Airlines that are applying stricter guidelines for emotional support animals is causing concern with one local animal group.
Customers who want to bring a pet on board will have to pay a fee, and the animal must be kept in a carrier. Overton County Animal Awareness Association President Vicki Smith said the changes come as a surprise, especially with so many nervous flyers.
“I really think there is a need for it, and I don’t understand why,” Smith said. “If I ever got on a plane, I would want an animal with me, because I have never flown, and I am very afraid of flying. That would help me feel better if a had my emotional support animal with me at the time.”
Many companies have cited that passengers abuse the title of emotional support animals to avoid pet fees. Southwest is the latest airline to join the changes.
“I guess it would be hard to distinguish between someone that is lying about it unless there is certain papers,” Smith said. “I don’t know how to get around figuring out people lying about it or not.”
Smith said in her time with the association, she has seen people take advantage of the same claim but thinks grouping all animals into the new guidelines is unfair. Smith said most emotional support animals are well trained and even face separation anxiety when moved away from their owner.
“I really believe emotional support animals can be just as well behaved as trained ones,” Smith said. “Depending on how the person brought them up with them.”
Smith said she hopes that a compromise can be reached between airlines and pet owners in the near future.