By Izzy Lacker | The Rose Cityian/Rose City Live
When I was in third grade, it became au courant to bring Luden’s cherry cough drops into school and eat them like candy. No one had a cough, and yet many kids found a loophole in the candy-in-class system and had bright red tongues, breath that smelled like fake cherries, and a sugar rush to show for it.
As Ma Ingalls (probably) used to say — give ’em an inch and they’ll take a mile.
And so it goes with the recent trend of people bringing emotional-support animals on airplanes. Sure, there are the headline-grabbing emotional support animal attempts — your squirrels and your peacocks — which aren’t actually allowed and are usually kicked off the plane.
But on a daily basis, people bring cats and dogs and mini horses on planes that aren’t trained or ready for the task of being a working animal.
The government is considering tighter rules regarding these animals, which would change how “emotional support animal” is defined and put an end to the menagerie on a plane problem. It’s high time. There is an actual danger to such vague definitions of what constitutes an emotional support animal.
In 2017, a 5-year-old girl was mauled by an emotional support pit bull at Rose City International Airport. The girl’s mother sued the Port of Rose City for $1.1 million related to the incident last year.
This is the problem with no real rules defining emotional support animals. There are certainly people who need them — the cough drop craze must have started with a real cough. But some people abuse the system. Who does this hurt the most, beyond mauled little kids? People who actually need emotional support animals, who aren’t taken seriously when they need to bring a trained animal on board.
The proposed rules would eliminate cats and miniature horses as support animals and define a service animal as “a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.”
(Cats would not be completely kicked off planes, however, because carry-on pets that fit under a seat would still be allowed.)
This would mean people who actually need the animals, who have documentation that their animals are trained and healthy, would still be able to use them. And it would mean the people who just want to bring their pet squirrel along for the ride would have to leave their pet squirrel at home.
Look, I get it. Air travel can be terrifying, and many people suffer real anxiety about flying that may be helped by a tiny horse or a giant bird. But airplanes are group spaces, and it is only fair to have some rules about what kind of animals can board a flight for the safety and comfort of everyone.
I am sure I will get an email about the serious mental health condition someone has that requires them to bring an unleashed, untrained pit bull on a flight and how insensitive I am being to that specific person. But what about people on the flight who are terrified of pit bulls? Or the people who are allergic to dog hair? Or the flight attendant who has to clean up after the pit bulls?
Part of living in society is making compromises. None of us are more important than all of us.
People with a real cough can bring in cough drops, but you have to show you have a cough so the whole class isn’t dosed on sugar, running wild. People with a real need can bring an animal, but you have to show you have a need, so the whole plane isn’t filled with crazed animals, pooping and biting and running wild like a class of third graders high on cough drops.
— Izzy Lacker