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Pets on planes

Can anyone please help me understand/advocate on the issue of pets on planes? It has gotten completely out of control where there are always dogs on every flight.  My family member is deathly allergic and I am terrified he might have an asthma attack on a flight even if the dog is many rows away from him. I saw the position of the AAFA is to ask that we revert to the standards the ADA has set for service animals, or request that dogs be seated on laps.  Is that all we can ask for? In an enclosed space a person could die with those rules!  I am seeking community advocacy to bring this topic up with congress and the airlines.  Advice? Input? Thank you!

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  • K8sMom2002

    Hi and and , EllenK … That is tough. How old is your family member? Does he have to fly often? Has he ever had a reaction or an asthma attack on a plane?

    We have had several folks who deal with dander allergies that are severe – @sazzie, and @Shea, as well as @Steenie. 

  • EllenK

    Thanks much for the warm welcome K8SMOM2002! I'm brand new here so appreciate it. The family member is 57 years old! He flies frequently!   Overall he can just avoid dogs in his life, but lately it seems to have gotten out of control with so many pets on planes and I am starting to fear for his life. On recent flights he has had some bad reactions but thankfully it wasn't life threatening. I fear that someday there are too many dogs on a flight and if it's a long flight…

  • K8sMom2002

    Ouch, that's scary. What does he do to prepare for a flight? Does he use the same airline? Has he been able to talk with anyone who handles disability requests for the airline?

  • EllenK

    Thanks. I spoke with folks at American Airlines and they said the only thing they can do is move him to a different row or put him on a different flight. But all the flights have dogs now!  They told me to take it up with Congress because that's who made the law.  I just found AAFA because I thought it would be more effective to take this up with Congress as part of a broader community.  So I'm looking to begin this journey with support from others.

     

  • K8sMom2002

    I know we've had several different discussions on pets on planes and other public areas — very similar situations to what you are describing. 

    This one was about how to to the committee who was discussing pet limitations on planes.

    And this one was about …

    All this to say that you are NOT alone.

  • Shea

    I feel you on your frustration Ellen K. I have severe cat and dog dander allergies. I have a chronic allergic disease that is severe, effecting heart, lungs, skin, asthma is a huge symptom, and cat and dog dander are huge triggers for the whole disease, as well as having an allergic episode that  involves severe asthma and skin rash. I cannot fly. I am not going to. I am going to either drive or get an RV. I want to help, but I am just not politically …. whats the word… I dont know I do not even have faith in politics right now, but, I definitely will follow someone else and sign things and go to a rally as long as I do not have to fly to it. I think it would be great to get that policy chsnged or at least have some options for petfree flights.

  • EllenK

    Thank you both so much for your responses, information and support!  I am in shock that we are such a small community of sufferers and that people who need a dog to stroke on their lap during a flight are more important than us!   I have never been politically active before, but this just seems like insanity to me, and I am protective of my family.  I am going to do more research and try my best to fight this.  I hope others who want to join this fight will write back here. I am going to call AAFA, my representatives in Congress, our Doctors and anyone else I can think of. 

  • Steenie

    Boy, I understand how you feel! My daughter and I have a severe dog allergy and asthma. I just spent months of advocating for my daughter because the nurse at our high school brought in her own pet to be a therapy dog. She kept it with her in the Health office. It took me 6 months and many hours of reading information on laws regarding service vs. therapy/comfort dogs, reaching out to anyone that would listen for advice (including the AAFA which was incredibly helpful!). I complained,  and was back and forth to school administration, the superintendents office, the city's health department, and school committee member. It was a huge exhausting nightmare! Finally, the day before Christmas vacation I was informed that the dog would not be in the school for the rest of this year (when my daughter graduates). Relief for now. 

    Therapy dogs and pets on planes and other enclosed public areas are becoming a real nightmare!  A woman brought her pet Therapy dog golden retriever into an event at our public library. The dog would not sit still, and even barked a few times. There are even dogs that visit patients on hospital floors. My daughter and I carry a prescription of oral steroids just in case we have a reaction on a plane. Although there may not be a dog on our flight, there could of been one on the flight before us in our seat! That can trigger an attack. Right now, it's just getting the word out about this issue. Many people don't understand until I explain the severity of the allergy. I also think getting back up from the medical community would be most helpful. Allergists and pulmonologists especially. Unfortunately, will it take a death and lawsuit in order for Congress to do anything?  

     

  • EllenK

    Wow. Good for you that you fought the high school!

    I guess we are a TINY group compared to all the people who need comfort animals?  My biggest question is (because I am brand new to all this) – are we not covered by the ADA? 

  • Jen

    Hi Ellenk,

    Welcome to the aafa forums. It is a difficult balance to maintain between those who truly need a service dog (day for issues like diabetes, epilepsy, etc) vs those who have comfort animals v those whose asthma is triggered by dogs. 

    Does your family member have an action plan from his doctor that takes into account travel issues like you mentioned?

  • Steenie

    I never thought of myself or my daughters asthma as a disability until this whole therapy dog thing happened. Anyone can purchase a therapy dog kit (coat) online and put on their dog. I know someone whose daughter had a pet dog and her college approved her to bring it as a therapy dog (who lives with her in her dorm). I am finding this is all so new, and many people, in my school situation anyway, pass the buck and are not sure how to handle it. I have been thinking of writing to some newspapers. I think people need to be educated. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog. I used medical documentation of this in my situation which helped. I have become vocal when I see people bringing pets to stores, restaurants etc.  I usually ask for a manager or speak to the person myself. At first I was afraid that I would look like a crazy woman because I have never been a person that speaks out, but I am doing this for my daughter and myself. There is nothing worse than when you can't breath!  There are no real guidelines for therapy /comfort dogs and it has become a free for all.  I am here to support you and do whatever I can do to help!!!!!   

  • EllenK

    I certainly understand that some people need service dogs. We were recently in a restaurant when about 3/4 the way through the meal when he said he didn't feel well, and sure enough we looked around and saw 2 seeing eye dogs! We get it!  We have no issues with that. We paid our bill and left the restaurant immediately. We had a choice in that situation and we could leave. But all flights nowadays have dogs and if you don't feel well mid-air then what do you do?

    What I don't get is how the government and airlines can disregard pet allergies.  Why can't they set up a policy like people with animals are "flagged". People with pet allergies are "flagged".  When either books a flight they can say they can't ride with the other.  If one is already booked on a flight, the other has to book a different flight. 

    There also should be a limit to the number of dogs allowed on flights, and where the owners can sit (ie. the last row of the plane or even the first row). Today if a dog is in the middle what is an allergic person supposed to do? The airline can't ask them to move. They can only try to help him find another seat which sometimes is only a few rows away.

     

  • Steenie

    I understand your frustration. I found this recent article that I thought you may be interested regarding plane travel. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Steenie, that article is a good summary of where things stand. 

    EllenK, don't give up hope! There was a time when cigarette smoking was allowed on planes — can you imagine being on a flight from San Francisco to China with cigarette smoking allowed? I was on a plane for 18 hours — no way I could have made it if they hadn't had restrictions on air travel. 

    So I have hope that some of your very reasonable suggestions may eventually be incorporated. 

  • EllenK

    Thanks Steenie, K8SMOM2002 and Jen for the support!  I am going to talk to some folks and get more ideas about how to proceed. Maybe start an online petition? Maybe write letters to our congressional representatives, the FAA and DOt?

    What do you think it would take for the AAFA to issue an updated letter to the DOT on this issue on behalf of all folks allergic to dander with some of these ideas? The last one was dated May 9, 2016?

  • Shea

    Ellen K., I think an online petition would be a great first step. Something with maybe statistics on allergies and asthma (this is very prevalent and, although not all who have allergies are severely/immediately effected on the flight, it surely hinders those who regularly travel or work on the airlinevwhen they are chronically exposed and inflamed. And some people have contact hives, asthma atracks, or worsening of serious chronic diseases.) 

    There are some studies out there about dander in kids classrooms and its effect on asthma. 

    I did a quick search and found this document which I think would be very helpful in referring to when making a letter or petition: 

    I really hope you write one and fight this, and I am here to help out in any way I can, whether it is looking over stuff, signing petitions and the word, whatever. Good luck!

  • Jen

    I'm flying out to Vegas tomorrow.  I will pay extra attention to see if there are any pets in the airport/on the plane.  I'm curious to see how it is handled.

  • EllenK

    Thanks Jen. Hey – in today's NY Times check out this article!   Unbelievable!

    I'm starting to think pet allergy people are just too small a group to fight this alone, compared to all the pet people out there! Perhaps if we band together with the peanut allergy people we can create a bigger voice to fight the DOT & Congress. I mean – how hard is it to STOP serving peanuts on flights to save a person's life!!!!!

  • Jen

    I saw that, Ellen.  It's interesting that there are no standard rules, even within the same airlines.

  • K8sMom2002

    EllenK, that was an interesting and eye-opening article.

    What I'm wondering is what the flight attendants and other airline staff think about having to deal with pets on planes. 

  • EllenK

    The airline employees I spoke to don't like having the pets on the planes, but they said that congress made the law , so there's nothing they can do. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Jen, how many pets did you see on the planes you were on?

    EllenK, what other steps are you taking to help raise awareness?

  • Jen

    I was just looking for this thread.  Let's see…at BWI airport, the only pets I saw were the bomb sniffing dogs at the security lines.  When we arrived in Vegas, I was waiting for dh at his baggage check (we had separate flights) and there was some lady there waiting for someone and she had a little dog that appeared to just be a pet of some sort.  I don't recall seeing any pets on either flight, but I sat toward the back of the plane both times, so I didn't see/pay much attention to what was happening up front.

  • K8sMom2002

    I do hope that they can figure out a way to make flying more friendly for ALL folks with disabilities. I think they should think about it like restaurants used to do smoking/non-smoking sections. 

    I don't THINK folks with pets or therapy dogs would mind being in one section. Whenever I've had to take our pets to the vet, people love to show off and talk about their fur-babies. 

    And that would leave another section pet-free for folks with dander allergies or genuine phobias about pets. I still remember the mom of a friend of DD's … she came to our house and nearly died of fright when she saw our dog. She didn't have an allergy, but she had been bitten as a child, and she was terrified. After that, I always made sure that our dog was put away so that she wouldn't be afraid. 

  • Shea

    This is an excerpt from the link I referred to above. I do not believe a "section" would work due to the nature of dander being airborne. It is not a few with asthma/allergies that are effected by dander. Dander allergies are prevalent, 7-10 percent of US population), much more prevalent than peanut allergies (.6 percent of US population).

     

    This is excerpted from the link I posted in the comment earlier in this forum:                   and it cites the United States Environmental Protection Agency, link: 

    And here are the main points, pasted, as it relates to schools, which should apply easily to flights and airlines:

    "Asthma can be a leading cause of school absences. It is not unusual for students with poorly controlled asthma tomiss more than 10 school days per year due to asthma; children with poorly controlled severe asthma may miss morethan 30 days during a school year. Time lost from school negatively affects grades, academic achievement, self-esteem,and future life successes.1 There is a high prevalence of asthma and other allergy-related conditions. The national average is 7.5% (CDC 1999).The United States Environmental Protection Agency has published a special document related to asthma in theschools that includes the following statements:• Fur-bearing and warm-blooded animals including gerbils, birds, cats, dogs, mice and rats may trigger orexacerbate asthma episodes.• Proteins which act as allergens in the dander, urine, or saliva of these warm-blooded animals may sensitizeindividuals and can cause allergic reactions or trigger asthma episodes. If an animal is present in the school,there is a possibility of direct, daily exposure to the animal’s dander and bodily fluids.• Even after extensive cleaning, animal allergen levels may stay in the indoor environment for several monthsafter the animal is removed.• The most effective method to controlling exposure to animal allergens in schools is to keep schools free offeathered or furred animals.

    The following recommendations are being made concerning the presence of animals in schools. These guidelinesrepresent a minimum standard of care. For optimal student health it is recommended that these guidelines be used todevelop specific site-based guidelines for your school.I. Exclusions:• Fur-bearing and warm-blooded animals, especially cats and dogs, are triggers for many students with asthmaand allergies1,2,3. Therefore, guidelines recommend that cats or dogs not be allowed in any MPS school buildingwith the exception of assistive animals such as seeing-eye dogs.• Because other fur-bearing and warm-blooded animals also cause problems for students with asthma and otherallergies, it is also recommended that no fur-bearing animals should reside for any length of time in classroomsbut only visit briefly."

     These are EPA guidelines, and information looked over by a board of people, and real school recommendations… I do not see why this information could not be used by others, like airlines.  Yes, pets are very prevalent, and people treat them as family members. But they are not. They are not humans and should not be prioritized over human health. There has got to be a line. And airlines are out to make money. But someone has to step in here. I just do not know who. It is about what is right and best for people's health. Not a person whos dog makes rhem less scared during a thunderstorm being prioritized over a person with contsct hives, life-threatening asthma related to allergen exposure, or chronic lung diseases that are inflamed to a point of needing heavy medications or emergency medications with their own very negative side effects. I cannot even talk about this subject because I am way to ****** off, but I hope someone else does something. I cannot because it angers me too much.

  • K8sMom2002

    That is a good point … I guess what I was hoping for is at least a START in the right direction. Right now, nothing prevents an airline from telling you that you either have to sit by a dog or a cat or choose to get off the plane.

    Who knows? Some marketing guru somewhere may be looking at that 7-10% number, add in the number of people who are phobic about animals even if they DON'T suffer from dander allergies, and decide, "Hmh, that's a nice little niche market for me."

    I just did some quick googling and turned up — albeit not a scientific one — that said 3% of the people questioned are afraid of dogs and 5% are afraid of cats. I'm thinking that 8% of the population would also be delighted to have a fur-free airline alternative.

  • Shea

    It would be a nice niche… a fur and feathered-free flight… and I would pay extra for it even becsuse niw flying is not an option for me…. Although I think if they have to accomadate health of passengers and reasonable accomadations for disabilities, like making wheelchair seating, and  smoke-free flights, that they could make animal-free flights be the norm again as well… that would be preferable. 

  • K8sMom2002

    I'm curious to see how this works out, too, Shea.

    Even though DD and I don't have SEVERE dander allergies, I know how badly she gets stuffed up when she's around other people's pets or in a place where lots of strange pets congregate — a vet's office, a pet supply store that allows pets in their store. I can't imagine her being on an extended flight with animals — and if I can't imagine HER on one, I certainly wouldn't want to risk it if she were anywhere near as sensitive as some people. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Thought about this again this AM … poor DD went to spend some time with my sis last night for Valentine's Day — my sis had lost her DH this past spring, and this was her first Valentine's Day without him. Poor DD came home from my sister's completely stuffed up, with puffy eyes. My sister has cats … only two, but still. 

    It's so odd that DD doesn't react as much to ours, but maybe it's because I'm more vigilant about washing blankets and throws, and we don't usually let the cats get in her lap? DD said she sat down in a chair and one of DD's kitties immediately hopped up and went to sleep — she didn't think anything about it because she doesn't react badly to our kitties. 

    She was still stuffed up this AM. I can't imagine what a long flight would do for her!