Sunday, June 18, 2017
FLYING can be a stressful and nerve-wracking experience. For those with mental-health issues it must be doubly so. One way in which vulnerable travellers deal with their anxiety on a plane is to take on board an "emotional support animal" (ESA). Such creatures provide succour for their owners. Unlike guide dogs, they "do not require any kind of specialised training," according to CertaPet, an organisation that provides such services. "In fact," reckons CertaPet, "very little training is required at all, provided that the animal in question is reasonably well behaved by normal standards." That sounds like an easy and effective way to help sufferers. It was distressing to read, therefore, of the emotional support dog that mauled a passenger on Delta flight from Atlanta to San Diego earlier this week.
Reports suggest that the dog, a labrador-pointer cross-breed, was accompanying a military veteran, who was sitting in a middle seat. The animal apparently snarled at the passenger sitting by the window, who asked several times whether it was about to bite him. It duly did, leaving the unfortunate victim bleeding profusely from the face and in need of hospital treatment. The animal's owner was later seen in the terminal, reportedly weeping, concerned that the dog would be destroyed. In fact, both the owner and the canine were later allowed onto another flight, though this time with the dog in a travel box.
In order to fly with an ESA, passengers need a letter from a licensed mental-health professional. But one organisation, Service Dog Central, thinks that there is still some discrimination, compared with people who travel with guide dogs, for example. According to the organisation "it is not fair that people with PSDs [Psychiatric Service Dogs] are treated differently than those with other sorts of service dogs but they are and this is written into regulatory law."
Interestingly, the organisation blames "fakers" for the problem. The issue came to prominence a couple of years back, after an "emotional support pig" (the beasts do not have to be canine) caused havoc on a US Airways flight, "relieving itself in the aisle and grunting while the woman tried to stow her carry-on."
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