Life

Nuala McCann: I might bring a pet on a plane to use it as a kind of sneaky weapon

If I had a pet would I bring it on board an airline? Perhaps, but it would be only to use it as a kind of sneaky weapon. When the large gentleman in the seat in front pushes his seat rest back and practically lands in your lap, you could hiss in his ear: 'Put your seat back up or say hello to my German Shepherd'

In America pets can fly, as long as they are medical essentials, aka support pets

IN AMERICA, the land of opportunity, you can take a pet on prescription to help you deal with your fear of flying.

When is a dog not a dog – when it's an emotional support animal or ESA for short.

Writing in the Guardian, Marisa Meltzer describes how she takes her “comfort blanket” Joan everywhere with her.

On the flight to San Francisco everyone wanted to spend a little time with Joan, she said. Marisa fell asleep only to wake up to find another passenger cradling her and cooing into her ears. Joan's ears, not Marisa's. But on long haul flights, nothing surprises me.

Joan is an ESA – but she also weighs about 40 pounds and is an old English bulldog.

There are all sorts of restrictions about bringing animals on flights but in America, if that pet is prescribed to help someone deal with illness and anxiety – then bring on Joan and her fellow creatures – as long as they are medical essentials, aka support pets.

The trouble is that some people are bending the rules to get their pets on board.

People can bring on dogs and cats to comfort them on long hauls, but they can also bring ducks, turkeys and pigs. Apparently some people have.

Sharing a 10-hour flight with a Vietnamese pot bellied pig would be unimaginable hell. There have been tragic stories of hamsters flushed down loos and dogs who died in overhead lockers.

It goes without saying that there is a lot more defacating in aisles... more so than on your average human flight.

It all sounds a little too Doctor Doolittle.

But, argues Marisa, if there are screaming children on aeroplanes, tiny spaces for legroom, and they charge you for a bottle of water and to put your bag in the hold, then what harm is there in bringing a pet ?

The only wildlife I've seen on local flights are two-legged but almost on all-fours after a session in the bar.

Other people defy the odds by scooping a million in the lottery. On board a five-hour flight, we invariably find ourselves parked beside the howling baby and turn, look at each other and ask: “What are the odds of getting beside the rabid baby?”

We have usually defied them.

Your tolerance levels drop on the red eye and we sulk as the shrieks rise.

The time when a couple parked their three children, aged from nine to two, in the three seats behind us, then retreated five rows back to enjoy their ‘child free' flight still rankles.

Eldest child tried to soothe toddler who was bawling his lamps out and deafening the rest of us.

There we were trying to decide whether to invest in a chicken stuffing sandwich or save the cash and put down a deposit on a city apartment.

The airlines pile you on board and you sit like rows of battery hens, then they charge you an arm and a leg for a sandwich and urge you to buy a scratch card because “it's for charity”.

If I had a pet would I bring it on board an airline? Perhaps, but it would be only to use it as a kind of sneaky weapon. Your pet could be soothing for you, but a kind of threat to other passengers.

When the large gentleman in the seat in front pushes his seat rest back as far as it will go and practically lands in your lap, you could hiss in his ear: “Put your seat back up right now or say hello to my unmuzzled German Shepherd.”

Yes, I could do with an emergency support animal but airlines have to draw the line because your darling pet of a tarantula is the passenger next door's big black hairy phobia.

Lines are being drawn. According to CNN, insects, goats, hedgehogs, ferrets, spiders, chickens and even hawks will no longer be accepted as comfort animals on American Airlines flights.

Miniature horses may be OK, as long as they are properly trained as support animals. If your animal growls, lunges, jumps or bites then it will not be considered an ESA.

The airline drew up its list after witnessing a 40 per cent increase in comfort animals on flights.

Other airlines were being asked to carry a peacock, a pig and a hamster... so they had to set ground rules.

Perhaps this is all a cunning ruse to cut air pollution by putting us all off aeroplanes.

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