Burke wants to rein in ‘comfort animals’ on O’Hare and Midway flights

on Feb28

28 February 2018 | 6:08 pm

Dog-loving passengers at O’Hare and Midway Airport may soon have a tougher time flying with Fido.

Following the lead of two major airlines — Delta and hometown United — Burke wants to close the giant loophole that has allowed passengers to declare their pets “comfort” animals without proof and have those pets accompany them on flights into and out of O’Hare and Midway.

Burke noted that those lax guidelines have allowed passengers across the country to bring “turkeys, gliding possums, snakes and spiders,” claiming they need the emotional support.

Delta alone flew 250,000 emotional support animals last year. That’s up 150 percent from two years ago. To the disgust and inconvenience of other passengers, Delta also reported a whopping 84 percent increase since 2016 in animal urination, defecation and biting aboard its flights.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Burke introduced an ordinance requiring owners of so-called “trained service animals” to provide documentation from a veterinarian and a “licensed medical or mental health professional” of the need for “psychiatric, therapeutic or emotional support” from the animal flying along with the passenger.

Owners of trained service animals would also need to provide documentation to the Chicago Department of Aviation that the pet flying with them has been vaccinated “within one year of travel time.”

Violators would face fines up to $250 and be “subject to removal from airport grounds,” the ordinance states.

Burke said he’s not trying to take the pet version of a security blanket away from passengers who really need it. He’s simply trying to screen out fakes and those who fraudulently claim an emotional ailment that does not exist.

“While the intention of this ordinance is to ensure that passengers who need to be accompanied by service or emotional support animals on airplanes in Chicago can do so, it is also important to put in place a set of rules that screen out any animals which do not serve a legitimate or officially-recognized purpose,” Burke was quoted as saying in a press release.

After prohibiting a female passenger from bringing an “emotional support peacock” on one of its flights, United recently announced plans to revise guidelines governing comfort animals. Delta did the same.



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