Finley: Keep your dog off my airplane
I feel the same way about dogs as I do children. If they're mine, I'm OK with them. If they're yours, I'd just as soon you not inflict them on me.
Americans have gone dog crazy. Since 1988, dog ownership in the U.S. has risen to 68% of households from 56%, amounting to roughly 85 million dogs.
That'd be OK, if the dogs were kept where they belong — at home.
But owners and their pets have become inseparable. Where one goes, the other follows. Even into places where the appropriateness of an animal's presence is questionable.
Like restaurants. And stores. And fairs, concerts and ball games. I recently saw a large dog strolling through a grocery store, snout level with the lunch meat shelf.
A small percentage of these dogs are legitimate service animals, trained to assist their masters in coping with physical and mental challenges. But most are just everyday pets. And while you may consider your dog adorable, I'd just as soon not have its nose in my crotch, or step in its business.
Not long ago, I was walking behind a black Lab at Metro Airport who paused to drop a major load in the terminal. The owner could muster only a single napkin to clean up the mess, most of which remained on the tile for other travelers to roll their bags through.
I've also watched a small terrier on a 15-foot leash being led through the terminal by an oblivious owner, stopping to hike its leg on every trash can. People sit on those carpeted floors.
Airplanes are the worst place for dogs. But since airlines, at the direction of the Federal Aviation Administration, relaxed the rules regarding "emotional support" animals, it's rare to be on a flight that doesn't include a dog.
If a fellow passenger has a peanut allergy, you can't even open a Snickers bar on board. But if you're allergic to dogs, too bad, so sad, sit there and sneeze. The FAA says the discomfort of passengers and crew with an animal is not reason to turn it away.
Dog bites have become a serious safety issue on airplanes, the last place you should have to worry about being attacked by an animal. In February, a little girl on a Southwest flight was bitten by an alleged "emotional support" dog. A flight attendant out of Dallas-Fort Worth was bitten when she reached for a vomit bag for the dog's owner. In May, a man seriously injured by a dog filed a lawsuit against Delta Airlines.
A recent survey of flight attendants found 61% had worked a flight during which an emotional support animal caused a disturbance, including defecating or urinating or being the source of a dispute between passengers.
This is crazy. The "emotional support" exemption for animals is mostly a scam to get pets on airplanes for free, and airlines should push back hard for the sake and safety of their customers.
We ought to have sense enough to know that, with the exception of trained service animals, placing a dog in an unfamiliar and stressful environment with a plane full of strangers can go very bad.
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