines, documentation must be provided 48 hours before departure to permit emotional support animals to travel in the passenger cabin.

I’m all for emotional support animals on board when it comes to calming passengers who suffer from anxiety. What I have a problem with are passengers who bring their pets on board and then claim they are service animals in order to keep them on their laps. Don’t get me wrong, I like animals. I really do. I have one at home. His name is Gatsby and he’s a seventeen pound Maine Coon cat. But not everyone on the airplane gets excited about sitting next to the passenger who has a dog wearing a dress on their lap. A lot of people are allergic to pet dander, so it’s my job to remind passengers that their pets must remain inside their carriers during a flight. The only pets that are allowed out of the carrier (on my airline) are celebrity animals (for real) and service animals. That’s it. Case closed.

While doing a little research, I came across an interesting bit of information. “Did you know there are horses that are considered emotional support service animals?” I asked my mother who is also a flight attendant for the same airline I work for.

“Not horses. Small ponies,” she corrected. Before I could even comment, my mother who was now laughing said, “Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t you call a couple airlines and tell them you’d like to bring a small horse on board in main cabin. See what they say.”

Yeah. Okay. Maybe later.

Recently during boarding on a flight from San Francisco to Chicago, I walked into the first class cabin and spotted something I could not believe. On top of a tiny petite woman sat the largest emotional support lap dog I’d ever seen. Shaggy and well-behaved, he was almost as big as the owner who did not have the proper paperwork to prove that the dog was in fact allowed out of its carrier. Oh sure the dog was cute, but half the cabin claimed to be allergic to it and no one wanted to sit by it. Finally, when it became apparent that we weren’t going to depart until the situation had been sorted out, a man reluctantly agreed to sit by the oversized, but very sweet, dog. Eventually an agent appeared who confirmed he had seen the dog’s paperwork, and then quickly he shut the aircraft door and waved goodbye.




  1. We made the same joke about bringing a monkey on board. Yes, they’re “service pets” too. Can you picture it??

    I would think an animal loose in the cabin would be a safety hazard. I guess if they allow “lap babies” why not dogs. But a lot of dogs are bigger than almost-2 toddlers.

    I only once had a seeing eye dog but it was the only time I saw an animal outside the box. Both airlines were strict about keeping the animal in a box, cage or soft pet carrier. I’d tell people to take the box into the large handicapped lav if they wanted to remove the animal. Not sure if this was totally kosher but at least it was an alternative…

  2. I agree animals should be kept out of the cabin. I am sure the hadicapped person should be fine for a flight where humans cn help them out while the dog is away in a crate for the flight. Some people are just way to allergic to have the animals in the same area. This way the animal and the passergers will all be fine on the other end of the flight.

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