The chances that Steve and I will someday fly somewhere with our current CCI puppy just increased substantially. I learned this in an otherwise routine-looking email from CCI this morning that announced Southwest Airlines has at least tentatively changed its longstanding policy regarding CCI puppy-raisers and their charges. Although all US carriers must allow working dogs to accompany their owners aloft, they don’t have to welcome pups in training, and Southwest has been among those that don’t.
Now, according to the announcement, Southwest has undertaken a 6-month trial in which CCI puppy raisers who present a valid ID and vaccination letter will be welcomed aboard with their dogs at no additional charge. Some minor restrictions will limit where they can sit, but the human-canine teams be allowed on after passengers with disabilities (in other words, before everyone else!)
Steve and I have never been tempted to take any of our puppies on an American Airlines flight (our main carrier for longer trips in the US), although I know some puppy raisers report great success with even cross-country flights. We might, however, consider taking one of our pus on a flight under 2 hours long — for which we almost always use Southwest.
We have no such travel planned in the immediate future, so who knows if Kyndall will benefit from this policy change? But at least I can salute Southwest for being flexible and generous in this way. (It’s just one more thing to make us want to fly them whenever possible.)
CCI encourages puppy-raisers to fly with their pups, once they’re old and mature enough. This is in line with our mission of preparing the dogs for lives of service, where they need to be able to comport themselves well, even in cramped and distracting spaces. Nonetheless, Steve and I have never flown with one of our puppies. That’s partly because for short flights, we almost always fly on Southwest
Airlines, which does not welcome puppies in training. (The law requires them, like all airlines, to let actual working dogs come aboard.) I understand that American Airlines, our most frequent choice when flying longer distances, does allow canine trainers in its cabins. But frankly, we both shudder at the thought of flying with any puppy for more than an hour or so. It feels like it would add stress to any pleasure trip and push any working trip into the red zone.
Still even though flying with a puppy is not on my personal to-do list, I felt uneasy reading the New York Times article about “emotional support” dogs and the growing (according to the Times) backlash confronting them. I had no idea that the federal Air Carrier Access Act allows you to take your dog with you, even on planes, for free (!), if you can get a mental health professional to write a letter saying that you need the animal’s comforting presence. Astoundingly, the emotionally supportive animal can even be a cat, a monkey, a miniature horse, of a potbellied pig, the article says.
One thing that’s clear is that discussions about animal access generate some very strong emotions in humans. By this afternoon, the article was topping the Times’s “most-emailed” list, and more than 400 readers had chimed in with comments (everything from, “Anyone who complains about a support dog should be beaten with a rolled-up newspaper,” to “My daughter will die of an asthma attack if she sits on a seat that once was occupied by an animal. If she has an asthma attack on a plane I will sue the airlines.”)
It’s enough to make me want to head for the hills — on a train.