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 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!


Leave a Reply

11 Comment threads
6 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
14 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

no service animals!


So, no disabled individuals get to fly? Nice…


No service animals.

Robert G Pope

Emotional support animals should be small and trained as such. Large dogs, jumping around in the cabin are not trained ESAs and should not be allowed. This emotional support animal concept has gotten out of hand with some passengers bringing aboard animals that are plainly not ESAs. Airlines should establish policies defining what they will accept as ESAs, and stick to it.


Only working dogs for blind people should be accepted.

Peter R

This is the official policy of every major airline in Australia.


Agreed. It’s the same policy at many hotels. This whole ESA fad has gotten completely out of control.

John D.

Having been in this position before at a business I worked at, I know what a difficult situation the airline employees are in. There are times you know that the so-called emotional support animal does not meet the definitions, but as an employee you have to worry that if you do anything you will get the company sued and lose your job. On the other hand when you consider that 1 in 4 people suffer from some type of mental illness, there is a lot of people out there that do need animal. I also think about people like my… Read more »


The challenge is really that the failure to require certification and impose standards has led people to use the phrase “emotional support animal” (ESAs) as a crutch to avoid limits on pets on board and that’s a HUGE problem. These self-important folks who are cheating are putting real people with real challenges in jeopardy of losing their right to use a tool (and that’s what service animals are…tools) because they think they’re too important/clever/sneaky to have to follow any rules. I think there should be a single national (international?) standard on ESAs that requires a diagnosis, annual status review, and… Read more »


There is no medical consensus on ESAs. No consensus means no standard. If countries, states, insurance companies, etc. want to cover them, they should foot the airlines’ charge for bringing pets onboard, not provide lax, easy-to-abuse standards for an unproven therapy. It was feel-good legislation that helped drum up votes, costs the government and insurance companies nothing, and is a source of frustration for countless airline passengers.

Mike w

If you’re that fragile that you need a. Animal you shouldn’t be flying in the first place. The larger animals are going to cause more problems if there was an actually emergency. Everybody has this feel sorry for me mentality to get free flights for pets. 10 years ago we never saw any pets on flights that weren’t in a small carrier.


All should be excepted. I don’t want my dog going in the cargo hold


Then leave your dog at home.


No animals in passenger cabins!!!!!!

Andrea Solomon

I have had MS for 41years, and it goes up and down, at will, in difficulty. I can require a cane or wheelchair one day, and two days later I can almost manage myself except for my balance issues. This is where my little emotional support dog comes in very handy. He walks very well with me and gives me support and balance while walking. He is also very focused on me so that I feel very supported and calm. He almost can sense when I am having more difficulty moving and walking. I would be very disappointed if he… Read more »


I am disabled and have an Emotional Support Animal (35 lbs dog whom is well trained). There needs to be better regulations and enforcement for Support Animals, but banning them completely from flying is too much. My Support Animal allows me to live a more “normal” life, and I need her to function. Also, my Support Animal helps me to be able to tolerate flying (which I need to do). I cannot afford to have my dog service dog trained, and I don’t want to abuse the system for those who really need it, so having my dog classified as… Read more »

Donna anderson

Support animals are vitally important to those who use them. Those with allergies to anything in the environment need be prepared to deal with their situation. I am allergic if there are more than 4 animals releasing dander but i know this and am prepared should I need something. The mental health issues in USA are HUGE, these people need support.