ESA Weekly News Report May 2nd: One Year Since New Alaska Airlines ESA Policy – What Has Changed

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In this week’s news, we look at the effects Alaska Airlines ESA Policy changes have had on air travel for ESA owners, the general public, and fraudsters who misrepresent pets as assistance animals.

Other than that, we look at how a school district in Wyoming bands together to ban emotional support animals (ESAs) from classrooms, as well as how Northwestern University is getting a bad reputation for being unwelcoming towards students with mental illness who need to live with their ESAs.

Alaska Airlines ESA Policy: One Year Later

It has been one whole year since Alaska Air brought its new ESA policy into action. A lot has changed in the world of air travel for ESA owners and their animals. The amended policy was a necessary change that was aimed at regulating ESA travel, prevent fraudsters from misrepresenting pets as ESAs, and improve the safety (and comfort) of passengers flying without ESAs.

Alaska Airlines demanded specific documentation, imposed breed restrictions, and made a disclaimer that ESAs who are misbehaved, have a foul odor, or are not potty trained will be refused access to the cabin.

Many people bought fake ESA letters to get their animals onto flights free of charge. There were also all kinds of animals (such as pigs, peacocks, and turkeys) on flights because people claimed they were emotional support animals.

The numbers of ESAs on flights has increased drastically over the last few years, so the move by Alaska Air should come as no surprise. On top of that, the airline seems to have set a trend, as many other airlines have joined suits and set tighter restrictions on people traveling with ESAs and psychiatric service animals.

Natrona County School District Plans to Update Animal Policy to Exclude Emotional Support Animals

The Natrona County School District is making a move to update their animal policy. In a meeting on Monday 22 April 2019, the district’s Board of Trustees Board Policy Committee brought up the topic in a meeting.

The suggested new policy aims to allow only instructional assistance dogs, professional therapy teams, service animals, and law enforcement K9 units. All of the above-mentioned animals receive specialized training meaning that they are generally quite predictable and are not disruptive, destructive or aggressive.

Furthermore, there are plans to impose regulations as to what animals are allowed in the classrooms in schools of the district. According to Board Vice Chairman Dana Howie, only therapy dogs should be allowed in classrooms.

Howie said “It should be dogs, probably, and not other therapy animals,”.


young school boy with his emotional support dog

Students with ESAs Feel Unwelcome at Northwestern University

There are numerous reports from students studying at Northwestern University, saying that they feel unwelcome on campus because they are living with emotional support animals.

One student, who has a mental illness and has been prescribed an emotional support dog, was made to feel so unwelcome that she decided to leave campus and find other accommodation. Debra Duval said that she decided to move off campus after she received a couple of complaints about her ESA Xayah.

According to Duval, the complaints were mostly from students who were annoyed by Xayah’s occasional barking. Duval made a good argument when she said that the drunk students living at Elder Hall were far more disruptive than her emotional support dog.

“They’re out in the lobby, drunk at 4 a.m., and they can be as loud as they want and I have an emotional support dog who barks twice in the middle of the day and I get chastised for it and they don’t,” Duval said.

More than one student has said that the University’s Residential Services Office is handling the applications for students wishing to bring their ESAs to campus, with very little understanding of how much these students depend on their animals for emotional support.

A sophomore, Kelly Sloan, had a rather frustrating experience getting her emotional support rabbit, Peach, approved for living with on campus:

“I sat down with someone in Res Services and they were like, ‘OK we have your paperwork, we can’t tell you no or else it’s discrimination, like, guess you get an animal,’” Sloan said. “I didn’t feel very believed, as far as someone who has mental illness… They were like ‘Well, whatever, your therapist is a real licensed therapist, so there’s nothing we can do.”


sad pug lying on floor

CertaPet’s Views on This Week’s News

CertaPet supports Alaska and other airlines 100% in tightening the rules and regulations of ESAs traveling on their flights.

CertaPet is all about helping people who really need them, get their ESAs. We also believe that having an ESA is a big responsibility and understand (and support) the rules airlines have put in place to ensure the safety and comfort of all passengers. Unruly, untrained and aggressive ESAs have no right to mingle with the public!

It is incredibly important to know the differences between the types of assistance animals and the legal protection each has. The Natrona County School District is acting well within its rights in banning ESAs from classrooms.

ESAs are protected by 2 federal laws that include housing and air travel with ESAs, but these assistance animals are not legally allowed in public places or institutions like service animals are.

In the case of NU’s attitude towards ESAs on campus: we understand that having an increased amount of ESAs on campus is challenging, but this is something the schools are legally obliged to deal with.

Under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) reasonable accommodation must be given to people with a disability. This includes people with mental illnesses or conditions who need an emotional support animal.

Some universities are very welcoming towards ESAs, and our hope is that more schools approach ESAs (for people who really need them) with a positive and welcoming attitude!

If you are thinking about getting an ESA, you can start the process by taking CertaPet’s free online 5-minute pre-screening. If your answers indicate that you may qualify for an ESA, we will connect you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) in your state and you could have your ESA letter in as little as 48 hrs!

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