As the airlines raise fees associated with pets being brought onto aircraft, a number of people are flocking to a new haven. The haven? They are certifying their pets as service animals. Thanks to the Americans With Disability Act enforced in the US, individuals can't be denied from bring their pet, err service animal on board. The best part? There's no fee and Fido gets to ride in the cabin.
So what exactly does it take to be a service animal. In 2010, the ADA updated their criteria for service animals and thanks to the wonder of Wikipedia, I have a snippet:
As of September of 2010, the United States' Americans with Disabilities Act has redefined a service animal as "any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.
So with this new set of loose requirements, it doesn't take much to demonstrate a disability. Everyone suffers through some psychiatric or intellectual challenges, and thus can fall into the category of a "disability". A number of readers of this site suffer from "Fear of Flying in Coach". If you believe a service dog can help you suffer through sitting in coach, it's a bonafide disability.
So, while folks are exploiting this loophole, in the long run the folks that are going to suffer are the ones with more traditional disabilities who rely on service dogs for day to day existence.