If you feel like you are seeing more service animals accompanying your fellow passengers while traveling this holiday season it isn’t just in your head. A recent article on webmd.com takes a look at why we have seen a general uptick in the number of people with emotional support animals and how the loose regulations involved in obtaining this certification leads to the abuse of a system in place to protect the disabled and their service animals.
According to webmd.com, the same federal law that ensures the disabled can travel with a necessary service animal also allows passengers to be accompanied by emotional support animals during air travel. A service animal is bred and trained to perform tasks for people with disabilities while the process for certifying a pet as an emotional support animal can be as simple as answering a few questions online and receiving certification in the mail 2 days later. The ease of obtaining this certification is evident as airlines report that the amount passengers bringing pets on planes as emotional support animals greatly outnumbers passengers traveling with service animals.
The article explains that airlines and the disabled are seeking stricter regulations around emotional support animals. Some states have laws against falsifying information to a mental health professional in order to obtain the emotional support animal certification, and it is illegal to dress a pet as a service animal when it is not certified as one, but these laws are difficult and uncomfortable to enforce while ensuring the rights to use legitimate service animals.