I am a dog lover and a frequent traveler. My job requires that I travel at least two flights per week. However, it isn’t uncommon for me to have to fly with even greater frequency (sometimes as often as four to six flights in one week).
So, I understand what it means to be on the road and away from my best buddy.
Secondly, I have a daughter with special needs. She struggles with autism and has difficulties communicating with others.
She also gets emotionally paralyzed by her anxiety. Once, when she accompanied me (without her therapy dog)on a flight, she almost lost it. She cried and shook hysterically. Oh, how I wish that we had her sweet fur baby with us at that time.
I give that background in the hopes that I can be considered qualified for the discussion. Although I am clearly not an expert in the area of therapy animals on flights, I have a sound understanding of the potential positive impact that they can have for their owners. They offer a calming, necessary quietness and comfort that nothing else can provide during the fears and anxieties that can accompany a flight.
However, there is a potential down side that I would also like to explore so that we can make an informed intelligent decision about whether therapy animals on a flight are a good idea. Recently, I was on a Southwest flight seated directly behind an individual who exhibited some signs and characteristics of autism. She was accompanied by TWO therapy dogs.
Not only were there two animals, but they were really BIG dogs.
Yes, you read correctly, I was seated directly behind two German Shepherds on a three hour non-stop, direct flight from Phoenix to Seattle! And these dogs basked! They barked incessantly. They barked loudly. They barked non-stop (just like the flight)!
So, while it may have been comforting for that young lady, it was anything but for the rest of the passengers on that completely full flight! In fact, we all kept looking at each other, rolling eyes and sighing.
I imagine we were all thinking exactly the same thing! Really? Just wow! It was almost unbearable and the flight attendants and owner weren’t able to change anything. Why were they barking you ask? I have no idea!
Having two animals creating such a ruckus was an obvious disturbance. It ruined the trip of an entire manifest of passengers and flight attendants, while bringing comfort to just one individual. To me, that is definitely not worth it. I’m also convinced that if there were only one dog, it would have not reached the same level of chaos. I think they fed off of each other, trying to outdo the other until we finally, thankfully landed at our destination.
So, do I support therapy animals on a flight for those who would benefit from the companionship? Absolutely! There are those who would clearly benefit, and as a father of a daughter with autism, I am so thankful for the option. Do I think they should have a limit to the number of animals allowed on? Yes!
So, in my humble opinion, one dog (hopefully well trained in the command “Quiet” ) per owner. And I recently read somewhere that at least one of the airlines will now be allowing small ponies on flights for a fee. Now, and please forgive the terrible pun, but that is a horse of a different color!