Animals of all kinds have been domesticated and welcomed by thousands of households as our beloved pets. Although these pets rely on us to walk and feed them, owners can rely on them for love and emotional support as well. This reliance could lead to a need to bring your pet everywhere with you, but should be they allowed everywhere?

Service animals can be a huge help to humans in many ways, as they are trained to assist their owners. For example, people with disabilities can be led and supported by a seeing eye dog, or some animals can provide therapy or support for people with mental health issues. These animals can be categorized as emotional support animals, or ESAs, and with the right credentials can be allowed to accompany their owners in many pet-banned places. 

In order to qualify a pet as an emotional support animal, the owner must justify their emotional need for the animal. According to the National Service Animal Registry, this owner must be deemed as an emotionally disabled person by a licensed health professional, such as a therapist or psychologist, and provide a prescription letter to prove it. More and more people are finding a need for an emotional support animal, with nearly 200,000 ESAs in the National Service Animal Registry, The New York Times reports. 

With this certification, owners can have these animals in apartments or buildings that normally wouldn’t allow them, bring them to work or bring them on airplanes without having to pay a pet fee. More and more people are showing up to airports expecting that their ESA will accompany them in the cabin for mental support. This sparks the question about whether these animals should be allowed everywhere, even on airplanes.

As a dog owner and lover myself, I know the effect that an animal can have on a person’s well-being. When away from my dog at college, I ask my parents to send me pictures of him to cheer me up. He makes me happy and I’d take him everywhere with me if I could. Speaking as a person who does not suffer from mental illness, I can’t imagine the help that a dog or another pet could have on someone’s mental health. Pets give you unconditional love and support that someone who has depression or anxiety needs, especially when put in potentially anxious situations such as flying on a plane. I think these animals should absolutely be allowed to board the plane with their owners, because if they don’t, nervous flyers could be prone to an anxiety attack or mental breakdown in the small confinement of a plane. 

That being said, ESAs should only be allowed on an airplane if the owner has a genuine mental health need for it. Recently, more and more people are trying to manipulate the system, and qualify their pets as an ESA to get them into apartments or on planes for free. Traveling on an airplane with a pet can get very pricey, and critics suggest that people are getting phony certificates from online therapists to avoid the cost, as reported by The New York Times. The New York Times also says that animals of all kinds are being considered ESAs, from reptiles to insects. Is there a line that should be drawn for what animals are safe to board a plane?

I would say that if the pet is a certified ESA and will behave safely and stay in the arms of their owner, they should have no trouble being allowed on an airplane. It is true that an ESA, especially untrained, could definitely create problems, such as causing an allergic reaction to another passenger, or if the animal feels threatened or scared, it could lash out and even attack someone. An untrained animal could also interfere with the operations of the airline employees, which could put everyone on the plane in danger. However, to prevent these issues, it should be more difficult to obtain an ESA certification, because of these possible dangers that could come with untrained or uncertified pets being allowed on airplanes. It might be okay to try and sneak your pets into an apartment with an ESA certification, but not on a plane, where people’s lives are at stake.

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