If you haven’t taken a flight in the past year, be sure to leave your pet peacock at home now.
Yes, goodbye pigs, penguins, kangaroos and everything else in the wild kingdom that airline passengers have passed off as emotional support animals in recent years, which at times has made the sky friendly more like the flying arch.
Fed up with the damage and complaints, airlines have pushed to stop the practice of allowing emotional support animals in cabins during flights. In March the US Department of Transportation established its final rule: no animals other than dogs allowed in the cabin, and no dogs other than certified assistance dogs.
Janette Thomas, dog trainer and founder of Cell Dogs, an Orange-based nonprofit, looked at this rule and saw an opportunity to make things better for humans and dogs.
“Most people think their dogs are better trained than they are,” Thomas said. “They have the bond, the relationship (with their dog), but they don’t have the discipline. Now is a great time for people to reinvest in their relationship with their animals. “
Since 2007, her nonprofit has paired rescue dogs from OC Animal Care in Orange with inmates in the juvenile ward, county jail and women’s prison. In a 10-week program, inmates train shelter dogs which are then adopted into homes.
But during the pandemic, the program had to pivot, and Thomas, who is certified by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, saw the airline change as an opportunity: Cell Dogs created training for people who wanted – Needed – their dogs to travel. In the end, they would get a real certification that would meet the requirements of the new airline.
Cost: $ 750 and approximately three months of training, depending on your canine companion’s degree of stubbornness and your commitment to reinforcing the lessons.
“I said create a program, but make it just so people have a sense of accomplishment and investment,” Thomas said.
It’s an investment of time and money, of course, but a fraction of the $ 25,000 to $ 35,000 it costs to buy an animal raised by national service dog organizations.
Again, this is more than buying a fake service vest and rough certification for your dog through a website.
“You can go online and buy, as you know you can buy anything these days,” she noted.
But what if your dog has already taken an obedience class? It’s not quite enough, says the coach.
“As far as I know, all assistance dog organizations use the same model of what they call a public access test,” she said. “With training assistance dogs, the biggest difference is the socialization component. And that’s what I sorely miss about these people who bring their pets on planes.
“Most dogs are extremely attentive to their owners but have very poor coping skills in public. They will sit in their own lap, but if someone else comes to them, they might not have the resources to know what to do. So it is not fair. It’s not fair to the dog. It is not fair to the public. It is not fair to the airlines. It’s just melee.
Beyond the pivotal opportunity that the change in airline regulation has brought to her nonprofit, Thomas is personally happy to see the change – she has had her own experience at an airport where someone’s dog one rushed aggressively at her and her service dog.
“If as a passenger I’m concerned, can you imagine what the airlines were seeing? ” she asked. “I’m sure everyone saw some of the stories of people bringing peacocks, snakes, rabbits and ferrets – it was like a barnyard getting on a plane.
“So, can you imagine sitting in, you know, tight little quarters and having a pig or something next to you?” Or what if you were allergic to a cat and it comes out of its crate to sit next to you? And we know not everyone likes dogs.
Thomas said she had clients who had been flying their dogs for several years, after purchasing a vest with an “emotional support animal” patch. They expect to get a ‘rubber certificate’ and are often surprised when their dog fails the sociability tests Thomas and his trainers gave the animal, starting with a deceptively simple walk around the square. from the old town of Orange.
“They all fail for sociability because what happens is you walk into a store and they go straight to people, like gently jumping on them,” she said. “This is attention seeking behavior, which is a no-no for a service dog.”
Some owners take offense when Thomas doesn’t pass their dog, she said.
“I’m like, look, I can’t in good conscience sign these papers,” she said. “I put my certification license number on it. And you only make it worse for other people who want to travel with their dogs because what if someone calls you about your dog’s behavior? “
Airlines may not have the time right now to verify authentication of training certificates, but don’t give them a reason to “start digging on this, you know?” Thomas said.
Thomas added that getting service dog certification isn’t the end of the conversation about keeping your pet well trained.
“Lots, lots of people are contacting us for a service dog,” she said. “They think it’s a bit like a push button ready. They don’t realize that it takes about a year for that bond to really snap into place so they can get the most out of the dog. They don’t realize the commitment that this entails. If you stop, the workout goes backwards.
To maintain their level of training, Cell Dog clients will be reassessed annually to maintain their TSA authorization.
Meanwhile, Cell Dogs is also strengthening its main mission of working in prisons to train dogs.
“The more people there are, the more we can do. This is where we are now. Transition for the future, ”she said.