In the past decade, the number of emotional support animals being used to treat a wide array of mental and emotional disorders has multiplied exponentially. This increase has been met with mixed reactions in the context of air travel. While some passengers are thrilled to sit next to a dog on their flight, others are frustrated due to the belief passengers with emotional support animals are exploiting a loophole to travel with their pet for free. Regardless of the differing perceptions, emotional support animals are a valid, affordable way to treat mental health illnesses without incurring negative side effects associated with medication.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently amended the regulations on emotional support animals to reflect grievances related to potential abuses of the system. These amendments unfairly discriminate against individuals with mental health illnesses while doing little to prevent exploitation and misrepresentation of service and emotional support animals. DOT should revert to the previous system of recognizing emotional support animals in a category distinct from service animals. Furthermore, implementing stricter regulations for the registration of emotional support animals, reducing pet fees, and keeping records of such in a robust database would allow those with mental disorders to rightfully obtain emotional support animals while curbing abuse of the system.
Jillian Doughty, The Department of Transportation’s Failures in Regulating Emotional Support Animals,
J. Air L. & Com.