The Canadian Transportation Agency made one big mistake last month when it ruled that Canadian airlines must protect passengers who are allergic to cats. It suggested Air Canada and West Jet either ban cats on flights carrying allergic passengers or create a cat-free buffer zone.
This should have been a no-brainer: no cats in the cabin, period. No dogs or rabbits or snakes or any other animals or birds, either.
Neither airline will be anxious to be the first to ban cats so they’ll likely create a cat-free zone on flights with passengers with allergies. That will work about as well as the smoke-free zone when that was instituted years ago and, thankfully, ultimately led to the outright ban on smoking on planes.
The CTA should have learned from the smoking experiment. Planes are a contained unit and creating a “free anything” zone just will not work. Just ban the cats.
Cats are not, as cat owners like to refer to them, “emotional support animals.” Yes, some people get a calming effect from the presence of animals. But does that mean they get to disrupt the lives of people around them? How calm were those passengers on a recent Air Canada flight out of Halifax when they had to wait more than four hours because of a loose cat?
One of those emotional support cats got loose, ran into the cockpit and got stuck in some of the navigation equipment. The flight was delayed four hours and 20 minutes. All because of a cat.
Letting any animal other than trained and essential service ones — such as seeing-eye dogs — on airlines is just wrong. It’s just one more example of how the wishes of the minority trump what’s fair for the majority. And one more rule that opens the door to all kinds of abuse.
Like the lady who checked into the San Francisco airport for a flight to New York with, not one, not two, but three snarling Pomeranians — her emotional support animals.
Or the fellow who took a flight with his emotional support miniature pony. What happens when an animal trainer checks in with his 1,000 pound emotional support bear?
The law that created these so-called emotional support animals was intended to aid the truly disabled. Instead it created a loophole for abuse, for people wanting to avoid the fee normally charged for flying animals, like the dog trainer who flew with his two 20 to 30 pound show dogs.
To fly with one of these emotional support animals, a passenger is supposed to provide documentation in the form of an original letter from a licensed mental health professional (e.g. a psychologist, psychiatrist or licensed clinical social worker) confirming they have a mental or emotional disability and need the animal with them.
Even that creates another problem because airline personnel are so afraid of discrimination laws they’re often hesitant to even ask the person for documentation to prove the animal is necessary.
No, it would be best to just keep the animals out of the passenger cabin. It’s bad enough that people have to put up with neighbours’ cats urinating in their children’s sandbox and in their gardens and killing birds at their feeder, they shouldn’t have to fly two, four, six or more hours on a plane with a cat, or any other animal, sitting on the seat next to them.