Things That Fly (by Plane): Pigs, Mini Horses, Cats and Dogs

Giant dog labeled ESA occupies 3 seats on a plane 11 photos
Photo: Twitter / professorsabena
A giant dog used as ESA occupies 3 seats on a planePigs do fly!A duck used as ESA on a planeMiniature horses are allowed both as ESAs and service animalsMiniature horses are allowed both as ESAs and service animalsOne turkey survived Thanksgiving to become an ESAA baby kangaroo flies as an emotional support animalWoman with squirrel as ESA was kicked off a flightDisruptive pig is kicked off flight for being, well, disruptiveA gorgeous peacock was not allowed to fly as an ESA
Any pet owner will understand the unbreakable bond between man and animal, and the pain caused by the very idea of traveling without said animal. The latter is doubly experienced by those who rely on the animal for comfort and emotional support.
In the United States, the number of people flying with emotional support animals (ESAs) has increased in recent years, doubling from 2016 to 2017. This increase has seen anything from peacocks, hamsters, roosters, pigs, miniature horses, squirrels, a baby kangaroo and even a duck (with cute shoes and all) take to the skies – or attempt to do so before being barred from boarding by gate agents for one airline company or another.

Just recently, a couple of bulldogs wearing tutus and their respective owners were kicked off a Norwegian Air flight out of London’s Gatwick airport, headed for America, causing a massive delay to the flight. And, while dogs and cats remain the safest choice in terms of ESAs allowed on board, people may still try to get their pets to fly in the cabin, to varying results.

In order to be able to fly with an emotional support animal, you have to be aware of a very important distinction: ESAs are not service animals. The latter are trained to offer assistance of some kind (medical aid or therapy) to their owners, who may suffer from disabilities or mental ailments, while ESAs are not trained in any specific way. They’re simply animals that are used for comfort and support by people who may be suffering from anything from panic attacks to depression, or other issues – registered with ESA Registration.

Miniature horses are allowed both as ESAs and service animals
Another important aspect to keep in mind is that flying in the US or Canada with your emotional support animal is far easier than in Europe. Most countries in Europe only allow service dogs in the cabin, and then too with strict regulations. So good luck bringing your turtle along for your long-planned European vacay.

The topic of ESAs has been getting more attention in the U.S. in the past year or so. There was talk of how many people did a disservice to passengers with a real need of an ESA, as they were cunning enough to use their animals to avoid extra flight costs or leaving the animal at home. So, in the summer of 2018, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued official guidelines for airline companies on what constitutes an ESA and which animals can fly under this qualification.

Thus, with most U.S. airlines, you can fly with a dog or a cat or even a miniature horse that qualifies as an ESA if you have a letter from a doctor saying you have a condition that is alleviated by the presence of the animal on a flight. A small pig may also be allowed on board with certain airlines, but you have to personally check your operator’s website to see if it’s among them. You must also have all veterinary documentation on the animal and, in some cases, special carrier and restraints for it.

One turkey survived Thanksgiving to become an ESA
All animals have to be housebroken and be older than a couple of years. With many airlines, the animal has to be small enough to fit under the seat in its carrier or lay on your lap without touching the seat.

With most flight operators, you have to inform them beforehand of your intention of flying with an ESA and discuss with them what animal it is and how you plan on making sure it doesn’t disrupt the flight. This part is very important because, with the rise in the number of passengers flying with emotional support animals came a rise in number of incidents involving them. Photos of roosters, squirrels, and peacocks in crowded cabins were widely circulated online and became viral, while people were being bitten and scratched by untrained dogs and cats.

The airlines also saw their fair share of incidents: poop and vomit in the aisle and the seats, damaged cabin furniture and, most importantly, lawsuits from passengers injured by other passengers’ ESAs. Because the main issue with the boost in ESA numbers on planes was the fact that most of them weren’t trained in the most basic sense and were thus unable to cope with the stress of flying – let alone alleviate their owners.

A gorgeous peacock was not allowed to fly as an ESA
So, to sum up: if you need an emotional support animal to cope and couldn’t possibly fly without one, you’re out of luck if you’re from outside the U.S. or are planning on flying into the country from some European destination. U.S. airlines are more lenient when it comes to animals in the cabin, but they too have specific conditions that vary from one company to another.

Check with your flight operator to see if you’re allowed to board your flight with an emotional support animal and prepare all pertinent documentation in advance: a note from your doctor explaining why you need it and veterinary documentation.

Last but not least, show some common sense: if your animal is not properly trained or flying may be too stressful for it, it’s better if you left it at home. You’re not doing it a service by taking it with you – on the contrary.
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About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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