Service animal registries being built to root out fakes

The Air Carrier Access Act, written back in 1986, was kind of lazy in how it defined ‘what a service animals is, to the point where almost anything goes. As such, there’s been a whole lot of folks of late bringing their animals on board of airplanes claiming that they’re emotional support animals. This peacock is an example of that sort of thing. Maybe some help calm their owners on what would be a harrowing in-air experience, without them. But for individuals with verifiable medical conditions who have been given specially-trained psychiatric service animals to help them better navigate their lives, it’s a serious pain in the ass.

With travelers and airlines alike getting tired of people attempting to bring their ‘comfort’ and ‘support’ animals on flights with them, the idea of bringing along an animal for legitimate medical reasons, even one that comes with documentation from a doctor or mental health professional, can cause a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. That’s not OK. It’s a problem that can be especially prevalent with veterans afflicted with PTSD. Many rely on their service dogs to ground them during a flashback, make them feel like someone is watching their back in public places or wake them from reoccurring nightmares. It's not the sort of tool that you want to leave at home when you travel.

Thanks to a pair of new registries currently in development, the epidemic of false service animals that’s cropped up in the news of late could come to an end while, at the same time, helping those with a legitimate medical need to have their prescribed pooches with them on a flight do so, with less hassle.

From NPR:

The first registry is called Operation Service Dog Access and was created by American Humane, the organization best known for its certification that "No Animals Were Harmed" in the making of films and television shows. Two dozen veterans, approved by a small network of independent evaluators, are doing a pilot program with the registry, according to the project's senior research adviser Amy McCullough. American Humane hopes to open the registry in the fall, with the help of some service dog providers and Assistance Dogs International, the country's largest opt-in accreditation organization for service dogs. The service will be free.

The second registry, the American Service Dog Access Coalition, is currently being workshopped by a group of service dog providers, including K9s For Warriors. Veterans who have graduated from a recognized dog pairing and training program will automatically enter into the registry. For self-trained pairs and service dogs acquired outside partner programs, ASDAC will use American Kennel Club-registered evaluators at more than 1,500 Petco dog store locations across the country. A subsidiary of Dell Technologies is developing the online registry. ASDAC hopes to roll out its registry in six months, available to veterans for a small fee.

The notion, in the case of both registries, is to not only compile a list of verified service animals for travel agents, airlines and other transportation providers to draw upon, but also make all of the paperwork required to get each service animal on a plane, bus or boat with its owner available online. This would weed out fakes looking for a way to get their dog or tiny horse on a cross-country flight for free and, more importantly, reduce the anxiety that might be being experienced by someone that’s got a valid medical condition and wants to get from point A to point B with as little stress and drama as possible.

More of this sort of thing, please.

Image via Flickr, courtesy of North Carolina National Guard

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