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Proposed amendment would reclassify emotional support animals as pets on flights

Posted at 4:23 PM, Jan 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 11:50:01-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Emotional support animals might be banned from flights in the future as the U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing the change across the country.

On a busy day at the Nashville International Airport, it's pretty common to see travelers with emotional support animals. Lindsay Timberlake is one of them. She brings her cats Otis and Milo everywhere. They help her with her anxiety. She was concerned to hear the U.S. Department of Transportation announced online that officials want feedback on possibly changing regulations involving flying with animals in an effort to increase safety.

If emotional support animals are reclassified as pets, Timberlake said she would have to stop flying.

"It’s very distressing to me because what I would have to do, I would have to find someone that I trust to care for my animals, and then I would be without my animals that provide relief from anxiety," Timberlake said.

However, other travelers like Harry and Barbara Menna feel some pet owners take advantage of the system.

Menna said, "It’s certainly abused, so they need to screen people that are scamming the system because everybody’s got an emotional support peacock and a snake now."

They paid $95 one way on Southwest Airlines so that Lexi can fly with them.

"We pay for our cat, and that’s that," Menna said.

Timberlake said she has a note from a mental health professional which says she needs her cats by her side.

"I think it’s a real tragedy to take that from people," Timberlake said, "Pets are emotionally bonded to their owners, and they look to us for care and comfort, everything, so to create a riff between owner and their pets I think is wrong."

The Department of Transportation said the change would not include service dogs. If you have strong opinions you can comment on their website. They are receiving public comment on the proposed rule change for 60 days.