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An emotional support passenger

Emotional support animals are a typical American phenomenon. Those animals often cause a disruption in the cabin. A national survey of US flight attendants reveals that over 98% of all respondents worked a flight with at least 1 emotional support animal onboard in the last 24 months.

Small wonder that the US Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) calls on the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to take action to limit abuse of the emotional support animal designation in the system. Although some airlines recently took action by implementing stricter rules, the DOT can regulate it for the industry.

"The rampant abuse of claiming a need for emotional support animals in air travel is negatively impacting all passengers. It is a safety, health, and security issue," says Sara Nelson, AFA President. Quite a few passengers attempt to evade paying a fee for their pet by falsely claiming it is an emotional support animal,

Thus, it is unsurprising that the survey finds that 61% of the responding flight attendants report working a flight where an emotional support animal caused a disruption in the cabin. They also report that 53% of the disruptions include aggressive or threatening behavior by the animal.

A flight attendant reports an example of a passenger whose health was threatened by an emotional support animal. A teenager seated between 2 emotional support animals had an allergic reaction and was placed on oxygen.

Other examples include a dog snapping at a flight attendant's heel when she walks by. A dog biting a flight stewardess while she attempts to set a beverage on the tray table. And repeated barking and lunging at crew members, passengers, and children.

No less than 43% of the disruptions include animals failing to fit in the designated space, roaming about the cabin, and barking consistently throughout the flight. A bird was lost in the cabin for 45 minutes, and a dog was in the aisle of the aircraft the entire flight, blocking the path of egress. Flight attendants also report animals often getting loose in the cabin after their owners fall asleep during flight.

Ironically, a flight attendant had to page for a veterinarian because a dog was having a breathing problem. A nurse onboard assists and advises the owner to hold the animal tightly and talk to it because it was having an anxiety attack. So this is a case of an emotional support passenger for an animal.

Other survey findings include:
*    64% of the flight attendants do not believe that emotional support animal policies and procedures are effective.
*    26% of the disruptions include emotional support animals defecating or urinating in the cabin.

Tag: emotional support animal

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