It’s time to ban all pets on flights, passengers abusing system for legitimate service animals

By Ben Alonzo

A major flight attendant organization stated that pet travel is now “out of control.” Several video reports detail pets biting passengers, mauling and hospitalizing travelers, attacking crew members, and even causing emergency landings. The recent “Kokito” dog death on a United Airlines flight caused a digital lynch mob, but the actual problem is passengers bringing non-service pets on flights. We have uncovered numerous, outrageous, investigative reports, which suggest pets should not be allowed in the cabin with humans, with exceptions for traditional service animals. Specifically, there’s a huge loophole with service animals, poor airline pet travel policies, lack of enforcement, and dishonest passengers abusing the existing system. The bigger picture seems to be a lack of personal responsibility among passengers and airlines opening themselves to huge liability and bad PR by allowing this to continue.

Flight Crews Knew Problem Existed for Years

As more pets fly, the amount of incidents, deaths, and attacks will only increase. That’s exactly what we’re seeing. Although a majority of pets transported by United Airlines (over 138,000 in a year) did so without issue, it only takes one public case to get everyone angry or result in major liability. Most of these cases involve a certain amount of pet owner responsibility. Nearly all of the worst cases could have been prevented, had the pet owner not transported the pet on the flight. Some pet breeds have breathing difficulties and flights raise their risk of death. Pre-existing conditions can also be the cause of death on a flight. Animals get stressed out because the plane is loud, it’s traveling at 500mph, and at an altitude of 40,000 feet. That’s not normal for a pet, certainly not for a vulnerable or untrained pet. All of these facts matter, if you take a look at the bigger problem.

Numerous flight attendants have stated pets on flights has reached out of control status. It used to be limited to well-behaved, traditional service animals. Over the past few years, people have abused major loopholes in pet travel regulations, specifically regarding “emotional support pets.” One person claimed they had an emotional support cobra, another a spider, and there was also a recent story about a giant peacock. It seems people now bring their pets with them anywhere, but is that smart, considerate, and safe for everyone?


Watch this video of a CBS News report from 2015, discussing passengers that abuse the pet travel system. People use regular pets without special training, a special training and certification once limited to dogs for the blind. Reporters demonstrate “anything goes” and there were “no rules”, which puts passengers at unnecessary risk. By allowing pets in the cabin, airlines are opening themselves up to unnecessary liability. Numerous cases of pet attacks have caused crews to remove pets from the cabin or make emergency landings. It’s ridiculous that this continues in the name of trying to please unreasonable passengers that demand to be able to bring any pet they wish on a flight.

Passengers abuse rules to bring animals on planes. See the report:

Imagine you paid a small fortune for you and your baggage to go on a trip. You sit in the crammed seat, already uncomfortable. Suddenly, a dog comes out of nowhere and bites you. Is the dog owner responsible or is it the airline for letting it fly? If you think this is just a what-if situation, you’re wrong. The number of pets attacking crew and passengers has risen. It’s puzzling that these pet attacks don’t get the same level of outrage as the Kokito story. These cases were preventable.

Dog bites passenger and flight attendant. See the report:

Dog mauls passenger on plane. See the report:

Pit bull attacks, hospitalizes passenger in Orlando. See the report:

Too many people are abusing the system that was initially there for official, trained service animals.

Watch this “fake service dog” behave. Would you want to sit next to it?

“Woman Lied About Having Emotional Illness So She Could Fly With Dog.” Watch the report:

Veteran with missing leg speaks out against “fake service dogs.” Watch this report:

“Some Pet Owners Game the Emotional Support Animal System to Fly Pets for Free.” Watch the report:

What kind of person buys a fake service dog vest just to take the pet into places otherwise prohibited? What a slap in the face to legitimate service animals.

This problem is only getting worse as more people bring pets onto airplanes.

At some point, pet owners must take personal responsibility. While it is convenient to fly with your pet, the cabin of an aircraft is a unique place with special circumstances. Ideally, and to reduce risk, no pets should be allowed in the cabin with people or at all for vulnerable breeds and non-certified dogs. Airlines need to overhaul pet policies that favor common sense, consistency of enforcement, close loopholes, and focus on keeping everyone safe, rather than aim to please unreasonable, inconsiderate passengers. Passengers and crew members should not have to risk being bitten, mauled, or worse, especially if it could be easily prevented. Common sense must prevail. It’s time to stop allowing pets on flights, close the loopholes that allow abuse, and keep pet travel limited to specific, clear circumstances.

Related: United Airlines and Pet Owner Responsible for Kokito Dog Death

Related: Fake service dog harms real service dog (KTLA)

Author: Ben Alonzo is a unique science and tech expert, professor, entrepreneur, and journalist. He founded and is the CEO of the tech firm Storm Sector, LLC. Ben holds an MS in Information Technology, MS in Geoscience, MS in Health & Nutrition, and a BS in Geoscience. He is a highly rated professor that teaches a wide variety of college courses within earth, environmental, computer sciences and public health. His diverse background spans enterprise information technology, healthcare, weather forecasting, consumer electronics, digital media, web development, and business leadership. He holds numerous professional licenses and certifications, ranging from information technology to healthcare and emergency medical technician. Ben is a tech entrepreneur and is business partners with multiple restaurants. He is also a private pilot, fitness pro, musician, and loves filmmaking. Alonzo has written about science and tech for over 10 years. You can see some of his past articles on the Houston Chronicle, Heart, and other networks. In his free time, he likes scuba diving, storm chasing, and the gym.
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