If Pigs Had Wings
The Sunday New York Times has a story on people invoking the service animal protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act to bring animals that provide them with emotional support on airplanes and in to restaurants and other normally human-only settings.
In 2003 the Department of Transportation issued an administrative opinion that animals used to aid people with emotional ailments like depression or anxiety should be given the same access and privileges as animals helping people with physical disabilities like blindness or deafness.
Unsure of just what the law requires and fearful of being sued, airlines, presented with a letter from a medical professional attesting to an animal’s function, have made available cabin space for emotionally supportive goats, ducks, monkeys and miniature horses–in addition to more pedestrian cats and dogs. The gist of the Times article is that, on the one hand, lots of people seem to really need their animals around them at all times. On the other hand, an emotional supportive duck seems a long way from a seeing eye dog.
Then, of course, there are the other airline passengers or restaurant diners.
Some years ago, US Air allowed a woman and her daughter who invoked the ADA to bring into first class their 250 pound potbelly pig. When they made the reservation they apparently said they had a 13 pound “service animal.” For whatever reason US Air personnel at the airport decided they had to accommodate the beast.
The flying pig, seated between seats 1A and 1C, stayed quiet for most of the Seattle to Philadelphia flight, presumably providing silently its emotional support. But when the plane landed, the pig ran up the aisle, tried to enter the cockpit and then sat stubbornly in the galley until lured out with food.
No word on whether post-9/11 air marshals have training in handling disurptive farm animals aboard.