NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Maybe you’ve noticed an unusual flight companion before. From peacocks to miniature horses, airlines have seen it all.
Some say it’s nothing more than people getting their pets falsely certified as emotional support animals so the pets can tag along, but changes could be coming, reports CBS2’s Charlie Cooper.
For example, 6-year-old Lucian is a highly trained service dog that has transformed Duane Kilmer’s life in Kings Park, Long Island.
“I have a replacement in my knee, my back is fused, so getting to the ground and doing things waist-down is difficult for me,” he said.
The dog goes everywhere with Kilmer, especially on planes, which he says has changed over the years. Airlines too are saying the number of emotional support animals has recently grown dramatically.
“I think they’re definitely taking advantage of it in a way,” he said. “A dog that is fully trained and accredited is not going to be an annoyance or a nuisance in any way.”
The government allows all kinds of pets – including monkeys, turkeys and even pigs – to fly if the passenger has documentation from any licensed mental health professional, but all of that could soon change.
“I don’t think we need to bring all kinds of animals on an aircraft where there are people,” said Nick Laurino of Patchogue Village.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing a new rule which would only allow specially trained service dogs for a person with a disability in the cabin.
“A lot of species out there that are being utilized as emotional support animals aren’t fit for that type of work,” said Lauren Ferraioli of Canine Companions for Independence.
Ferraioli’s group provides trained dogs for people with disabilities. For safety reasons, the organization is all for the new proposal.
“When a dog is used for emotional support or a dog is not as well-trained, then they pose a threat to our dogs that are legitimate service dogs,” said Ferraioli.
The proposal is subject to public comment before it goes into effect.
Some airlines have already tightened their rules on their own – only guide dogs and dogs that help people with disabilities are allowed on British flights.