Saturday, February 27, 2016

Can I Bring my Ostrich?

RHYS: I'm about to set off for some book tour events for my upcoming Molly book, TIME OF FOG AND FIRE. And as I think about airports and security and the whole ordeal of flying I remember the last time I stood in a security line. As I stood there I felt someone nudging my bottom. Not once, but repeatedly. I turned around ready to slap a face, and found a large black dog had been nosing me.  And I mean a LARGE black dog, whose nose was level with my rear end. He was apparently being taken onto the flight as a therapy/emotional support/comfort animal. No jacket identifying him as such. Can you imagine what it would be like if you were in the next seat? He'd take up all your foot room. He'd knock over your coffee every time he tried to stand up and move around. Not to mention slobbering over your black pants.

This whole matter of bringing comfort/therapy animals onto flights has morphed into a joke. It takes one on-line form and the payment of a fee to be certified in need of a therapy animal when you fly. No real doctor visit or assessment by a psychology professional. And now everyone is using as a way to travel with a pet without paying the fee. Not just dogs and cats, but pot-bellied pigs, birds. To me this has become a safety hazard as well as an overwhelming nuisance. For every passenger who is really in need of the comfort of a small dog sitting on her lap there are ten who just want to get away with it.

what about fellow passengers who are highly allergic to pet dander? Are they to have an asthma attack because a large dog, or (even worse) a cat is leaning against them? And what about the risk of biting a small child, a crazed pig blocking the center aisle in the event of an emergency?

I see this attempt to flaunt rules all the time now. The other day I was in a supermarket when I met a woman with a dog on a leash. I told her pets were not allowed in food stores. She glared at me. "This is my therapy animal," she snapped.

"What is your problem? What kind of therapy does he deliver?" (when he's not sniffing around the cold cases) I asked.

"I have low blood pressure," she said indignantly. "if I faint, he barks."

"If you faint in a supermarket, there's a good chance people will notice as they step over you," I pointed out.

"Mind your own business," she replied.

"If he's a therapy dog where is his jacket that designates him as such? Where is his certification?" I went on.

"Just go away!" she shouted and walked off.

I talked with the manager who told me that they really can't do anything about pets in stores now for fear of lawsuits.

 I feel sorry for those who genuinely need a therapy animal. they will feel the backlash from this misuse. what are your feelings? How would you react if a large dog was taking up your floorspace on a flight?


  1. Unfortunately, this seems to be quite the norm these days, people ignoring the rules in order to do whatever it is they want to do. It’s like the express lane in the supermarket where the checker never tells the customer with an overflowing cart that she cannot check out in the twelve items or less line because the customer might be offended or angry or [gasp] decide not to shop at that store again. What’s the point of having an express lane . . . or a rule about therapy animals . . . if those in charge ignore it? This “it’s all about me” attitude is truly despicable.

    Considering the shrinking amount of room on airplanes these days, it’s hard to imagine having to share the limited space with the large dog that may or may not be an actual therapy animal. I’m all for the legitimate therapy animals being right beside the folks who need them, but there certainly ought to be a way to stop those who insist on ignoring the rules. The floor space on the airplane needs to be reserved for the real therapy animals who are there for the people they help.

  2. I'm about to leave for the airport an I hope I don't encounter any "therapy" dogs - I once at next to a therapy chihuahua. Not a big deal just silly. And second that 'shrinking amount of space' on an airplane. I like to take off my shoes and on some planes (UNITED: I'm talking about yOU!) there isn't enough room to reach down and put them back on. Yes, bring your ostrich.

  3. Life is difficult enough already, without making it more so. Gaack, a pig as a seatmate?

    I'm convinced that our doubled population since the 70's is at least partially responsible. Our lives are so incredibly complicated now, aren't they? Compare how we live now to how we lived fifty years ago. All those "work-saving" devices, gadgets and vehicles to maintain and struggle with. It's no wonder people are so rude to one another. We're all in a perpetual state of anxiety.

  4. A certified therapy dog is one thing--trained as such and properly identified as such. In those cases, it's not up to a doctor and a form to certify the animal. To me, that's a problem. Who decides? The institution? (airline, store, library?) The community? The state medical board? Let's apply the rules consistently, please. A trained animal will not be sniffing your behind or nosing the cold cases at the supermarket.

    We use to allow dogs in our local library. A widower had a sweet little dog that his daughter had given him. He took the dog everywhere with him, including the library. She (the dog) didn't piddle, puke, or poop on the carpets; she didn't yip or run around. But, it soon got out of hand and not every dog was well-behaved, so the practice was stopped. Now the widower isn't seen at the library very often, he doesn't like to leave her at home or in the car.

  5. Rhys, I had no idea you could do this with just a signed piece of paper. Now I'm taking my 80 lb German Shepherd with me on all my flights! Just kidding, folks. But I have wondered at all the dogs I've seen lately in "no dog" places with no service vests.

    However,our cocker spaniel used to warn me when a severe vertigo atrack was eminent, and he would not leave my side until it passed. I wish I could have taken him everywhere. ..

  6. Rhys, I had no idea you could do this with just a signed piece of paper. Now I'm taking my 80 lb German Shepherd with me on all my flights! Just kidding, folks. But I have wondered at all the dogs I've seen lately in "no dog" places with no service vests.

    However,our cocker spaniel used to warn me when a severe vertigo atrack was eminent, and he would not leave my side until it passed. I wish I could have taken him everywhere. ..

  7. It was one thing when restaurants with outside seating allowed people to have their dogs join them. Now the dogs are everywhere--restaurants, grocery stores, doctor's offices,etc.

    I agree: what about people with allergies? Are one person's "rights" more important than another's?

    And a full size lab "under" the seat? I don't see that working. Where does the dog (or pig) go, in the aisle?

  8. Jeez. I would think that poor dog would be cramped unless its owner paid extra for the extra leg room seat. Maybe the airlines should have designated animal/owner sections? Like back in the bad old days when the smoking section was in the front so the smoke could be shared by everyone behind it.

  9. As a dog lover, I think the whole "my pet is my therapy animal" thing is not only inconsiderate of others who may have cynophobia or dander allergies, it's also deeply unfair to the animal. Trained service dogs - I include those who can detect blood sugar levels or warn of an upcoming epileptic seizure - are accustomed to moving in crowds, ignoring distractions, and obeying a wide range of voice commands before they are ever handed over to their eventual owner. I strongly doubt the dog owner who pays to have a piece of paper that reads Therapy Animal is the sort who also spends a great deal of time obedience training.

    Imagine a normal home companion, thrust into the role of "therapy dog" and then taken into the vast crowds of an airport. What if it becomes frightened? Is overwhelmed by too much attention? Even with clearly marked service vests, working dog handlers have to turn away misguided affection. What if it breaks away from its owner to chase some delectable smell? What if it meets another dog and starts barking loudly? None of its potential bad behavior is its fault, but that of its selfish owner.

    Just like parenthood, pet ownership entails a lot of responsibility. And the first step in both cases is thinking about what's best for the child or pet, not about what's most convenient and comfortable for you.

  10. There was a story on the local news here just this week. A child had boarded a plane and was very allergic to dogs, and started sneezing incessantly. The person with the dog refused to leave, so the flight crew made the boy and his dad leave instead. The rest of the passengers on the plane APPLAUDED as the family was removed from the plane. The local news coverage pointed out that none of those other passengers applauding probably knew the father was terminally ill and trying to make one last visit to his extended family in another state. I found the whole story just -- disturbing.

  11. Hi Susan, I'm with you that it is disturbing, but the larger question is was the pet a certified therapy animal. I haven't seen that reported, but I admit, I haven't really been following the story.

    One of my dogs was certified as a therapy dog, not for me, but he visited people in hospitals and hospices. He went through extensive training (there would have been no nose in the derriere allowed, Rhys, he would have washed out quickly if he was prone to that) and he had to wear his jacket when he was 'on duty.' I also had a ream of papers for him that proved he had his shots, etc., and stated what kind of therapy he provided and to whom. If those rules are still in place, it would be a simple matter for the airlines to confirm the status of the animal, and make the decision whether the dog was necessary or needed to travel as other dogs do. I know I couldn't have taken TR with me on a flight. Not as a therapy dog. Well, maybe I could have, but I would never have taken advantage of the certification.

  12. Please let me clear up a few things:
    1. A therapy dog is not covered under the ADA as a mobility assistance dogs.
    2. Mobility assistance dogs must be medically necessary.
    3. Assistance dogs are not required to be certified.
    4. Certified or not, assistance dogs must behave.
    5. Assistance dogs who do not behave may be required to leave the plane, bus, store, restaurant, etc.

  13. 6. Mobility assistance dogs' users or handlers are required to give advance notice that they will be on the flight. This way both people with medical needs can be served.
    7. Only so many dogs are allowed on a plane at one time.
    8. You may bring pet dogs on airplanes, so not all dogs you see will necessarily be service dogs. Like medical service dogs, pets must conform to certain requirements.

  14. Rhys, I agree with you that the dogs need a jacket to identify them as therapy dogs. I am on the fence about getting a hearing dog. Since I love to travel, I worry about not being able to bring a hearing dog with me.


  15. Reine,

    Thank you for pointing these facts to us. I did not know some things.