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Forget Fido! Now anything flies as ‘therapy’ pets thanks to lawsuit fears

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A turkey is not what one would expect to see on a flight, especially not in its own seat, but that’s exactly what some travelers have experienced as turkeys have now joined the growing list of support animals.

A photo posted by a Reddit user showed the feathered passenger seated on a Delta flight, reported Fox News on Friday.

“My neighbor is a flight attendant. He just posted this photo of someone’s ‘therapy pet’ on his flight,” wrote biggestlittlepickle.

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Another Reddit user, who is reportedly friends with the Delta pilot on that flight, posted a photo of the turkey being chauffeured at the airport in a wheelchair. 

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Though many are accustomed to seeing dogs as support animals, the National Service Animal Registry’s website says all domesticated animals can qualify as an Emotional Support Animal.

Delta, in a statement made to USA Today, said it was complying with the Air Carrier Access Act, reported Fox. “While we can’t always accommodate all pets, Delta employees made a judgment call based in part on extensive documentation from the customer. We review each case and make every effort to accommodate our customers’s travel needs while also taking into consideration the health and safety of other passengers.”

Of course, in accommodating passengers who need to travel with their companion animals, there is a risk in how other travelers will react. There are allergies to account for as well as the possibility that an animal can bite or attack another passenger. In another growing concern, some travelers have been allegedly faking their needs for emotional support pets to avoid paying the high fees for shipping animals.

A former commercial pilot, Captain Tom Bunn commented on the ease of getting any therapist to sign off on someone’s pet, reported Fox. “Any therapist can sign off on any kind of animal,” said Bunn. “Science has proven that when dogs look at you with total devotion, it produces oxytocin, a hormone that shuts down the fear mechanism. The turkey, I don’t think so.”

In the meantime, we may have to get used to seeing all kinds of service animals – from dogs to pigs to turkeys – due to the appearance of websites and companies offering the service. But with the Department of Transportation fearing lawsuits from refused passengers, Bunn says there is nothing to do about the travel companions but wait for a change in guidelines.

“When I saw that turkey on Twitter, I thought here we go,” he said. “Some people are going to be very annoyed that they paid several hundred dollars to fly with a turkey.”


Frieda Powers


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