Spiders, Snakes and Service Animals


It should be noted that several key issues were clarified in the newly released ACAA, many of them having to do with service animals. In fact, according to the good folks at the DOT, they received more comments — 1100 out of 1229 — on service animal issues, than on any other topic.

And some of the clarifications that the DOT made in the new rules were good, and actually quite welcome. For example, there is the whole issue of what to do if a service animal will not fit under the seat in front of you or at your feet. Now granted, the ACAA revisions don’t change the fact that the animal can’t obstruct space that must remain clear under FAA rules (like aisles); however if the animal won’t fit at the assigned seat location, then under the new rules, the airline must offer the passenger the opportunity to move to any open seat in the same class that can safely accommodate the animal.

Sounds pretty much like common sense, right? Well it is, but we are talking about the airlines here. They need all the help they can get in that common sense department. The other option (which appeared in the draft, but was dropped in the final rules) was to require passengers to buy another seat for their oversized service animals. Like I said that was dropped. The DOT just used common sense. I mean if a seat is available, why not just reseat folks to accommodate their service animals, without charging them extra for previously unused seats?

But there are parts of 382.117 (the section referring to service animals) that really bother me.

For example, on flights of eight hours or more the airlines can require (as a condition of passage) passengers traveling with service animals to “provide documentation that the animal will not need to relieve itself on the flight or that it can do it in a way that does not create a health or sanitation issue.” OK. I guess that needed to be stated, but I’m just trying to figure out what documentation would be considered acceptable in this instance.

And then there’s the most baffling section. The one that says airlines are not required to accommodate unusual service animals such as snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents and spiders.

Yep, I said spiders.

And the part about this that really bothers me is that the DOT actually had to mention spiders by name; which means somewhere along the line, somebody brought (or tried to bring) a service spider on the aircraft.

That’s just plain creepy.

Because I have to say in all honesty, that if the person seated next to me whipped out a service spider, I would be teaching that arachnid to play dead (permanently) faster than the airlines can raise their excess baggage charges.

After all, that’s why God invented Raid.

But again, it bothers me that the DOT had to even mention spiders.