Unsplash

Airlines Are Now Fining People Who Bring ‘Fake’ Service Dogs On Flights

Everyone's seen service dogs that help disabled people go about their daily lives. But incidents of people claiming that their everyday pet is a legit service animal seem to be on the rise.

Obviously, many service animals are legit.

Wikimedia Commons

Service animals, particularly dogs, can be trained to help people. This has been a thing for a long time. But in recent years, it seems like things have gotten out of hand.

Everyone loves their pets.

If you had to take a flight with your pet, would you rather put them in the cold, scary baggage hold, or have them in the seat next to you? Lots of people would probably opt for the latter.

Airlines have been dealing with this a lot.

Twitter | @MeganSutherlin

At one time, attitudes were more lax, and an airline rep would probably just shrug if you asked to bring your emotional support badger onto a plane.

At a certain point, action was required.

Twitter | @GoldboxATL

The epidemic of dubious support animals at airports and inside airplanes became so widespread that some travelers took to Twitter to document what they saw as people abusing the system.

It's a difficult situation to navigate.

Twitter | @GoldboxATL

Airlines don't want emotional support cats using up seats, but it's also hard to quibble with someone who has a semi-plausible explanation, or a doctor's note. But the tide is starting to turn.

A Hawaii lawmaker has an interesting proposal.

Wikimedia Commons

Senator Russell Ruderman introduced Bill 2461 in the Hawaii state senate after continually being frustrated by what he saw as fake service animals on his frequent flights between Hawaii and the mainland.

What does it mean?

Flickr | ArdieBeaPhotography

Crucially, it will allow airlines to exercise more power when it comes to passengers with support animals. Of course, legitimate support animals will still be allowed. But the bill cracks down on those with less legitimate reasons.

Offenders could be hit with a $500 fine.

It isn't particularly high as far as airline-related punishments go, but it's a start. The bill was overwhelmingly passed in Hawaii, and was widely supported by groups that advocate for people with disabilities.

It might be hard to enforce.

Wikimedia Commons

Because the kinds of questions that could determine whether a support animal is legitimate are also the kinds of questions that could infringe on a person's right to privacy, it could be a sticky wicket.

It's still a mess.

Flickr | Flying Kolia

Ruderman's bill is a promising start, but in the rest of the country, fake service animals are rampant. It's hard to keep tabs on because there's literally no official registry of support animals.

It's important to recognize legitimate support animals.

Illegitimate support animals aren't just an annoyance for other travelers, but they also cause legit support animals to be viewed with suspicion. It's unfortunate that so many people appear to be gaming the system.

What do you think?

Unsplash | Artem Labunsky

Have you ever flown next to someone with an emotional support gecko, or have you been the one trying to sneak your cat onto the plane? Let us know in the comments!