Come on DOT – Let’s Talk ESAs!


airplane window

Well it happened again last month – another emotional support animal (ESA) misbehaved on a flight. This isn’t news, as it seems to be the norm these days. Pretty much anyone can go online and purchase “ESA credentials” so they can fly free with their pets. Just google “emotional support animal credentials” and you’ll get a listing of what I call “card mills” that – for a price — provide certificates, vests and other accessories that will allow your dog to accompany you anywhere.

Or so they claim. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not recognize ESAs, and more places on the terra-firma are denying them access. As it should be. Sure what pet doesn’t make you feel good? But a legitimate service animal is trained to do specific tasks for its owner – and those tasks vary depending on the owner’s disability. Providing comfort, protection and emotional support are not tasks that are recognized under the ADA. Furthermore legitimate service animals do not require any certification or even a vest.

But again, we have these fakers. I’m sure you think that’s a strong word, but I guarantee you that the flight attendant that got bit by a ESA on an Envoy flight last month wouldn’t have any problem with my word choice.

And I expect neither would the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) – the union that represents him. In fact they called the incident “completely unacceptable and inexcusable”. Furthermore they issued a statement calling for stricter ESA regulations.

“For years, AFA has supported the role trained animals can provide to passengers in the cabin, but we have also called for action in regards to setting standards for emotional support animals. We need the Department of Transportation (DOT) to take action now, so events like the one that happened yesterday do not continue to occur on our planes. This is fundamentally about maintaining safety, health and security for passengers and crew, while ensuring accessibility for those who need it.”

Can I hear an Amen?

Seriously, the DOT was set to update the regulations – and many believe bring them in sync with the ADA – when President Trump effectively pulled the plug on creating new regulations.

So here we sit with a departure lounge filled with ESAs. Come on DOT, do your job. How many more flight attendants or passengers have to pay the price for these lax regulations? Let’s update the regulations now!