After a recent rash of controversies in which some restaurants and airlines were criticized for refusing to accommodate service dogs, the airlines and other service industries are fighting back.
While regretting the negative publicity garnered by incidents such as the recent refusal by American Airlines to allow a service dog to board a flight with its owner, and a case in August where a veteran with a service dog was refused admission to a Paterson, New Jersey Subway restaurant, industry representatives argue that more attention should be focused on the growing problem of bogus service animals.
Mark Harbinger, a manager of a Radisson hotel in Queens, New York, told the Dandy Goat of a recent encounter with a man posing as an Iraq war vet who claimed that his dog helped him to deal with PTSD. “The dog went to the bathroom in the lobby twice. It jumped up onto customers’ tables at dinner and ate their food. The gentleman had no control over it, and it clearly wasn’t trained,” Harbinger said.
“But the man said if the dog couldn’t be with him, he risked having flashbacks about his time in Iraq, which could cause him to start digging up the floors looking for IEDs and go around flexi-cuffing and hooding swarthy-looking or Asian customers and members of staff. He had what looked like all the right paperwork, so under the ADA we had to let the dog stay with him.”
However, it’s not only dogs that are causing problems. A recent Delta flight from Charlotte, North Carolina to Syracuse, New York had to be diverted to Boston’s Logan Airport after a black bear cub, which an elderly woman claimed was trained to alert her to epileptic seizures, started rampaging up and down the aisles and growling at passengers.
“It was mayhem,” recalled flight attendant Lindy Hobsbawm. “People were screaming, the bear cub was roaring and at one point was trying to enter the cockpit.” The cub chewed through bulkheads, damaging vital wiring and causing the overhead oxygen masks to deploy, which led to panic among passengers. The incident only ended when a federal air marshal shot the animal dead.
In another incident involving a JetBlue flight, a ferret which was supposedly monitoring the blood pressure of an elderly passenger ran up the trouser leg of a male flight attendant, causing him to pass out in shock and forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing.
While the dangers of out-of-control animals on the ground are not as great as those posed in the air, the costs and harm caused can still be serious.
Earlier this year, police were called to a Chicago KFC after a fake seeing eye-swan belonging to a teenager who had falsely claimed to be partially-sighted got into a fight with a so-called “heartburn alert goose” which its overweight owner claimed he was training to honk when he was at risk of chronic indigestion.
And just last month, a family from South Dakota tried to check into a Tallahassee, Florida hotel with a swarm of bees which they insisted formed a protective cocoon while their twin baby girls slept to safeguard against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
A heated argument between the couple and hotel management apparently caused the bees to become enraged, and several guests and staff members received multiple stings before a quick-thinking bellhop activated the hotel’s halon fire suppression system, suffocating the angry swarm.
Melinda Strobe, a spokeswoman for Americans with Disabilities, told the Dandy Goat: “Incidents involving these fake service animals are giving genuine service animals, like my Fluffy, a bad name.” Fluffy, a kangaroo that Strobe says is trained to sniff out the warning signs of bowel cancer, brought the interview to a premature end when he punched our reporter in the face and then started pounding his unconscious body with his powerful tail.