Flying with pet dander allergies can be hard enough when you’re stuck on an airplane with the occasional service dog or prize-winning show kitty in an under-the-seat kennel. But more people are bringing non-service animals — and even non-caged animals — on board with them.
Yup, it’s true. You might find yourself breaking into hives because the guy in 16E has a German Shepherd puppy on his lap. You could be at risk for a severe asthma attack, too, because further up in 14B, there’s a fluffy poodle scarfing her lunch from the table-tray. There have even been reports of on-board birds and snakes (#snakesonaplane #OMG #forreal).
So why are more people bringing their pets up to 20,000 ft? Many airlines allow an animal to fly for free if they’re designated as an “emotional support animal.” So instead of paying several hundred dollars to get your pet on board, you can score them a free spot — in your lap — by sticking them in a vest and getting a letter from a mental health professional.
(Ugh — according to TODAY Show researchers, you can get this letter online by filling out a simple questionnaire — no visit to a mental health professional required.)
While some people certainly require an emotional support animal to fly, many are abusing this system in order to save a buck — and cuddle their furry friend during the flight, rather than locking them in a kennel. It’s potentially dangerous to have untrained, non-service animals on an airplane, and — more importantly — passing off any random pet as an emotional support animal is essentially pretending to be a person with a disability.
These fake-out fliers are also putting families flying with pet dander allergies at risk. There’s now a lot more fur on the seats and the floor — and, ahem, planes aren’t cleaned very well between flights — not to mention the pet saliva on the tray-tables, armrests, seatcovers, you name it. The air circulation system will spread the pet dander quickly throughout the entire plane.
Experts believe there needs to be a standardized certification system where people must meet with a physician to prove they require an emotional support animal when they fly.
In the meantime, don’t forget to check out our tips for flying with pet dander allergies, like phoning the airline in advance and packing medications and/or inhalers in your carry-on bag.