Should Airlines Crack Down On Fake Support Animals?

Airlines and passengers alike are struggling with what to do when it comes to emotional support animals. Some animals really do seem to be service animals while others act a little more as pets. And an easy way to fly a pet is to have them registered as an emotional support animal. But, should airlines honor these?

Should Airlines Crack Down On Fake Support Animals?
Should airlines honor fake emotional support animals? Photo: Guilherme Frisoni via Pexels

The case for allowing emotional support animals onboard

An emotional support animal really does work for some people. In most cases, those who have a fear of flying, a stress-related disorder, or in other cases severe medical complications use emotional support animals in their day-to-day life. However, when it comes to travel, it becomes less clear about what to do with some of these animals.

Emotional support dog
Emotional support dogs can help people, such as veterans, who are suffering from various disorders. Photo: Wright Patterson Air Force Base/United States Air Force

In this case, it makes sense that airlines would allow passengers to travel with their service animals as a way to make the travel experience less stressful and more enjoyable. Furthermore, the passenger is likely to also need their service dog at their destination and while navigating inflight.

Other support animals

While many passengers may be fine with a small dog or a cat that does not take up much space and cause any trouble, there are some other instances in which an animal does end up causing a bit of chaos.

A recent issue over a Delta One flight that had two large emotional support dogs caused some questioning. For one, these dogs seemed to be climbing over the seats during meal service. This is not proper service or emotional support animal behavior. Which then brings us to the other hand.

The case against emotional support animals onboard

Flying can be stressful for far more than just a person who needs an emotional support dog. Being stuck in a giant metal tube (regardless of cabin class) for a long-haul flight with an animal that causes some unsettling allergy symptoms is not at all pleasant.

Emotional support animal
While Fido may be cute and cuddly, he could also cause some runny noses and sneezing. Photo: Axel Breuer via Pexels

Furthermore, as in the Delta One case above, it can be a bit disturbing to have a giant animal drooling over someone’s food or wandering about the cabin or even interacting with another passenger in an unfriendly manner. Not to mention, in case of emergency (or even just normal flight!), it is hardly likely that a non-trained service animal would be calm and collected and be of any assistance rather than a nuisance.


There are arguments on both sides of this case on whether or not emotional support animals should be allowed on board a commercial aircraft. Ultimately, each airline has its own policy and it does not appear that this debate will be resolved any time soon.

What should airlines do about fake emotional support animals? Should airlines even allow service animals? Let us know in the comments!