It may not seem uncommon to spot a dog riding in the cabin on your flight. After all, small cats and dogs are allowed under the seat as a carry-on at an extra cost. But what about larger dogs, or even rabbits and pot-bellied pigs? The reality is that a whole bunch of critters may be allowed on your flight because they qualify as emotional support animals. But how honest are passengers about their pets truly being there for emotional support?
As Fox News reports, more and more people are gaming the system to get their pet in the main cabin under the Air Carrier Access Act. It's meant for those who suffer severe anxiety without the support of an animal, but is often used by those who want to keep their pets out of cargo.
"The people who really need support animals despise people who fake it,'' says Eric Lipp, executive director of Open Doors Organization, an advocacy group for people traveling with disabilities. "I call it 'the Paris Hilton effect,' where people want to take their cute little dogs everywhere."
But it's not just cute little dogs that are breaking the rules to sit in their owners' laps. One man is said to have brought his emotional support mini horse on a plane, getting him bumped up to first class to make enough room for the animal.
There are a host of resources for individuals looking to get paperwork that qualifies their pet as an emotional support animal, and plenty of places on the web to buy the signifying vest and badges that these animals wear. And if an airline mistakenly disallows a support animal from getting on a flight, it can face a hefty fine of up to $150,000. With all that out there, plenty of people are willing to risk faking an emotional support animal just to get their pet a free ticket in the cabin.