Service Animals on a Plane

A few weeks ago, I saw a post on social media and was sure it had to be a joke. A woman was trying to board a plane with a Peacock. Yes, a peacock – you know, the beautiful birds with amazing colorful feathers? Yes, one of those.

What on earth was she doing with a peacock at the airport? Well, she claimed it was an “emotional support” animal but the airlines had told her 3 times that she could NOT bring it on the plane. But she went to the airport anyway.

Am I missing something?

An NBC news article says:

“Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more,” Delta said in the statement. “Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs.”

I agree on this one. I know that there are people who need a comfort animal for various medical or mental health reasons. But there are many stories about people who try to pass of their pet as a “comfort animal” in order to bring it on the plane and avoid the $125 fee.

And service dogs have long been used to help people. The ADA defines service dogs duties as: alerting those who are deaf, guiding someone who is blind, helping someone in a wheelchair, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), alerting/protecting someone with a seizure disorder, or reminding someone with a mental illness to take their medicine. So someone with a disability will need their dog with them at all times.

Which means on a plane too. What worries me is the thought of being in a confined space with a known allergy and asthma trigger – animals. Notice I said it worries ME? Asthma is different for everyone. I have friends that have asthma, but don’t have allergies (lucky!) So they can have dogs, cats, birds, horses, whatever – and not be not be bothered.

But many of us with asthma also have allergies and being around animals can trigger an asthma attack. So what are the odds of being on a plane with an animal? Delta flies 700 animals each day, that means about 250,000 animals each year.

So, what if an animal is on your flight?

Apparently, flight attendants can re-seat someone if they are having problems sitting next to an animal (I assume that would include having an asthma attack.)

If there’s no animal on your flight, can you breathe a sigh of relief? Well, they may not be on your flight, but they could have been on the flight before (or earlier in the day.) And dander from animals can linger. That makes me wonder, how often are planes cleaned?

And what can I do to protect myself? To start with, I am a hand washing freak. And I also carry travel wipes to wipe off my tray table and clean my hands when I am stuck in the dreaded Middle Seat. I also take a daily allergy medicine, so I would be protected there.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m okay with service animals and legitimate comfort animals. They can literally save a life.

But how can I be protected on a plane when I have allergies and asthma?

Has anyone had a problem with this? Found a solution?

 

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