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‘Emotional support squirrel’ leads to plane evacuation

October 16, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A woman carrying a squirrel and insisting she needed it for emotional support has triggered the evacuation of an aircraft.

The woman and her “emotional support squirrel” were removed from a Frontier Airlines flight at Orlando airport in Florida – and so was everybody else, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

The flight to Ohio was delayed nearly two hours.

The peculiar American custom of allowing pets and livestock to fly with passengers to provide “emotional support” is enshrined in law. Fines on airlines for refusing a legitimate support animal can run as high as USD 150,000. Spiders, scorpions and reptiles were outlawed as emotional support animals in 2008, but passengers keep pushing the boundaries.

A squirrel was too much for Frontier Airlines, which does not allow rodents or squirrels on its flights.

Passengers had boarded and were ready for takeoff when the airline announced that “a situation” had arisen and everyone would have to get off.

Police were called when the woman refused to leave the plane.

Flight attendants confided to passengers that the problem was a squirrel. A woman holding a squirrel and pumping her fist in the air was later filmed at the airport.

Earlier this year, United Airlines courted controversy by turning away an emotional-support animal – a large peacock – at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. The owner wheeled her luggage to the check-in counter with the peacock perched on her shoulder.

Airlines are toughening up. Delta, for instance, has tightened its emotional support animal regulations, demanding that owners provide documentary evidence, signed by a doctor or licenced mental health professional, verifying that their animals are necessary and will behave.

This has drawn criticism from organisations whose members view carriage of animals as an essential right – blind travellers, for instance. Websites have sprung up offering easy-to-download documents to help people take animals on flights.

Perhaps a squirrel holding the right documents, or accompanied by a lawyer, might stand a better chance.

Written by Peter Needham

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