ESA Weekly News Feb 19th: Tampa Airport Introduces New Rule for Meet and Greet ESAs

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emotional support dog at tampa airportThis week in ESA news, Tampa Airport has become the first aviation hub to move to make rules for emotional support animals (ESAs) that are not planning on flying. Will the movement spread to other airports in the U.S.? It’s certainly possible. Let’s take a look at the new policy for ESA owners.

New Airport Policy Sets Precedent for “Meet and Greet ESAs”

Tampa International Airport has just passed a new rule—which could see airports around the nation following suit as airlines move to implement laws to control emotional support animals. The Florida airport, which serves around 50,000 passengers daily, has implemented the rule to combat what it says is a growing number of ESAs arriving at the transportation hub to meet and greet arriving passengers. 

The new rule dictates: If your emotional support animal is not flying, leave it at home. If it is flying, you must put it in a carrier or keep it on a leash within 5 feet. You also can’t take it into the airport’s restaurants. 

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority voted to bring the new restrictions in to address the rising number of emotional support animals being brought into the airport, with no booking on a flight

The airport plans to implement the change with a robust effort to educate passengers and their greeters about the new rule, followed by conversations with individual travelers and pet-owning residents. On March 25th, enforcement efforts will start to include verbal and written warnings, and, for repeat offenders, trespass violations issued by airport police.

Airport personnel pointed out that these new rules do not affect those traveling with service animals, animals who are trained in specific duties to assist their owners.

emotional support animal on leash sitting next to owner

“Tampa International Airport welcomes and will always welcome service animals that provide aid to individuals with disabilities on our campus,” said John Tiliacos, the airport’s executive vice president for airport operations and customer service. He also highlighted that airlines are required by law to allow emotional support animals to fly, but have been “tightening the leash” by changing policy, in the name of safety for other passengers and crew.

The airport says that the move has become necessary after a number of incidents in past years. From 2016 to 2018, airport janitorial crews cleaned up a reported 325 messes in the terminal. Eleven passengers and others were injured, among them a TSA screener, who was bitten on the face.

There was also a widely publicized incident where a supposed ESA gave birth to a litter of puppies at the airport, leading many to decry that there are passengers who have been taking advantage of the vague rules surrounding support animals.

CertaPet’s Take on Tampa Airport’s New ESA Rule

There are people with disabilities whose quality of life can be drastically improved by the companionship of an ESA. These are the people CertaPet wants to help. It is hardly surprising that airports are also tightening the leash on their ESA policy because there are so many people misrepresenting their pets as ESAs.

Another important thing to remember is that although ESAs are not required to have any specific training, having a well trained and obedient ESA helps protect the reputation of ESAs in general!

If you feel like your quality of life could be improved by an ESA, CertaPet has you covered!

Simply take our free online 5-minute pre-screening, and if your answers indicate that you may qualify for an ESA, we will connect you with a licensed mental health professional (LMHP) and you could have your ESA letter in as little as 48 hrs!

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