If you’re following me on Facebook or Instagram, then you know that I recently posted a controversial photo that quickly became the center of a heated debate between my friends and followers. The photo was of a woman walking a small dog on a leash aboard a flight from Los Angeles to Toronto. What caused the big ruckus? The pooch was wearing a “Service Dog” vest and it was one of those things that make you go…hmmm?
I didn’t want to say too much because I honestly have no idea if this woman’s dog was really a service dog or not, but the vest sure didn’t look like it was legitimate. My big beef is that I (sadly) know many people who buy these vests/certificates online through companies that don’t require any proof that they’re for an actual service dog. Travelers do it for a number of reasons. One is so that their dogs can fly with them on the plane rather than in the cargo hold. Another is so that they don’t have to pay the usual $125+ each way fee. That’s right…service animals fly for free.
I love dogs and I’m not allergic to them, so it doesn’t bother me in the least. I actually find them comforting. What bothers me is that I know that the increasing number of people and companies who are abusing the system are going to ruin it for those individuals who actually need a service dog for support. Have you seen an increase of “service dogs” when you travel? I have and perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. Because according to New Yorker magazine: “In 2011, the National Service Animal Registry, a commercial enterprise that sells certificates, vests, and badges for helper animals, signed up twenty-four hundred emotional-support animals. Last year, it registered eleven thousand.”
Have you, or do you know anyone who has, purchased one of these “service animal” vests/certificates even though they don’t actually warrant one?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Good to know: According to The New York Times, one big giveaway is that “assistance dogs are trained not to bark in public, not to go smelling other dogs or people.”
Interesting Stories on the Subject:
- New Yorker: Why are so many animals now in places where they shouldn’t be?
- NPR: Removal Of Blind Man, Service Dog From Flight Sparks Outrage
Airline Policies on Service Animals:
- FAA: Service Animals in Air Transportation – Aviation Consumer Protection (PDF)
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- JetBlue Airways
- Spirit Airlines
- US Airways
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