December 9, 2020

Another thing 2020 has taken away from us? Ridiculous service animals on planes

By haziqbinarif

Last week, the Department of Transportation declared enough is enough and ruled that that the only service animals that can travel on planes, no questions asked, are dogs. The new rule gives airlines the option of banning all other service species. That means the zoo of emotional support animals we’ve all come to love is now closed.

The DOT’s Airline Carrier Access Act now strictly defines a service animal as a “dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.” That disability can include, “physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”

This will make life easier for airlines, but what about the rest of us? Stories about people bringing wacky animals on airplanes in the name of emotional support are some of the most hilarious out there. C’mon DOT, throw us a bone, and by bone, I mean a squirrel, chicken, or peacock.

The infamous emotional support peacock was one of the biggest head-shaker stories of 2018. In case you somehow missed the tale, a Brooklyn-based artist named Ventiko wanted to bring her emotional support peacock Dexter on a United Airlines flight out of Newark. Ventiko was willing to buy Dexter his own seat, but United said no based on the bird’s weight and physical dimensions. After six hours at the airport, the artist and her showy friend opted for a road trip instead.

American Airlines was a bit more accommodating when it came to Flirty, a miniature emotional support pony that flew out of Chicago. Miniature ponies are recognized in the Americans with Disabilities Act as legitimate service animals, and by all accounts, the adorable pony was well behaved and quite popular. Flirty has his own page on Instagram filled with pictures of him at the supermarket and driving around with his owner in her car.

The new DOT rule means that airlines will have the option of denying ducks an opportunity to provide emotional support as well. Much like Flirty the pony, a duck with the best duck name ever — Daniel Turducken Stinkerbutt — won over passengers on a short flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Asheville, N.C., in 2016. The certified emotional support duck was wearing red shoes and a Captain America diaper. This is the news that we need. Sweet ducks on planes with amazing names wearing red shoes and diapers can melt the frost off the chilliest of moments.

Daniel, an emotional-support duck, on board an American Airlines flight.
Daniel, an emotional-support duck, on board an American Airlines flight.Mark Essig

But not all animals are as well loved as Flirty and Mr. Stinkerbutt, and that’s where the tales stories get fun. Well, fun for those of us reading them, probably not much fun for the passengers. But these viral chestnuts are just as necessary to bolster sagging spirits on any given rainy day or Monday.

There was the not-very-heartwarming story of the woman who tried to bring her emotional support squirrel on a flight from Orlando to Cleveland in 2018, and held up the flight for two hours when she and the squirrel refused to leave. Pigs on planes stories are generally sweet, except when the swine gets ornery and both pig and owner are booted from the plane. Also, stories involving animals that have a hard time holding their mud during a flight are are certainly cringe-worthy, but it’s still a much-needed viral distraction.

This is a rule that’s not likely to be changed, but here’s hoping that airlines, now the gatekeepers of which support animals can board the plane, will continue to allow reputable, non-canine critters to fly. Also, we wouldn’t mind if a few non-reputable animals made it on board as well. Please?

Christopher Muther can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.

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