Back to Squawk list
  • 50

Pigs Might Fly, But They Shouldn’t Do So As Service Animals

Two US airlines, Delta and United, have issued stricter guidelines on what is required before a passenger can bring onboard an animal in an “emotional support” or “therapy” role. ( More...

Sort type: [Top] [Newest]

Ken McIntyre 22
Any animal that cannot regulate it's bowels or be housebroken has no business in the passenger cabin of an airplane. So, to name a few, most rodents, all birds, and some drunken humans.
there is a distinctive difference between a service animal (who are well trained I might add),such as those used by people who are legally blind or have a physical impairment, and those who claim to need an "emotional support" animal..dogs very seldom, if ever,when trained as a service animal,cause any problems to passengers ground crews or flight crews..they are on a leash,have a service vest,sit when told,and in my experience, are seated on the bulkhead at their owners feet for the duration of a flight..i have seen cats brought on in small carriers that will fit under a seat in front of a passenger,but they are not service animals,nor are they allowed to be taken out of the carrier during flight..they must be declared and a fee paid for them..there are animals who are not as calm as trained service dogs,and a pig (even though pigs are actually very smart)might be considered on of those..remember the lady just last week who tried to board with a peacock???I wonder if some travelers are just trying to see how far they can go with the "emotional support" thing...
Brian McCarty 10
This is all absolutely correct. I travel with a service animal - a dog trained to monitor my blood glucose and identify an onset of a diabetic seizure. He sits quietly, never barks, mostly ignores everyone else, and is rarely even noticed by anyone. As a resident now primarily in Hawaii, my biggest issue is the neanderthal operation of the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture and their "import" requirements. Granted, Hawaii has NO rabies and is correct in trying to ensure that they don't get it. But their process can only be accessed by mail and cashier's checks instead of via the internet and credit card payments. This makes my business travel even more difficult as they often require 30 days or more to get an arrival permit processed - for a service dog RESIDENT in Hawaii with full rabies testing information on file with them!

As the boomer generation gets older we're going to see more service animals, trained for tasks well beyond guide dogs for the blind. I don't condone abuse, but the system is still fraught with issues for those of us who legitimately need the assistance.
joel wiley 9
There appears to be a group of people who, for whatever reason, have declared a 'need' for an emotional support animal and feel entitled to have said support animal accompany them wherever they choose to go regardless of the impact on everybody around them. Whenever the industry tries to draw a line, they are going to paint it over some vociferously offended person's toes.
Which is why the industry needs to look at the law, and take it upon themselves to enforce the law. If the law allows them to ask for paperwork showing that the animal being brought onboard is an ESA, then they need to exercise that right allowed to them by law. The industry in this case is being REACTIVE, not PROACTIVE.

They have now made the announcement, now they need to make and take the stand for it. Should they get sued for it, they can throw the law in the claimant's face and tell them that they are following it. That shuts down any suit they may face.
canuck44 6
Just to lighten up the thread here is the link to the emotional support pig which felt the entire aircraft was the swine lavatory..
pilotjag 4
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

Pigs Might Fly, But They Shouldn’t Do So As Service Animals

Two US airlines, Delta and United, have issued stricter guidelines on what is required before a passenger can bring onboard an animal in an “emotional support” or “therapy” role.
Issuing stricter guidelines isn't the issue; following the law and using the provisions of it as they are supposed to is. If they (DAL, UAL, etc.) actually followed the law and exercised their right to require paperwork from the passenger for the ESA, this wouldn't be a problem.
Rachel Gomez -6
Under the Air Carrier Access Act, CSA s ARE following the law by not requiring paperwork as long as the traveler states that their animal is a ESA or other service animal— physical documentation is not required.
Documentation is required for all Emotional Support Animals under the ACAA. Service animals are not required. Emotional Support Animals ARE required, and must be presented should the airline ask for it.

The airlines aren't doing their due diligence and not following the law allotting them those privileges. They need to ask for documentation of the ESA at check-in. If the passengers don't provide it, they don't get checked in. simple as that.
Torsten Hoff 8
That is incorrect, documentation IS required under the ACAA.
Torsten Hoff 7
Here is the relevant information:
Rachel Gomez 0
Did you not read the very document that’s you posted? “May be required” ( is not the same as required. Just as the definition of what an ESA is or is not is also loosely defined. Look, I’m a FA, I get the “issues” that folks here have with these “guidelines” and interpretation. However, Civil Rights Acts, such as ADA, DOJ and ACAA protection policies are in place to protect those with disabilities; which is a slippery slope as no disability is ever experienced exactly the same for any individually. Therefore, vagueness in disability and policy interpretation is necessary to protect our most vulnerable populations. Under ACAA an ESA IS considered a service animal whereas under the ADA, ESAs are not. Under ADA interpretation, service animals DO NOT require documentation (, p. 6). I am not interested in squabbling here and surely once the Act is read in its entirety by the users of this thread, a better understanding of the law can assist in sorting out some of these discrepancies in its interpretation.


US Department of Transportation. From Service Animal Defintion Matrix. 2/5/2018.
Torsten Hoff 11
Yes, I read it.

I first read a service animal advocacy group’s synopsis, and replied to the thread. Then I went looking for the actual law.

So the truth lies somewhere in between — the airlines can require documentation before allowing a ESA to board, but don’t have to. What the airlines aren’t required to do is accept the passenger’s word at face value.

What is likely to happen is that the airlines are going to clarify their policies and insist on uniform, non-discrimnatory application in accordance with the law, and that ESA documentation will be required.
WhiteKnight77 5
This will be a long post, but it is the sections of the ADA and the Air Carrier Access Act.

This is the ADA definition of an service animal:

Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability. Examples of work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing non-violent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting individuals to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities, and helping persons with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal's presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

This is the relevant section of the ACAA:

§382.117 Must carriers permit passengers with a disability to travel with service animals?
(a) As a carrier, you must permit a service animal to accompany a passenger with a disability.

(1) You must not deny transportation to a service animal on the basis that its carriage may offend or annoy carrier personnel or persons traveling on the aircraft.

(2) On a flight segment scheduled to take 8 hours or more, you may, as a condition of permitting a service animal to travel in the cabin, require the passenger using the service animal to provide documentation that the animal will not need to relieve itself on the flight or that the animal can relieve itself in a way that does not create a health or sanitation issue on the flight.

(b) You must permit the service animal to accompany the passenger with a disability at any seat in which the passenger sits, unless the animal obstructs an aisle or other area that must remain unobstructed to facilitate an emergency evacuation.

(c) If a service animal cannot be accommodated at the seat location of the passenger with a disability who is using the animal, you must offer the passenger the opportunity to move with the animal to another seat location, if present on the aircraft, where the animal can be accommodated.

(d) As evidence that an animal is a service animal, you must accept identification cards, other written documentation, presence of harnesses, tags, or the credible verbal assurances of a qualified individual with a disability using the animal.

(e) If a passenger seeks to travel with an animal that is used as an emotional support or psychiatric service animal, you are not required to accept the animal for transportation in the cabin unless the passenger provides you current documentation (i.e., no older than one year from the date of the passenger's scheduled initial flight) on the letterhead of a licensed mental health professional (e.g., psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, including a medical doctor specifically treating the passenger's mental or emotional disability) stating the following:

(1) The passenger has a mental or emotional disability recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—Fourth Edition (DSM IV);

(2) The passenger needs the emotional support or psychiatric service animal as an accommodation for air travel and/or for activity at the passenger's destination;

(3) The individual providing the assessment is a licensed mental health professional, and the passenger is under his or her professional care; and

(4) The date and type of the mental health professional's license and the state or other jurisdiction in which it was issued.

(f) You are never required to accommodate certain unusual service animals (e.g., snakes, other reptiles, ferrets, rodents, and spiders) as service animals in the cabin. With respect to all other animals, including unusual or exotic animals that are presented as service animals (e.g., miniature horses, pigs, monkeys), as a carrier you must determine whether any factors preclude their traveling in the cabin as service animals (e.g., whether the animal is too large or heavy to be accommodated in the cabin, whether the animal would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others, whether it would cause a significant disruption of cabin service, whether it would be prohibited from entering a foreign country that is the flight's destination). If no such factors preclude the animal from traveling in the cabin, you must permit it to do so. However, as a foreign carrier, you are not required to carry service animals other than dogs.

(g) Whenever you decide not to accept an animal as a service animal, you must explain the reason for your decision to the passenger and document it in writing. A copy of the explanation must be provided to the passenger either at the airport, or within 10 calendar days of the incident.

(h) You must promptly take all steps necessary to comply with foreign regulations (e.g., animal health regulations) needed to permit the legal transportation of a passenger's service animal from the U.S. into a foreign airport.

(i) Guidance concerning the carriage of service animals generally is found in the preamble of this rule. Guidance on the steps necessary to legally transport service animals on flights from the U.S. into the United Kingdom is found in 72 FR 8268-8277, (February 26, 2007).

[Doc. No. DOT-OST-2004-19482, 73 FR 27665, May 13, 2008, as amended at 74 FR 11471, Mar. 18, 2009]

While the ADA allows almost anything in facilities, the ACAA restricts people to certain types of animals and does allow for asking of specific information that both Delta and now United are asking for.
Good for these airlines. And I hope
Others fall in stores and restaurants for sure.

I know from a friend who trains service dogs that there is much agitation for the government to set a proper standard. Maybe Delta and United have paved the way.
All part of the stupid PC culture. If everyone on the plane refused to ride with farm animals the airlines would figure it out fast. What’s next, pet rattlesnakes?
Totally agree. We have friends who merely bought a 'service animal" bib on-line and they take their dog anywhere they want. Businesses are allowed to ask what the animal has been trained for, even if they cannot ask what the person has wrong with them.
linbb 3
About time these so called service pets get taken out of service. Most all are BS and cause nothing but problems the ADA act has been over used as an excuse to do things without anyone calling them on it.
To correct something mentioned in the article. There isn't any certification or registry for service animals in the United States. All the sites that do so are just scams. Along with a tasked trained dog the only other animal that can legally be a service animal is a task trained miniature horse. My service dog (SD) is bigger than some minis.

There is a lot of confusion out there so please note the difference in the definitions of emotional support animal (ESA) vs therapy dog vs service animal. I would rather have a trained therapy dog allowed on planes instead of someone's untrained ESAs.

Reference the story of the woman that brought her dog to the concert. It wouldn't be a therapy dog as she said if it truly was tasked trained to detect alcohol (I doubt it was) it would be called a service dog. :D Therapy and emotional support animals aren't allowed in non-pet friendly places that a service animal is allowed.
CORRECTION: I was using the ADA definition of service animal. I forgot ACAA includes emotional support animals in the service animal definition.
Dale Hubbard 1
'Emotional support' animals - what next?
I would like to bring my emotional support animal along for free on flights. He has two legs, a great smile and knows how to be very appropriate on flights😊
joel wiley 1
very good. Would he accept wearing a leash to qualify for a free flight?
n8mdp 1
I just returned from a European trip on United Airlines. There were two rather large service dogs on my flight sitting just 4 rows behind me. Only one hour into the flight, the dogs started fighting with each other. I'm glad that the owners took control of the dogs but it could have gotten out of control at 35,000 feet! To make matters worse, these two dogs were, well, farting real bad making the Economy Plus section of the cabin smell like dog poop. I actually thought the dogs took a crap in the cabin.

But here is another point. What if someone comes on the flight and is allergic to dogs, cats or other animals brought into the cabin? Who has more rights, the passenger or the animal? Also, how do the airlines clean the planes once these service dogs leave the plane? What if the animals have fleas or ticks? Imagine the poor passengers who have to sit in the seats of the planes where the animal might have been sitting. How will they know that an animal was in those seats, assuming the animal was sitting in the seats like what was on my flight?

I feel for the people with the service dogs but I can no longer support allowing any animal brought into the cabin of an airplane after what happened on my flight. I don't want to sit in a plane on a long flight with the smell of dog poop. Airplanes are not Noah's Ark.
Simple answer to your question: The one who is allowed onboard pursuant to the law. That would be the service animal.

A situation like this happened to my wife and another passenger (who to be honest, was just making up excuses so she wouldn't be displaced from her seat). She initially claimed that she was disabled because she needed wheelchair assistance down the jetway to our flight, then complained that my wife's guide dog needed to be crated and in the baggage compartment where everything else belongs. Then suggested that we let the dog catch the next flight (which the FA then told her that being at KDEN, how the hell was the dog supposed to leave the airport, catch a cab back to the closest hotel, book a room, get fed, wake up, pay for the hotel room, catch a cab back to the airport, go through security, and find the next flight all on her own, leaving my blind wife without her guide)...

Then she played the allergy card, which then the FAs threw the ACAA at her.

In this case, the ACAA is paramount. The service animal has a right to be with their partner/guide, and the airline has to accommodate that. That is by law. The airline does not have to accommodate the allergy by law.
joel wiley 1
Good for you three
Excuse me sir, where do you have additional seating for my emotional support zebra?
Can we discuss for a moment the reason why the airlines charge $75-$100 or more to place a small dog in a carrier under the seat in front of you. They don’t charge if I put my purse there. It is counted as one of my two carry-ons but I have to pay extra??? Why???
joel wiley 3
The most simple reason is that they can.
valerie....a purse can be made smaller for the most part,or "squished' to to fit easily under the seat in front of you, and can also fit in an overhead luggage bin..a small dog or even a cat must be approved for travel with paperwork,and be in an approved carry on of a certain size that will fit easily under the seat in front of the passenger and cannot be made smaller or adjusted to fit..they cannot of course be put into a coat closet nor in the overhead luggage bin,and of course, the flight attendant is not going to ask another passenger to allow the cat or dog carrier to be under the seat in front of them if its not their animal..a pet in a carrier is hardly the same as a purse,and by the way, per faa regulations, there can be only one pet per in coach and one in first,and this is considered an extra amenity..this may be the reason so many try to get "emotional support" animals approved...
How about that it is just ignorant and selfish to even want to subject everyone else to your “pet” even if you pay. Real service dogs; no prob. Most people are compassionate enough to accept it even if they are not animal lovers. And some people actually have allergies to certain animals.
roberto dupre 1
Are humans allergic to Kangaroos ,if not, here is a solution....
On a more serious note Real service dogs, no problem, anything else. you want to win the power ball jackpot and start flying private....
My point exactly. There are very clear rules about the size of the dog or cat , weight and the type and size of carrier. Meeting all those requirements my 7 lb Maltese is smaller in his carrier than than my carry-on luggage....yet I have to pay $100 to put him there. I totally agree that the system is being abused with a multitude of emotional support animals.
Paying does nothing for other pax. I’m sure there are people out there that wil voice their displeasure loudly if seated next to you. Pay the hundred and feel lucky.
Linda Allman 1
Regarding "emotional support' animals, if you're unable to leave home without one under your arm, perhaps, you're too fragile to leave at all and should rethink your trip. Aside from the obvious problems being caused by these animals, the stress and fear caused TO them should be taken into account.
joel wiley 1
One might claim you are too insensitive to those poor damaged souls who, without the support provided by their ESA, are unable to go out and inflict their neuroses on the world at large. Then again, one might not.
Lesley Child 1
Dear Airlines - please note, we have been using the DSM V now (for at least 4 years) not the IV - if you are rewriting rules and regulations, at least cite and consult the latest medical diagnostic manuals. Thank you
John Wilson 1
The whole emotional support thing is a PLEASE ABUSE ME legal framework exactly like the "medical marijuana" farce.
Mike Mohle -1
Total Scam!!!
roberto dupre 0
Service Animals used to be allowed in only for the blinds and physically handicapped paxs.
A good thing.
But now a days for emotional support stuff you can get a service animal on board.....
Hope I do not end up one day,flying inbound to Sydney, sitting next to a Kangaroo.
joel wiley 2
You'd prefer a ESA cassowary for a seatmate?
roberto dupre 1
I go for the Kangaroo
If you do are you really gonna fly the trip? Lol
roberto dupre 1
On the Jump seat maybe...
Actually a roo is probably preferable to some humans I have seen on airplanes.
roberto dupre 1
You are correct, I go for the roo, not the pig.
David Barnes 0
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

United Airlines Denies Boarding to Emotional Service Animal…a Peacock

Recently, I argued that airlines must crack down on the abuse of emotional support animals. Passengers continue to twist federal law to bypass pet cargo fees and bring animals onboard who do not belong onboard.

Case in point: a woman tried to bring a peacock onboard a recent United Airlines flight at Newark Liberty International Airport. She did offer to pay for a second seat for this oversized bird, but claimed she had a right to bring it onboard as her emotional support animal.
jeffg33 0
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

Top 5 Weirdest Emotional Support Animals

Kangaroos, Turkeys, Pigs, and Ducks...I wouldn't want to fly next to any of them!
isardriver -1
(Duplicate Squawk Submitted)

Following peacock fiasco, United Airlines tightens policy for comfort animals

United Airlines updated its policy Thursday dealing with emotional-support animals, echoing Delta Air Lines in requiring documentation about the animal’s health and training.
Brian McCarty 2
Like many policies I expect that ALL of the airlines were in informal discussions about these changes and we'll likely see good coordination of policies for emotional support animals going forward.


Don't have an account? Register now (free) for customized features, flight alerts, and more!
This website uses cookies. By using and further navigating this website, you accept this.
Did you know that FlightAware flight tracking is supported by advertising?
You can help us keep FlightAware free by allowing ads from We work hard to keep our advertising relevant and unobtrusive to create a great experience. It's quick and easy to whitelist ads on FlightAware or please consider our premium accounts.