Earlier this month, an emotional support dog on a Delta flight in Atlanta bit a passenger's face.
An estimated 100,000 emotional support animals pack into planes every year in this country and, unlike service dogs, require no formal training. Some experts say that can pose a threat to passengers and the crew.
“They do not have to pass any tests, they do not have to behave in a certain way to become an emotional support animal,” said Abbe Moen, the head trainer at Elite K911 Training in North Ridgeville. “There’s a lot of risks involved, not just to the person with the dog, but obviously, passengers, crew members,” said Moen.
Moen thinks the system needs to be changed.
“It’s not that there shouldn’t be emotional support animals in my opinion, I think it’s a great idea and concept but there does need to be some requirements,” she said.
Emotional support animals are not to be confused with service dogs. Service dogs are specially designated, perform a special task for the handler, and require years of training.
Emotional support animals are with their handlers because a doctor wants them to be a comfort for the person. They typically help people with anxiety or stress and require no formal training.
Emotional support animals are also different from therapy dogs. A therapy dog is a part of a nationwide volunteer program and is certified through a special organization. Therapy dogs have handlers who are different from the people they aim to help.