Air Canada only allows emotional support dogs on their flights. (Black Press file photo)

Everything you need to know about comfort animals on Canadian airlines

Air Canada only allows emotional support dogs, while WestJet accepts a much broader range

Miniature horses, monkeys and pigs can legally fly as emotional support animals on at least one Canadian airline, but a travellers’ advocate says most jet-setting comfort animals are far less exotic and are a truly necessary accommodation for people with disabilities.

Unusual animal encounters at the airport have been making headlines in recent weeks.

United Airlines turned away a passenger who tried to board a flight with an emotional support peacock last month, and a Florida woman claimed last week that an airline employee told her to flush her dwarf hamster down a toilet after refusing to let the pet on the plane.

Passenger rights activist Gabor Lukacs, who has waged numerous legal battles against Canadian airlines, said the attention paid to these sensational cases undermines the rights of people with disabilities who need emotional support animals to fly comfortably.

“We need to move away the focus from the animal to the fellow passenger,” said Lukacs.

“The animal is not there as a kind of luxury, they are simply there to make sure that a person with a disability is able to enjoy the same way to travel as people who don’t have disabilities.”

Air Canada and WestJet both have policies on their websites regarding emotional support animals and require that a passenger provide documentation from a licensed mental health professional certifying the need for the animal.

Air Canada only allows emotional support dogs on their flights.

WestJet accepts a much broader range of emotional support animals including cats, miniature horses, pigs and monkeys, and said decisions about other “unusual animals” are made on a case-by-case basis, except for those that pose health risks such as rodents and reptiles.

Neither airline agreed to be interviewed about their policies.

READ MORE: Fraser Health introduces first hospital ‘trauma dog’ in B.C.

Lukacs said Canadian airlines are obliged to accommodate emotional support animals for people with disabilities and failure to do so would amount to a form of discrimination.

He said the only exception would be if the animal poses a substantial risk of harming other passengers, but insisted that overwhelmingly, pets on planes cause little disruption.

Douglas Tompson said on a recent flight from Saskatoon to Toronto he was seated near a passenger who took her cat out of its carrier and started playing with it, to the coos of flight attendants.

His throat started to tingle.

Tompson, who is highly allergic to cats, said the flight attendants had to give him a Benadryl from a first-aid kit to reduce the redness and swelling, but he was still itching and wheezing as he boarded his next two flights on his more than 24-hour journey.

He said he was told to give the airline a doctor’s note about his allergy so they could create a “buffer zone” if he were to again share a plane with a feline.

“The flight crew make a big deal about peanut allergies … I wish that they’d make the same announcement for cats,” Tompson said.

Lukacs sees the allergy issue in terms of two passengers having different disabilities, and both deserving to be accommodated.

While some have expressed suspicions about pet owners seeking fake documentation for emotional support animals, Lukacs said trying to fly with an animal under false pretenses would amount to “fraud.”

“As a matter of equity … we don’t consider that people should be paying extra just because they have a disability,” he said.

“They have the right to the flight and enjoy travel the same way as anybody else.”

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

WATCH: Ronald McDonald House Central Alberta hosts Barnyard Breakfast

FortisAlberta makes $10,000 donation to House operations

Innisfail RCMP charge woman in connection with seizure of eight dogs

Karin Adams, 46, of no fixed address faces dozen charges

WATCH: Red Deer’s Westerner Days kicks off to a smoking hot start

Thousands take in the food, entertainment, rides and more at Westerner Park

WATCH: 2018 Westerner Days Parade brings 1000s to downtown Red Deer

The parade begins five days of western fun and culture in Central Alberta

Innisfail RCMP seize eight dogs from hotel room following earlier arrest

Dogs were in distress and taken to an animal rescue organization

WATCH: Tune into What’s Up Wednesday

An overview of the week’s news in Red Deer

Canadian government threatens to retaliate if Trump imposes auto tariffs

U.S president had suggested that auto imports pose a national security risk to the U.S.

UPDATED: Airdrie man charged after Taser-like weapons seized

Canadian Border and Airdrie RCMP charged a man after an attempt to bring the weapons into Canada

Ontario, Saskatchewan premiers join together to oppose federal carbon plan

Saskatchewan is already involved in a court case over the tax

Sylvan Lake is moving toward a greener town

The Town of Sylvan Lake is moving forward with a contract with Fogdog Energy

Wetaskiwin RCMP investigate theft of almost $140,000 value in Millet

Wetaskiwin RCMP respond to past break and enter at a rural Wetaskiwin property

After cave rescue, soccer boys pray for protection at Thai temple

On Wednesday evening, the boys and coach were released from hospital

Gymnastics sex abuse victims join hands, accept courage award at ESPYs

The women who spoke out against the abuse by Larry Nassar stood together Wednesday night

Two charged near Sundre after dog, cat, horse and five lambs stolen

Witnesses give valuable information to police, stolen property recovered

Most Read