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limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

steverham
New Arrival

Hello All

 

Looking to understand what the SW policies are regarding limits to these animals (which seem to be in profusion and multiplying).  Although I know this policy is rooted in ADA law and well intended, most here would surely agree it's being abused.  The SW site shows no documentation needed, nor any restrictions.  https://www.southwest.com/html/customer-service/unique-travel-needs/index-pol.html#animals

 

For the record, I'm an animal lover and am not fearful of dogs.  However.... can someone tell me the what & why of these questions:

 

1) are there any size restrictions, other than fitting at passengers feet or in a (apparently reimbursed by SW) seat? Should a 100 lb dog be allowed? 120? 150?! 

2) are there any breed restrictions?  Aggressive breeds as commonly identified? 

3) How would FA's or passengers safely intercede if there was a dog fight?

4) What rights do passengers have to not want to travel next to an objectionable service animal? Sure reseating....but never a nice option. I personally would not enjoy sitting next to a dog who lays against me, is slobbery, etc.  

5) What can SW (legally) do to limit the amount of passengers who are seizing this loophole to allow them to avoid the $75 fee for pet transit? Anyone can order a service vest....

 

Thanks!

34 REPLIES 34

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

TheMiddleSeat
Rising Star

While I understand your frustration with some apparent abuse of ESA policies there is a policy stating documentation is required. That policy is here: https://www.southwest.com/assets/pdfs/customer_service/emotional_animal_travel_instructions.pdf

 

In a previous thread a SW moderator commented on the size issue:

If your ESA is too large to fit under the seat, we can accommodate you in the bulkhead (front row of the cabin) where the animal will have enough room. Also, you have the option of purchasing an extra seat to ensure enough room for you and your ESA, and we'll refund the seat after you've completed travel. 

 

Regarding your other questions, open seating ensures no one is forced to sit next to an animal (unless perhaps you or they are the very last to board) and frankly I'm much more worried about another person leaning on me, slobbering on me, or causing a fight. All your questions could be asked about people instead of pets and they're much more realistic, more likely to occur, and more likely to be a problem, yet somehow we all manage to fly just fine (most of the time). 

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

BW3428
New Arrival

Therapy or comfort animals to provide emotional support have become a scam used to avoid paying the regular cost of shipping a pet. Legitimate service dogs assisting passengers with recognized physical disabilities are one thing. But that's not what I see on Southwest. What I see most frequently are apparently healthy well adjusted young adults who open about how they are scamming the system.  Now you can go online, answer a few questions, pay $100 and presto a "health professional" (usually a quack psychologist) who has never seen the applicant will send out a certificate and a therapy dog vest.  The Southwest flight attendants are very open in discussing the therapy dog scam but they say there is nothing they can do. Southwest should require an affidavit from a medical doctor who actually seen the patient...not just reviewed the applicant's answers to some online questions.  This scam will just keep growing until Southwest acts.

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

mlolson
New Arrival

Hi! 

After reading your article, I want to inform you that people do have invisible disabilities and may actually need a service dog. I personally have a service dog for three rare illnesses that are quite debilitating-but on the outside look like a perfectly fine 18 year old. 

Yes, there are scammers who go buy a vest to take their dog where ever they would like and fly for free and it is very sad for the real service dog teams- but please remeber that there are invisable illnesses. 

 

A great way to see if it is a real service dog team is based on behavior- if the dog is laying down and very well behaved and the owner knows their rights it is probably a real team. 

If the dog is out of control it proabably is not a real team, and an employee has every right to tell them they cannot board due to it being out of control Smiley Happy 

 

Quick reminder that faking a service animal is ILLEGAL and registring your dog from one of the scam sites online DOES NOT make your dog a service animal- you actually have to have a disability! 

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

Kate564
New Arrival

Yes some are scamming the system, but many of us are not I have a perscription from my doctor explaining my diagnosis and just you can’t physically see something it does not mean it is the real.  I have taken my little furry babies with me on planes to keep me calm so you don’t see any issues.  Because of the new policy of only 1 ESA instead of upto 2 ESA in a carrier I will have to pay the $100 fee which is not fair to me.  There should be no charge for pets in carriers under the seat in front of you they already count as my carry on which other passangers have to pay for their carryon on SW

 

VERY DISAPPOINTED IN THE CHANGE FROM 2 to 1

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

CCINMD
New Arrival

I have recently flown from LAX to BWI with passengers who had 3 dogs aboard & they were not in enclosures. SWA please insist on viewing the paperwork on these alledged comfort animals. Who wants to fly 5 hours with animals that are scratching around babies & the elderly...plus it also affects those of us with allergies. Just because other airlines allow this is not the answer. Set the standard & create your own flights for folks with pets & put the comfort of people first. See something. .say something...


@BW3428 wrote:

Therapy or comfort animals to provide emotional support have become a scam used to avoid paying the regular cost of shipping a pet. Legitimate service dogs assisting passengers with recognized physical disabilities are one thing. But that's not what I see on Southwest. What I see most frequently are apparently healthy well adjusted young adults who open about how they are scamming the system.  Now you can go online, answer a few questions, pay $100 and presto a "health professional" (usually a quack psychologist) who has never seen the applicant will send out a certificate and a therapy dog vest.  The Southwest flight attendants are very open in discussing the therapy dog scam but they say there is nothing they can do. Southwest should require an affidavit from a medical doctor who actually seen the patient...not just reviewed the applicant's answers to some online questions.  This scam will just keep growing until Southwest acts.


 

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

SuzyQ1123
New Arrival

Oustanding response, thank you.  The reference to the human spieces creating more havoc is, unfortunately, becoming more frequent.

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

kayparriss
New Arrival

I was on a flight last night.  A woman had a weinreimer.  She bragged she got to board first.  The flight attendant told me I shouldn't sit in the bulkhead because there would be a big dog there.  The dog sat on the floor (not in front of the owner) but stretched into the walkway.  The flight attendant almost stepped on the dog's tail and paw.  We were worried the dog would go crazy if this happened.  The passenger in the isle seat had to have his feet up on the bulkhead the whole flight   I love animals but this was rediculous

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

m1waters
New Arrival

I fly a lot and this is a growing problem on Southwest; but not so much on other airlines. I have witnessed a woman pre-board a SW flights with two full-sized dogs on leashes. When I inquired why, I was told they were emotional support animals; both of them for one woman. They took up the whole front row she did not have tickets for all 3 seats; no one would sit by her with those dogs. It worked out great for her but not for the business select customers that paid to get on early in hopes of getting those seats. SW's open seating and "no questions asked" to pre-board encourages passengers with pets to claim a disability in order to get on early to take the spacious seats up front.  This doesn't happen on other airlines because pre-boarders still have to take their assigned seat and without the assurance that they will get the extra spacious seats they get on SW they don't try to bring their pet and pass it off as an emotional support animal. This is becoming a real problem with SW preferring pre-boarders with pets over the health and comfort of their other passengers. SW needs to change their policy or go to assigned seating.

Re: limits to Service animals and ESA dogs?

spiderblue
New Arrival

This issue with service animals/emotional support animals has gotten out of hand.  I was on a flight this past Monday morning and a lady walks up with 2 dogs and no container to put them in.  While inflight, one of them got away from her (she was on a window seat) and ran down the isle.  The poor flight attendant had to assist in capturing the dog.  Additionally, I have seen dogs in passenger seats (which is unsanitary as they don't wipe themselves), and leaves the next unsuspecting passenger on the next leg to sit in a "dirty" seat.  Additionally, what about people who are allergic to cats and dogs (as I am)?  The air in the plane is recirculated and with cats in particular, I am extremely allergic.  This must stop!  If people can't do without their precious animals, maybe they should drive or take the train.  I am not an animal hater, but more consideration has to be given to the PEOPLE who PAY for their transportation.  Your poor customer service agents and flight attendants are afraid to say anything less they create a situation where some nut case wants to sue SW under the guise of discriminating against some under the ADA.  One small step should be that those that might fly with an animal, register when they make their reservation so that if a PERSON with allergies also books on the same flight knows that they maybe introducting themselves into an environment that may have negative consequences for them.  To pretend that "all's well" is akin to sticking your head into the ground.  Southwest is better than that and you owe it to the employees that, for the most part, do a marvelous job.  Nuff said . . .