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Airlines Deny Cats as Emotional Support Animals

Stress, anxiety, depression, bi-polar disorder and ADHD to name just a few conditions where Emotional Support Animals (ESA) have been known to help. With the enormous pressures and unique challenges facing citizens today, it's not surprising that ESA have become more commonplace, a resource where love, support, and affection are always at the ready.

I've placed many Sphynx cats with individuals that have benefited from having an ESA. These folks come to me sometimes before, sometimes after their counselor or therapist discusses the benefits of having an ESA. Seeing people respond to having as ESA, seeing them able to face situations that may have been challenging or impossible before, is rewarding in a way that words cannot describe.

A situation that can evoke stress is travel. Many of my clients have stated that holding a Sphynx in their lap, tucked in their jacket or skin to skin on their chest has comforted them, alleviating their anxiety and worries. Because Sphynx are so affectionate and quiet, their existence can go unnoticed by fellow passengers.

Unfortunately, as EMA became more commonplace, some people took the advantage, and took animals that were less than quiet, were invasive, some even taking up more space than allotted amount. Some of these animals weren't even ESA, receiving fake harnesses and patches online. I'd seen reports of ostriches, miniature horses, ducks, turkeys and even a pig. When people chose ESA that were intrusive both spaciously and sensory, airlines changed policies that directly affected my clients and others that rely on cats and dogs to provide critical emotional support. Airlines no longer allow anything but trained service dogs. Sphynx don't bark, growl, drool, pant or shed, and yet they are lumped in with farm animals and devalued as the ESA that they are. Even more upsetting, no ESA are accepted on airlines. I believe it is 100% revenue driven.

There are cats that have been trained as service animals. There are seizure alert, cardiac alert, medication reminder felines. Sphynx have been trained as they are extremely intelligent. Airlines refuse to acknowledge cats as service animals.

I've discussed my concerns directly with the airlines, especially for people that rely on ESA to function daily. To travel with a cat or dog ESA, they must be kept in a carrier, tucked under the seat in front of the passenger. There are now fees ranging from $95 - $150 per way, and the carrier is considered a carry-on. When most airlines allow one carry-on and a small item, the only option is to check luggage. When an ESA is tucked away in a carrier, their ability to provide the emotional support is greatly hampered.

What are your thoughts on ESA and the new airlines policies? Is this something you believe can reinstated with the airlines? If yes, how do you think this can be accomplished?

This is a photo of one of the many people whom abused the opportunity of having an Emotional Service Animal onboard.

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