I have to admit, the couple of times my pets have flown in the cargo holds of airplanes, I’ve been incredibly nervous. You see terrible news stories about pets dying or getting lost, and it makes you dread the entire experience. So I can see why some people do make their pet a ‘service animal’ so it can fly with them, even if they’re stretching the truth – it’s a convenient loophole.
But then you end up in situations like these, when people say their pet is needed for “emotional support” or service when they have no license to back it up.
Well, the airlines and some lawmakers have had enough of this trickery from pet owners. As of January 2019 in Hawaii, people face up to a $500 fine if they try to pass off their pet as a service animal. There are similar laws on the books in 20 additional states.
The problem is the actual enforcement of the law. There is no national registry for service animals, and these furry helpers aren’t required to wear vests or any kind of identification, so it is hard to actually impose any fines.
Also, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, authorities can only ask disabled persons if the pet is a service animal and what task the animal provides. Any further questions are against the law.
There are many concerns surrounding fake service animals, including attacks on people and real service animals and cleanliness.
Obviously, service animals and emotional support animals are needed both in private and public spaces because they make a huge difference in many people’s lives, but those taking advantage of lax laws are really putting the airlines, lawmakers, and other passengers in quite a bind.
I have a feeling we’ll see more about this kind of legislation in the future.