Wednesday, December 28, 2016

News You Can't Use: Too Many Air Passengers Fly with Phony Support Pets, Critics Say

I think I'm going to re-purpose this as a travel blog in 2017, even though I never travel, ever, and most of what I do know about the subject was cobbled together from Youtube "truth" videos and Wesley Snipes films. Still, when it comes to getting on that silver bird, always bet on annoyance. First it was the add-on fees for basic services. Now, you can expect someone to bring aboard phony support pets, creating a barking and biting nightmare under the veneer of "this here hound helps partially control my compulsive novelty disorder."

With the holiday travel season now here, many air passengers are boarding the plane with service dogs and emotional support animals — a practice that critics say is open to fraud.

Honor system can be abused, cynics claim.

How do airlines know whether these pets are true service animals and not impostors wearing an official-looking vest bought online for $39.99? The answer is, they don't.

We'll irradiate and/or grope your bikini area all day, but no way we're doing thirty seconds of research to determine if the pit bull wearing a vest that says "Sar Vice Dawg, fo' real doe" is actually legitimately needed to provide emotional support.

While many of these animals are dogs, passengers have also gotten on board with birds, including a peacock, cats and other animals. 

For the last time, no one wants to see your peacock.

"I see more violations than legitimate use of service dogs in public. A drastic majority of what I've observed in airports is misuse of the service dog law," said Brian Skewis, executive officer of the California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind, the only state agency in the nation that regulates guide-dog schools and individual instructors.

All I see is pet related evil. I spend my days doing pull-ups and pointing guns at a mirror, fantasizing about my imminent revenge.

“The law is so ambiguous the airlines don’t know what side to come down on. Everyone is afraid of the ramifications of not allowing someone equal access,” Haneline said.

Clearly the solution is more laws and more impenetrable bureaucracy.

Deb Davis, community outreach manager for Paws with a Cause of Wayland, outside Grand Rapids, said it's easy to spot the impostor service dogs: those carried in a purse, or those that growl, bark or act aggressively. In other words, the pretenders often lack good public manners, she said.

The phony Lassie can be recognized by its aggressive behavior, slobbering and taste for human flesh.

"We know there is fraud because our clients see it very frequently when they travel," said Davis, whose nonprofit annually places about 65 trained dogs with people who have a disability.

Well, they don't actually see it, of course. Me and my terrible word choice.

But it is such a vexing problem that not even a committee of experts appointed by the U.S. Department of Transportation earlier this year could agree to a solution. It voted in November to discontinue discussions because further talks seemed unlikely to reach a consensus.

Let's us begin the "total and complete surrender because it was hard" vote. All in favor?

At one point, some committee members favored recognizing as service animals only dogs and miniature horses, which are the only animals covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Sorry sir, your six-inch horse is covered. My mistake.


Like dogs, miniature horses can be trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities, according to the ADA. 

It's a real thing, it's not funny so stop laughing.

A DOT spokesperson said the department is now considering rewriting the rules for service and emotional support animals on its own, but a timetable has not been set.

I'll do it later, okay?

Among the service and emotional support animals prohibited by Delta Air Lines, the largest carrier at Detroit Metro Airport, are hedgehogs and farm poultry such as chickens or turkeys.

Sorry Sonic, you didn't make the cut.

Aaron Zehner is the author of "The Foolchild Invention" available in paperback and e-book format. Read free excerpts here and here.   

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