NBC’s Today Show aired a segment about how airline passengers are abusing the emotional service animal designation in order to avoid paying airfare for their pets. From the story:
There are legitimate cases of people who need an emotional support animal in the air. But experts say that far too often, people are abusing the system to save a buck and get their pets onto flights for free.
“You get on an aircraft and the cabin looks like a barnyard,” said Hollis Gillespie, a former flight attendant. She said she’s seen snakes, birds and pigs. “Often it’s about the money, because one way to travel with a pet on some airlines can be up to $600, depending on the size of the animal.”
But if a pet is designated an emotional support animal, “it gets to come with you for free,” Gillespie pointed out. All you need is an emotional support vest on the animal and an official letter from a mental health professional.
And plenty of websites offer emotional support animal certifications; all you have to do is fill out a questionnaire.