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What is An Emotional Support Animal?

Cats, dogs, birds and a snake. Dr. April Brown, has certified all of those critters to become emotional support animals, but the Fort Myers Counselor says she’s never certified a peacock.

Cats, dogs, birds and a snake.

Dr. April Brown, has certified all of those critters to become emotional support animals for her patients, but the Fort Myers Counselor says she’s never certified a peacock.

Last week, a woman was told she could not bring her pet peacock with her onto a United Airlines flight at Newark International Airport. While animals can get certified by a mental health professional to become an emotional support animal, some people think a peacock is just a little out of the ordinary.

According to an article in the Washington Post , the peacock, who is named Dexter, “Did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size.”

In a Jan. 30 statement to The Washington Post, an airline spokeswoman added, “We explained this to the customer on three separate occasions before they arrived at the airport.”

Dr. Brown says a service animal has been trained to help someone with a specific disability. An emotional support animal gives emotional support to someone who may have a mental illness.

“That person is more de-stressed, calmer, maybe they can sleep better, they can focus better when they have that (emotional support) animal beside them,” she said. “For each animal, it’s that connection the owner has with the animal…maybe that emotional support of the animal lessens her anxiety so she can be around other people, so she can feel comfort.”

If you want to bring your emotional support animal onto a plane, Dr. Brown says you’ll need to have a specific diagnosis and a formal letter from a mental health professional or a doctor in the mental health field that says you need that animal for emotional support to help with your mental health issues.

A United spokesman told USA Today about 76,000 comfort animals flew on planes last year, compared to 43,000 in 2016.

United also recently announced that beginning March 1, the airline would change its policies for emotional support animals, a shift the Washington Post says it had been considering since late 2017.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA says it is on board with the policy change.

“The airline’s increased requirements for emotional-support animals will reduce fraud and protect the legitimate need of animal assistance for passengers with disabilities and veterans,” Sara Nelson, the group’s international president, said in a statement. “This is about maintaining safety, health and security for passengers and crew, while ensuring accessibility for those who need it.”

What do you think? Have you ever tried to get your pet certified as an emotional support animal? Have you ever had trouble flying with them? Let us know!

You can also keep track of Dexter’s other adventures on his Instagram account.

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