You are ready to board your plane for a well-deserved vacation, when you notice that there is a dog, on a leash, in the boarding line. What? A Dog? Flying with you in the cabin? Yes, that dog is a service dog or an emotional support animal, and has been cleared to fly by the airline.
There is not an official definition of what species can constitute a service animal or emotional support animal. The Department of Transportation, which overseas airline travel, has ruled out reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders as creatures acceptable on flights. The Americans with Disabilities Act defines designated dogs and miniature horses as service animals, which are trained to assist the deaf or blind. The 1986 Air Carrier Access Act opened the door to a wide variety of animals that accompany disabled passengers who have a doctor’s note. However, individual airlines still have the final say as to whether a creature can fly with a disabled person, and can determine whether the animal creates a health or safety concern, or obstructs evacuation routes. Airlines are constantly updating and evaluating their policies as more and more passengers are testing the rules by trying to fly with unusual animals such as barnyard animals or exotic pets. Recently there have been news reports of a peacock and a pot belly pig trying to fly as emotional support animals. Neither were allowed to board. Always check with your specific airline as to their most recent guidelines for flying with service and emotional support animals before you plan your flight.