It's hard not to love animals. It's something that's been instilled in our heads from birth, it seems. Take any kid and there's a good chance they're obsessed with creatures. Whether it's seeing them at the zoo, playing with animal toys, or pretending to be one, kids absolutely love different species.
How kids react to animals when they see them, on the other hand, is a different story entirely. If they grow up with pets in their house, they might be less afraid of them when they're walking outside in the open. I don't have any cats or dogs in my house, but I grew up with plenty of pets. So it always boggles my mind when my toddler wigs out if a dog wants to come up to him and lick his face in the park. Then I remember that he prefers to keep animals at a distance—he lines up his toys and imitates them like he's conducting a YouTube series showing off his toy collection.
But those of us who grew up with pets know the insane amounts of love one can have for your furry (or scaly, or feathery) companions. We love them so much that we wish we could take them everywhere. It's part of what makes traveling so difficult. Do you have someone housesit your pet when you're away or have a service care for them, or do you bring them with you? And if you do decide to bring them with you, you have to keep them in a separate cargo bay. Judging by the way some airlines, like United, handles its pets, they're probably safer at home.
But what if there was a way to get your pet on a plane and have it so they can sit next to you? Well many people have found a loophole around keeping them in a cargo bay where they run the risk of dying, and that's by making your pet a service animal.
There are plenty of legitimate cases where people have their service pet on-board as a necessity, sitting right beside them ready to be helpful and adorable at the same time.
But there have been plenty of bogus claims where people just passed their beloved pets off as "emotional support" or "service" animals, without any authenticity or licensure to prove it.
So what ends up happening is you have a rambunctious pooch flitting about the aisles or barking up a storm on the plane while someone's trying to pretend they're enjoying Burnt or the latest Hotel Transylvania movie. Or even worse, someone brings an emotional support animal like this on-board.
We also mustn't forget the bold individual who thought they could get away with bringing an emotional support peacock onto a plane.
Why anyone would try that is beyond me. And it certainly started grinding airlines' gears.
All of the hullabaloo surrounding the gaming of the service animal system on airplanes led to some action in Hawaii. Senator Russell Ruderman, who might've been sick of people bringing animals onto planes when they had no business being there, introduced bill 2461. The bill stipulates that violators who are found passing off pets or random creatures they've befriended as service animals can be fined up to $500.
It turns out that there were more than a few people gaming the system by slapping a service vest or ID badge on their pets and ordering fake certificates online. But here's the kicker: There isn't an official registry in the U.S. for service animals and these furry friends aren't even required to wear vests or identification when traveling with their humans in the first place.
"I’m very happy it passed. I understand some people may have concerns about it because it’s going to be difficult to enforce, but there are 20 other states that have it. Having a law is important," said the senator.
Ruderman had the bill officially passed into Hawaii state law with a large vote of support from the disability community, and without a signature from state governor David Ige, who thinks there are a few problems with the fines.
The bill may have been passed, but enforcing it is another matter, according to Ige, due to the limited nature of questions authorities can ask disabled individuals under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He states,
"None of the county police departments submitted testimony. However, it appears they would be the primary agencies responsible for enforcement. It may be difficult to prove in court by a clear and convincing standard that a person knowingly misrepresented an animal as a service animal. However, it is worth noting that similar legislation is present in at least 15 other states."
Executive director of Hawaii Fi-Do Service dogs, Jim Kennedy, said that the fact the bill was passed is a sign of meaningful progress, but there's a lot of work to be done now to educate people on the important role service dogs play in society:
"The real work begins now that the bill becomes law. A lot of education needs to be carried out before its effective date of Jan. 1, 2019. We at Hawaii Fi-Do intend to help wherever we can. All of us need to join together to help educate our citizens about what a service dog is."
Kennedy went on to say that there's a distinct difference between an "emotional support animal" and a "service dog," and that clearer distinctions between the two should be made.
"Almost all dogs provide emotional support and calm us down. But that alone does not qualify a pet as a ‘service dog.’ It is important to understand and respect what the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) intended when it allowed legitimate service dogs to assist those with real disabilities."
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who's got anything against dogs, and it's difficult to argue against why it's awesome to bring dogs aboard a plane, unless you're the author of the article below:
It states that dogs and humans have a parasitic relationship with humans getting the short-end of the pooch stick — we're basically just their meal ticket.
Even though people knew the author was being controversial in order to get people to click on his story, they were infuriated nonetheless.
Others just found the entire thing ridiculous and treated it as a joke.
The thesis this article was built on was pretty questionable to some as well.
It didn't take long for shelters to get in on the action either, like the Morris Animal Refuge.
I don't agree with the author calling dogs "parasites," but I do find the concept of stealing a baby from its mother, regardless of species—and bringing it to another home with a different species against their will—highly traumatic and messed up. If a dog wants to chill with me and needs to be cared for, then come and hang out, dear poochy.
But I can only imagine how scary it would be if a "superior" alien race grabbed human beings and removed their reproductive organs only to make them live in their spaceships and post entertaining pics of them on social media.
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