Let Hedgehogs and other Small Exotic Pets Fly Secured in Pet Carriers

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Overview:
Hedgehogs, along with several other exotic animals were recently banned from being allowed as service or emotional support animals (ESAs) onboard major US airlines including American Airlines and United Airlines because they are considered to be a "safety and/or public health risk."  Moreover, these animals and any other animal that is basically not a cat or dog will not be permitted onboard even if they are secured in a pet carrier at all times.  Although, some airlines will permit small domesticated birds or bunnies/rabbits and American Airlines still allows miniature horses onboard as service animals. 

My Mission:
To convince major airlines to lift the ban on hedgehogs and other certain small exotic animals, regardless if they are an ESA or simply just a beloved pet, and allow them onboard with their owners as a carry-on as long as 1) they are secured safely in a pet carrier at all times during the flight, 2) they don't need to be taken out of the carrier to be given food or water or otherwise cared for during the flight, 3) they are not smelly, noisy or otherwise disruptive to other passengers and crewmembers, and 4) they are healthy, parasite free and safe to fly with as documented by a recent letter or affidavit from a licensed veterinarian. 

Please read on and sign this petition if you would like to help me urge major airlines to allow small exotic animals/pets, that meet the 4 guidelines above, onboard with their owners instead of just banning them entirely.  #LetHedgiesFly

**The carrier must comply with all airline safety and size restrictions but be large enough for the comfort of the animal and small enough to be either held in the owner's lap or placed safely under the passenger seat in front of the owner.
**Animals that are venomous, poisonous, diseased or illegal within the US should obviously not be allowed onboard at all.

Background:
ESA laws allow people to have "any animal" onboard airlines outside of a pet carrier at no extra charge as long as the owner has the proper paperwork or documentation including, but not limited to, a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating that the animal is needed for the emotional and/or psychological well-being of its owner.  According to the US Department of Transportation, airlines are able to exclude certain animals if they are deemed to be too large, too heavy, a direct threat to the health and/or safety of others, or a disruption.  Additionally, "airlines are never required to accept snakes, reptiles, ferrets, rodents, sugar gliders, and spiders." 

Some exotic animals do not fall into any of these categories, so airlines have been allowing them onboard as ESAs in the past and, not surprisingly, this has led to a huge increase in animal related "incidents" because, unlike service animals such as seeing-eye dogs that receive years of specific behavioral training before being matched with their owners, ESAs "are not trained to perform tasks or recognize particular signs or symptoms" and are not required to have special training in order to be classified as an ESA which basically makes them not much more than pets.  Although, some airlines specify that ESAs must be "trained" to behave properly in a public setting and follow the owner's direction upon command.  However, they do not require documented proof of this training except merely a signed form on which the owner confirms that their ESA is "trained."  Airlines also state that if the animal shows aggressive or disruptive behavior in any way, then they will not be permitted onboard or will be removed from the aircraft entirely, but this policy doesn't exactly help other passengers and crewmembers if the animal misbehaves after the aircraft has already taken off.

Obviously, allowing any animal, exotic or otherwise, onboard any type of public transportation outside of a pet carrier is a potential "safety and/or public health risk" and will cause problems one way or another because animals perceive their environment differently than humans and will act upon their instincts to protect themselves and/or their owners as evidenced by a news article published last year about a man who was "mauled" by an emotional support dog on a Delta airline flight.  

Furthermore, most cat and dog breeds produce a lot of dander and are therefore more of a "public health risk" to passengers with allergies than a hypoallergenic pet that produces little or no dander.  And yet cats and dogs (with certain breed restrictions of course) are still permitted onboard most airlines as a pet or ESA.  Even some larger dog breeds are permitted onboard as ESAs without having to be muzzled or made to wear booties to cover their claws as a safety precaution.

My Experience:
I personally love all types of animals but am unfortunately allergic to cats and I'm not permitted to have a dog in my small apartment, so I decided to adopt an African Pygmy Hedgehog not just because they are extremely adorable and compact in size but especially because they are hypoallergenic, nonaggressive and very low maintenance. 

My hedgehog's name is Peter Quill (Instagram: @littlestarlord_quill) and he is a sweet little fur baby that sleeps all day, because hedgehogs are nocturnal, but when he is active, he makes very little noise except for the sound his tiny paws make while running on his exercise wheel.  I was hoping to visit my best friend this year in Louisiana, which is only a 3 1/2 hour direct flight from JFK to MSY, so I emailed several airlines (Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United and American) requesting permission to bring him with me onboard so long as he was secured in a pet carrier but they all denied my request. 

Extremely disappointed, I even considered taking Quill with me on a 30+ hour train ride instead, so I emailed Amtrak the same request, but was again denied.

Conclusion:
Responsible exotic pet owners should be able to travel with their pets on airlines, especially if they are clearly less of a "safety and/or public health risk" than a cat or dog.  

I wholeheartedly and sincerely hope that major airlines will take this petition under consideration and realize that lifting the ban and permitting certain small exotic animals onboard their aircrafts secured in a proper pet carrier would make a lot of their customers extremely happy and most importantly, it would also greatly reduce the number of animal related "incidents" that they are experiencing, especially if they also require that small emotional support dogs and cats be safely secured in pet carriers and larger emotional support dog breeds be required to wear a muzzle and paw booties, not just for the safety of others but for the safety of the animal and its owner as well.

Disclaimer
The beliefs and/or opinions stated in this petition, including those listed below, are solely mine and were not influenced or solicited by any outside parties, groups or organizations.
**All animal/pet owners are responsible for ensuring that their animal is legal to have wherever they are travelling to or from.



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