DEBBIE NORRELL

My first flight was around 1969 or 1970. I went to Detroit to see my sister. It was such a pleasant trip. I used to really enjoy flying and yes, I am one of those weird people who even enjoyed in-flight meals. I never had a bad meal on a flight. In the last decade so much has changed when it comes to flying; there is no free food, no free pillows or blankets and there is a charge for just about everything. One of the biggest problems to date in my opinion is the increase of comfort animals on airplanes. These animals have taken on several names. They are known as therapy pets, service dogs and emotional support animals. What I want to know is when did all of this start and how did these people function before these animals were allowed to accompany the owner anywhere and everywhere? I have yet to encounter one and not sure what I would do if I did. I hope the rule changes before I elect to fly again.

A friend of mine was at a local Eat n’ Park recently and someone had their emotional support animal at the buffet. My friend was so disturbed by it that he left. I think the person and the animal should have been the ones to leave. A lot of these so-called support animals are being pimped by their owners. People are claiming dogs, pigs, ducks, turkeys and even peacocks as support animals so they do not have to pay to fly them on the airline. Deb Davis, community outreach manager for Paws with a Cause of Wayland, outside Grand Rapids, said it’s easy to spot the impostor service dogs: those carried in a purse, or those that growl, bark or act aggressively. In other words, the pretenders often lack good public manners, she said. Reportedly, blind people fought hard to get public access for their dogs, and that right is being “diluted” by a proliferation of questionable service and support pets.

The ACCESS Advisory Committee members include representatives of the airlines, aircraft manufacturers, flight attendants and disability rights groups. At one point, some committee members favored recognizing as service animals only dogs and miniature horses, which are the only animals covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Can you imagine flying with a miniature horse on the plane?” Did you know that like dogs, miniature horses can be trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities, according to the ADA? They can be used as guides for blind people or to pull wheelchairs. These animals, which can be house-trained, typically range in height from 24 to 34 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 70 to 100 pounds. In the case of service dogs, airlines can ask passengers questions such as: What tasks or functions does your animal perform for you? What has it been trained to do for you? Describe how the animal performs this task or function for you. They cannot ask travelers about their disability.

“I had no idea.”

(Email Debbie at debbienorrell@aol.com)

 

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