As has been pointed out in the Washington Post and in itsÂ blogÂ The Volokh Conspiracy, â€œserviceâ€ animals are permitted to fly on planes, despite the fact that many people (including my wife) are quite allergic to them. The Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Act permits the pets not only to be on the plane (and without paying for the privilege) but to be held and petted on the ownerâ€™s lap, spreading dog or cat dander throughout the cabin. Moreover, it is relatively easy to â€œbuy unofficial documents or apparelâ€ to indicate that the pet is indeed a service animal.
I see two ways that this can be resolved within the strictures of the ADA. First, include allergies within the scope of the Act. For example, I have been on flights where peanuts were not given out because the carrier had been notified that a passenger had an extreme reaction to them, possibly resulting in anaphylactic shock. Although my wifeâ€™s allergy to pet dander is not that severe, others may not be as fortunate. A note from her allergist would certainly be a lot more convincing than the aforesaid â€œservice animalâ€ documents.
Second, as with smokers on planes in earlier years, have the persons with pets sit in the rearmost seats, and have those with substantiated allergies sit further away from the rear. According to one of the airline personnel we queried about it, a separation of about seven rows is enough to minimize the spread of pet dander.
Accommodating the disabilities of others is certainly worthwhile, but not when (1) it is so easy to fake the disability and (2) it adversely affects others with other disabilities who have the same right to be accommodated.