Airlines Have Double Standards for Canines? – GUGP- Part - 2

Posted September 11, 2020 by growingupguidepup

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The last flight I took with Penny back in the beginning of October, we encountered a slight issue. We traveled on an airline that we have used several times in the past with four different puppies without any issues. We checked in and boarded our first flight out of Minneapolis without any issues other than our plane was delayed. No questions asked about her, or “paperwork” for her. Penny was a super good girl and waited in the terminal very patiently. We boarded the flight during the pre-board time so we could get her all settled in. She slept almost the whole flight to Denver where we had a plane change. Because our flight was delayed we basically had enough time to get off the first plane and walk to to gate to the next one where they were already boarding, so no chance to pre-board.
We get in line and the agent at the desk calls out to us and asks if we are on the flight. Why yes, of course we are. She then asked to see our tickets because she has nothing in her paperwork that a dog was scheduled on that flight. We were pulled out of line (in front of everyone) and questioned about how we booked our flight, where our “paperwork” for Penny was, and why didn’t we have clearance from the airline’s “medical” department. When we stated that we had already been on one flight that day with the airline the agent was quick to say that whoever checked us in at the Minneapolis airport messed up.
Long story short, it took over 20 minutes of this agent telling us that we needed paperwork and were supposed to get pre cleared through their “medical” department for Penny to fly with us. She said that it stated very clearly on their website that these were the necessary steps when you fly with a service dog. I admit I was not fully honest with them in letting them know that Penny was still in training, But they didn’t ask either. They never asked what she was trained for or if she was a service dog or an emotional support dog. I was terrified that they were only going to allow her to fly in cargo and if that was the case we were going to have to rent a car and do a two-day drive home from Denver, I will not put one of my puppies in cargo, so I did leave that detail out.
At one point, another agent expressed concern that the flight might not leave on time because of the situation and the agent in charge said, “Don’t worry, we can put them on the next flight.” Well that isn’t fair, we hadn’t done anything different booking this trip than I had in the past with previous puppies. The last thing I wanted to do was sit in an airport longer than I had to with a young puppy just trying to get home. We talked with a supervisor and then on the phone with this so called “medical” department and we were finally allowed to board the fight.
When we got home, I went to the airline’s website and nothing that the agent claimed was written as policy was there. And what was Penny doing throughout this stressful ordeal? Laying quietly at my feet being a model example of how a service dog should behave. Not a single sound out of her, not a single tug on her leash, barely a change in her position the entire time. On top of that when we went to our seats two other people had decided to sit there because the seats were next to each other and their assigned seats were not. We had to walk down the aisle past our seats and wait with Penny in the aisle as they shifted seats. Penny was then forced to walk backwards to our seats because there was not enough room in the aisle for her to turn around. She did so without a problem or fuss. She backed up down the aisle, into our seats and laid right down. I heard a few passengers behind us talking about what an amazing dog she was. We had never trained for this specific scenario, but because we had been working with her in stores with shopping carts and tight spaces and restaurants learning how to settle under tables she was able to adapt in this less than ideal situation. But she is the dog that was almost denied boarding a plane.
Now most puppy raisers are raising for specific organizations, and those organizations have their own policies about whether or not they will allow their puppies travel by plane. As an example, when I was raising for Guide Dogs for the Blind, I had to submit a travel request form before we went anywhere out of our home area with a puppy. We had to get that approved by our group leaders first and then approved by our community field representative. People above me had to make the final decision on whether or not the puppy in question was ready to travel, and airline travel required even more thought before approval. They keep very close tabs on the progress of their puppies.
We flew with Ricki on a very short flight to southern California when we were raising her and because she had a little bit of anxiety on the flight there and back, nothing major just a little panting, shaking and unsettled behavior, but enough that we were not allowed to fly her on our following trip to Las Vegas. We drove instead. Now not every organization is as stringent as this, but many organizations will not allow one of their puppies to be put into a situation like airline travel if they are not ready to do so. This is another factor in why I don’t understand why it is so hard to fly with a puppy in training when it is so easy with an ESA. There are safe guards in place for many puppies in training, but the airlines are not aware of these either.
Every time we have traveled with a puppy, the airline crew was always so happy to see a well-behaved dog on their flight, like it is a refreshing change. They must be used to stressed out, out of control ESAs. I would be willing to bet that the chances of a puppy/dog in training being better behaved or better prepared to fly than most ESAs on flights is almost a guarantee, but it is the puppy raiser traveling with a puppy or dog in training that has a higher chance of not being allowed to fly. No one ever talks about this. This is something that I think really needs to change. I’m not saying that ESAs should be banned from flying either. I’m sure many people do benefit from them, and that many dogs do behave appropriately on planes. But to allow any dog with just a note from a doctor is not enough. There really should be some sort of regulation put into place to protect these animals and the people that encounter them. Proof of canine good citizenship at the bare minimum, but more would be better. Each time I travel with a puppy, on a plane or not, it has always made a big impact on that puppy. They grow so much on these trips and travel is very valuable in their training process. I’m sure that is helps them to become better service dogs.
Not every puppy will be ready to travel by plane while it is with a raiser. Many puppies we have raised I would never have put on a plane. There is no way that it would have been in the puppy’s best interest. I will also be the first to admit that traveling on a plane with a puppy can be very stressful for me, but my puppy’s needs always come first. I pick flight times that I think will work best for my puppy. I will plan for layovers if I think that flight length will be took long without a potty break for my puppy. I will pay extra for more foot room some my puppy will be more comfortable. It is usually not a relaxing flight for me because I am always watching and ready to reposition my puppy if needed or respond to anything my puppy may need to keep them stress free and comfortable for the flight. During Penny’s first experience flying I spent a good portion of the flight moving her feet out of the aisle and keeping her from touching the person next to us. She didn’t mind that I kept repositioning her, but I wasn’t able to relax at all during the flight. I need for my puppies to have a good experience or it may leave a lasting bad impression for the puppy and possibly anyone else on that plane.
I do everything I can to prepare my puppies for flight. We practice lying quietly under seats for long periods of time. We take trips on crowded loud mass transit. I take them to the busiest shopping centers I can find. Anything that I can do to simulate going through an airport and sitting on a plane. The more I can get them used to these things the better.
Do all people who travel with ESAs think about these things or just that they want the beloved animal along and/or think the trip will be too hard to do without them? Is there anyone coaching ESA travelers on how to make the trip easier on their pet? I don’t think people really think about all of this when they decide to travel with an animal. I know that when I have been prepping and making plans to travel with my puppies by plane my coworkers often make comments of “I never thought of that” when I talk to them about the prep work I do to make the trip a successful one for all involved (that includes the flight crew, other passengers, the puppy and myself and anyone in my traveling party).
So who is advocating for the puppy raisers or trainers trying to travel while training with their puppy or dog? Service dog users have the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) to fall back on when in public, and the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act) protects service dog teams and ESAs in the air. But puppy raisers don’t have anything in place, and neither do owner trainers. The foundation these raisers instill into these puppies is the reason why so many dogs make it through the training process to become fully functioning service dogs. Without all the hard work puppy raisers do and all the situations they expose and work these puppies through, there would be a lot fewer service dogs. But for some reason, the airlines don’t recognize this. The airlines can really help in the training process and the benefits that these puppies can receive by allowing them the access.
Some of the larger service dog organizations do have certain agreements with specific airlines for their program puppies. SouthWest Airlines allows Canine Companions for Independence puppies on their flights with permission and proper paperwork from the organizations. But what about the smaller, lesser known organizations or owners who train their own dogs? They may not have the resources to make these same arrangements. Does that mean that the raisers in these situations can’t have the same opportunities for their puppies? Or that the dogs they place are not as entitled or important as the larger organizations? How about the number of raisers who don’t live close to an organization where the formal training happens? There are a number of organizations that allow their raisers to live anywhere in the U.S. as long as those raisers will be willing to transport the puppies to and from the organization when needed. Think how much those organizations and people with disabilities would benefit if transporting puppies on flights were allowed. It would be a win-win for everyone. The organizations who depend on these arrangements would get more raisers, potentially, and therefore be able to produce and place more service dogs with people who need them, and the puppies would get valuable training in the process. I can guarantee that the people who receive these dogs from even the smallest organization or who owner-train think that their dog is just as important and should have had the same opportunities as a puppy or dog from a large organization.
So I ask you the public, service dog users, puppy raisers, or just someone who uses airline transportation: Who would you rather sit next to on a plane? Or better yet, airline executives! Maybe you should ask your flight crew about who and what they would rather have to deal with at work before you write and implement a policy. A person with a puppy who is being raised and trained to behave appropriately and to be comfortable with air travel—or someone with a pet dog or, in some cases, a turkey, iguana, monkey, parrot, or anything else, that is traveling with that animal either because they need it for their own mental health or faking it to avoid the extra fees involved or the requirement to put their dog or other animal in cargo for transport. A pet that may or may not have been conditioned or mentally able to handle the stress of being on an airplane. Maybe it is time to speak up not only about the dogs who should not be on planes, but the ones who really should.
For more details on our products and services, please feel free to visit us at: service dog in training, sdit, service dog in training acronym, service dog, service dog law.
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Issued By growingupguidepup
Country United States
Categories Business
Last Updated September 11, 2020