In 2020, the Department of Transportation made a new determination that only service dogs would continue to be protected under the American’s with Disabilities Act, thus categorizing emotional support animals as pets.
So far, only Southwest Airlines have stated that they will continue to accept ESA’s at no charge. Both Alaska and American Airlines have stated that they will no longer accept emotional support animals on flights. However, several airlines accept pets for a fee. Those who have already booked flights this year with their ESA should look into each airline policy, as some will still be accepting ESA’s from existing reservations.
“Basically what it comes down to is the animal’s training. They are saying an individual with PTSD who has a trained dog can have the animal with them during air travel, but if the individual has PTSD and doesn’t have the luxury of being gifted a service dog, or can’t afford the costs of obtaining a service dog which can run upwards of $50,000, then their PTSD doesn’t qualify/isn’t valid,” said licensed mental health professional Prairie Conlon. Prairie Conlon, LPC, NPC and Clinical Director of CertaPet was disheartened about the news.
“That’s textbook discrimination on several levels. I’m honestly astonished that they pushed this through. There are so many other options, such as tightening restrictions and requiring basic training, that could have solved the issue,” continued Conlon.
“So many news sources keep referring to the peacock incident of 2018 and of course they are saying good riddance, as am I. But what they fail to realize is that that incident did cause a lot of change and those types of animals haven’t seen ESA status for air travel since then. Stop referring to the peacock. It’s not a valid argument anymore. Nobody is fighting for the peacock to be an ESA.”
CertaPet, an emotional support letter service, released this statement:
“We at Certapet think this is a great disservice to those facing mental health challenges that get emotional support from their animal. We understand that there have been incidents that have discredited emotional support animals and the service they provide, but those situations could be prevented by increased regulation. We think emotional support peacocks are ridiculous too. Providing clear guidelines for certification and vetting companies in the industry would have been simple steps to solve this challenge for all stakeholders. Certapet is a trusted telehealth platform that has been providing real mental health services for many years. These imposter companies exploiting individuals with mental health issues should be penalized.
Eliminating emotional support animals altogether is a quick, cheap fix that disregards those who really need and use the treatment appropriately. The DOT has chosen the easy and harmful path over the correct one. We hope to have continued discussions with airlines as they make choices on their own company policies and encourage them to make the right decisions. Mental health is a serious issue and removing access to a researched and proven treatment is a disgrace.”
ABOUT PRAIRIE CONLON
Prairie is a licensed mental health professional and is considered the world’s leading expert on Emotional Support Animals. She is the Clinical Director of Therapeutic and consults for CertaPet, one of the largest telehealth companies in the nation. Prairie has a Master’s Degree in professional counseling and a Postgraduate Degree in Military Behavioral health counseling. She is certified as an equine-assisted psychotherapist. Prairie is a certified Accelerated Resolution Therapist and helps train future trauma therapist in this modality. She consults for several nonprofits for veterans and first responder trauma, including The Lone Survivor Foundation and Horses that Heal. She is the founder, developer and lead researcher of emotional support animal Assisted Therapy (ESAAT) which is a set of techniques utilized to decrease anxiety, panic attacks, depressive symptoms, and sleep difficulties with the use of an Emotional Support Animal.
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