If you haven’t caught a flight in the past year, be sure to leave your pet peacock at home now.
Yes, it’s goodbye to boars, penguins, kangaroos and all the rest of the wild kingdom that airline travelers in recent years have passed off as emotional support animals, sometimes making friendly skies like an ark flying .
Fed up with grudges and complaints, airlines lobbied to stop the practice of allowing emotional support animals in cabins during flights. In March the US Department of Transportation set its final rule: No animals other than dogs are allowed in the cabin, and no dogs other than certified service dogs are allowed on it.
Janet Thomas, dog trainer and founder of Sail Dogs, a non-profit based in Orange, saw that rule as an opportunity to improve the situation for both humans and dogs.
“Most people think their dogs are better trained than they are,” Thomas said. “They have a bonding, relationship (with their dog), but they don’t have the discipline. This is a great time for people to reinvest in their relationships with their animals.”
Since 2007 her nonprofit has connected OC Animal Care’s shelter dogs in Orange with inmates at Juvenile Hall, the County Jail, and the Women’s Jail. In a 10-week program, inmates train shelter dogs that are then adopted into homes.
But during the pandemic, the program had to pivot, and Thomas, who is certified through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, saw the airline change as an opportunity: Sail Dogs created training for people who wanted to — their dogs for the trip. Eventually, they’ll receive a de facto certification that will pass muster for the new airline requirement.
Cost: $750 plus about three months of training, depending on how bullheaded your canine companion can be, and how dedicated you are to reinforcing lessons.
“I said let’s make a schedule, but make it fair so that people feel a sense of accomplishment and investment,” Thomas said.
It’s certainly an investment of time and money, but it costs a fraction of the $25,000-$35,000 to buy an animal raised by national service dog organizations.
Then again, it’s much more than buying a fake service vest and sketch certification for your dog through some website.
“You can go online and buy, as you know, anything these days,” she said.
But what if your dog already has an obedience class? That’s not enough, says the trainer.
“As far as I know, all service dog organizations use the same template they call public access testing,” she said. “With service dog training, the biggest difference is the socialization component. And I think there is a huge shortage of people who bring their pets on planes to these people.
“Most dogs are extremely attentive to their owners, but have very poor coping skills in public. They will sit on their person’s lap, but if someone else comes towards them, they may not have what it takes to know Don’t have the resources what to do. So it’s not fair. It’s not fair to the dog. It’s not fair to the public. It’s not fair to the airlines. It’s just mayhem.”
Beyond the opportunity to pivot that airline regulation changes brought in for his nonprofit, Thomas is personally happy to see this change — he had his own experience in an airport where someone’s dog would aggressively attack him and his service dog. But ran.
“If I’m concerned as a passenger, can you imagine what the airlines were seeing?” He asked. “I’m sure everyone saw some stories about peacocks, snakes, and people bringing in rabbits and ferrets — it was like a barnyard arriving on an airplane.
“So can you imagine you’re sitting inside, cramped, tiny quarters and a pig or something next to you? Or if you’re allergic to a cat and she comes out of her crate to sit next to you. ? And we know that not everyone likes dogs.”
Thomas said he has clients who have been flying with their dogs for years, who have purchased a vest with an “emotional support animal” patch. They come in hopes of receiving a “rubber stamp of certification” and are often surprised when their dog fails the sociality test. Thomas and his trainers begin with a deceptively simple walk around the plaza in Old Town Orange.
“They all fail for sociability because what happens is that you go into a store and they run into people, like softly jumping on them,” she said. “This is attention-seeking behavior, which is a no-no for a service dog.”
Some owners get annoyed when Thomas won’t pass their dog, she said.
“I’m like, look, I can’t in all good conscience sign these papers,” she said. “I put my certification license number on that. And you’re only making it worse for other people who want to travel with their dogs, because what if someone calls you out on your dog’s behavior?
The airlines may not have time right now to check the certification of training certifications, but there’s no reason to start asking them to “drill down on this, you know?” Thomas said.
Thomas said getting a service dog certification isn’t the end of the conversation about keeping your pet well-trained.
“Many, many people approach us for a service dog,” she said. “They think it’s ready like a push-button. What they don’t realize is that it takes about a year for that bond to actually click so they can get full utility out of the dog. They realize that commitment That’s not what’s involved. If you stop, training lags.”
To maintain their training level, Sail Dog customers will be reevaluated each year to maintain their TSA authorization.
Meanwhile, Cell Dogs is also supporting its main mission of working in prisons to train dogs.
“The more people, the more we can do. That is the point where we are now. Transition to the future,” she said.