During the summer, the US Department of Transportation released a final statement of enforcement policies regarding service and emotional support animals on flights, and for now, at least, they’ve been cleared to fly. But between the garden-variety objections (fears, allergies) and the more extreme examples (an emotional support peacock here, a misbehaving pig there), some travelers have strong feelings on the topic. 

A dog on the shoulder of its owner on a plane
Upgraded Points surveyed almost a thousand people  © Richard Atrero de Guzman/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In an effort to gauge public opinion, Upgraded Points surveyed 992 Americans – with service and support animals, and without – to see where they stand. Though more than half of the respondents felt that emotional support animals should have the same rights as service animals, a full 55% also believed that pet owners abuse airlines’ service animal policies

Maine coon cat looking curious out of a backpack carrier next to a travel suitcase
"An accompanying passenger on my flight was highly allergic to cats," one 32-year-old respondent said © Lightspruch/Getty Images

Needless to say, traveling with animals is a fraught subject. While a whopping 79% of survey participants said that animals should be allowed in passenger cabins, some species were determined to be acceptable, and others, not so much. At 88%, dogs were by far the most popular choice, followed by cats at 54% – but from there, it gets a bit hairy. Rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, lizards, parrots, snakes, miniature horses, and peacocks were all deemed less acceptable, by a wide margin. 

Dalmatian with red leash in its mouth
Dogs were deemed the most acceptable animal to bring onboard. Image © BilevichOlga/Getty Images

The majority of respondents (69%) voiced worries about allergies, followed closely by the animal relieving itself in transit – as it turns out, a valid concern. “A dog with a ‘service animal’ vest was very clearly not well-trained and was pulling on the leash in a playful manner,” one 37-year-old man is quoted as saying. “At one point, the owner had to clean up after the animal urinated on the floor.” Issues around noise, smells, and space were also raised. 

While participants found air travel to be the most frustrating way to encounter a passenger with a service animal – and more than one in ten had observed an issue with a pet on a flight – they were nearly as annoyed on buses, trains, and cruise ships. Almost 16% of people attempting to fly with a service dog have been rejected from a flight, and only one in 11 people have flown with an emotional support animal. 

For the full report, visit upgradedpoints.com

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