Minia­ture horses now board­ing

Ottawa Sun - - CLASSIFIED -

Minia­ture horses, mon­keys and pigs can legally fly as emo­tional sup­port an­i­mals on at least one Cana­dian air­line, but an ad­vo­cate for trav­ellers says the vast ma­jor­ity of jet­set­ting com­fort an­i­mals are far less ex­otic and are a truly nec­es­sary ac­com­mo­da­tion for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

Un­usual an­i­mal en­coun­ters at the air­port have been mak­ing head­lines in re­cent weeks.

United Air­lines turned away a pas­sen­ger who tried to board a flight with an emo­tional sup­port pea­cock last month, and a Florida woman claimed last week that an air­line em­ployee told her to flush her dwarf ham­ster down a toi­let af­ter re­fus­ing to let the pet on the plane.

Pas­sen­ger rights ac­tivist Ga­bor Lukacs, who has waged nu­mer­ous le­gal bat­tles against Cana­dian air­lines, said the at­ten­tion paid to these sen­sa­tional cases un­der­mines the rights of peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties who need emo­tional sup­port an­i­mals to fly com­fort­ably.

‘Move away’

“We need to move away the fo­cus from the an­i­mal to the fel­low pas­sen­ger,” said Lukacs. “The an­i­mal is not there as a kind of lux­ury, they are sim­ply there to make sure that a per­son with a dis­abil­ity is able to en­joy the same way to travel as peo­ple who don’t have dis­abil­i­ties.”

Air Canada and WestJet both have poli­cies on their web­sites re­gard­ing emo­tional sup­port an­i­mals and re­quire that a pas­sen­ger pro­vide doc­u­men­ta­tion from a li­censed men­tal health pro­fes­sional cer­ti­fy­ing the need for the an­i­mal.

Air Canada only al­lows emo­tional sup­port dogs on their flights.

WestJet ac­cepts a much broader range of emo­tional sup­port an­i­mals in­clud­ing cats, minia­ture horses, pigs and mon­keys, and said de­ci­sions about other “un­usual an­i­mals” are made on a case-by-case ba­sis, ex­cept for those that pose health risks, such as ro­dents and rep­tiles.

Nei­ther air­line agreed to be in­ter­viewed about their poli­cies.

A ser­vice dog strolls through the aisle of a United Air­lines plane at Ne­wark Lib­erty In­ter­na­tional Air­port in April.

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