On January 28, a woman was not allowed to board a United Airlines flight from Newark to Los Angeles with her emotional support animal, a Peacock named Derek. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. (No one has attempted to board with a camel yet, but who knows?) According to an article in USA Today, the number of comfort animals flying on United jumped from 43,000 in 2016 to 76,000 last year, prompting an avalanche of complaints from passengers. United and other airlines will now require additional documentation for customers traveling with an emotional support animal or a psychiatric service animal. In addition to providing a letter from a licensed medical/mental health professional, customers will need to provide a veterinary health form documenting the health and vaccination records for the animal as well as confirming that the animal has been trained to behave properly in a public setting. (There have been reports of passengers being bitten by so-called emotional support animals.)
What’s getting lost in all this is that many people who need service and emotional support animals, primarily our veterans, are running into discrimination. Shannon Walker heads up Northwest Battle Buddies, a nonprofit that provides free service dogs for veterans with PTSD. These dogs are professionally trained and gifted to combat veterans at no charge. Shannon talks with Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti about Northwest Battle Buddies, the differences between actual service dogs, and what needs to be done to clear up the public’s confusion. Click to listen.
Shannon Walker’s photo courtesy of Northwest Battle Buddies.