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"Service Animals"

The Wall Street Journal ran a story last week on the expanding definition of "service animals" being allowed on-board airplanes:

Air travel can be a messy business, especially if you are flying with a horse. Take the following excerpt from an American Airlines passenger record last week:

"PAX WAS TRAVELING WITH A MINIATURE SERVICE HORSE IN SEAT 3A. HORSE HAD A BOWEL MOVEMENT ON THE CARPET OF THE BULKHEAD. CABIN SVC HAD TO DO EXCESSIVE CLEANING IN ORDER FOR AIRCRAFT TO LEAVE FOR THE NEXT FLIGHT. STRONG ODOR ALSO HAD TO BE AIRED OUT.…ORD CSM JP INCUSCI"

The article went on to note that after some research, American decided the problem wasn't as bad as the maintenance crew had made it out to be, and so allowed the miniature service horse on a return flight. The more important issue than the one incident is the trend:

Under U.S. Federal Aviation Administration rules, service animals may travel in the cabin with the passenger, and airlines accommodate all sorts of creatures. Since even miniature horses standing at just over 2 feet tall and weighing 70 pounds don't fit in the main cabin, they have to fly first-class...

Just recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation clarified rules that had been applied mostly to dogs so as to include "service animals," saying airlines could be forced to accommodate all manner of beasts if mental-health professionals declare that they are necessary for relieving stress and flying anxiety. If a monkey is necessary to help a passenger get through a flight, the DOT said, then the monkey can come along.

"Animals that assist persons with disabilities by providing emotional support qualify as service animals," the DOT said, noting that "service animals also perform a much wider variety of functions than ever before."

I understand the viewpoint of advocates for service animals. Some people rely on these animals for basic needs, and to deny them boarding privileges on an airplane would be wrong. But this argument poses a danger for the disabled themselves.

Over the past few decades, the US has become accustomed to the view that service dogs should be allowed anywhere people go -- airplanes, restaurants, stores, you name it. The vast majority of service dogs have been for the blind, who would be severely incapacitated without them, and dogs, through millennia of selective breeding, are completely domesticated animals that can be trained to behave appropriately in any setting. Speaking personally, when I see a service dog in a restaurant, not only do I not feel resentful in any way, I'm glad to see a disabled person able to move more freely (and, I have to admit, feel a little swell of pride for the faithful dog doing such a good job).

Now imagine that the definition of service animals does indeed expand to include miniature horses for the blind, or pot-bellied pigs for the nervous (as mentioned elsewhere in the Journal article). Will people feel the same way about such animals? Monkeys and pigs aren't domesticated creatures and can't be expected to behave to the same standards as dogs. What happens when such animals misbehave? My worry is that the backlash will reach beyond exotic "service animals" and all the way back to service dogs themselves.

Meanwhile, should I develop a fear of flying, I know that I can train a masked palm civet to help me overcome my nervousness and take it with me on all my trips.

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Comments

Actually pigs are more intelligent and are easier to train than dogs. They are easily housebroken.Monkeys I would see as a big problem on flights. As for horses some requirement must be made that they wear a bag to catch their droppings because that's just GROSS!

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