Reassessment of Airline Regulations on Guinea Pigs
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Currently, pet owners have many restrictions to face while making arrangements to travel with pets. Unfortunately, sometimes these restrictions also apply when traveling with Service, Emotional Support, or Therapy Animals.
Hello. My name is Loren, and this is my story. About a year ago I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression. It has been a huge roller coaster for me, but I have found comfort in my emotional support animals. I have two Guinea Pigs that help me through both anxiety and panic attacks. I know they are not a conventional choice, but they are my choice, my family. I am currently a student, traveling a fair distance between school and home for holidays and visits. This situation is the first time I have had to travel since adopting the guinea pigs. I chose to fly with WestJet because they are usually more helpful and personable in dealing with issues than other airlines I have traveled on... Unfortunately, this has not been the case. According to airline regulations, no rodents are allowed in the cabin of an airplane, Guinea Pigs included. When we booked our tickets the Booking Agent told us that we had to purchase them first, then make pet/animal arrangements through the special care desk. While trying to make arrangements I was continuously receiving the answer no, with no one giving me a straight answer as to why. I had the situation escalated to the highest it could go. Unfortunately, even at the top of customer care, they could not let Guinea Pigs in the cabin. Of course, I was heartbroken by this news. Traveling is stressful enough as it is, without the added stress from an anxiety disorder, and the continued stress of being told that I can not take my support animals with me into the cabin (because they are within the rodent family) has put a huge strain on me and my mental health. This issue has been devastating. I am now dedicated to having the airlines reassess their decisions, and allow Guinea Pigs within the cabin of the aircraft.
Here is a little bit more information on the current airline regulations. Currently, airlines will allow Cats and Dogs within the cabin as pets. WestJet specifically (and possibly other airlines) allow Cats, Dogs, and Rabbits within the cabin as pets. This list extends (at least for WestJet) when talking about service animals. Within the cabin of an aircraft WestJet will accept Dogs, Cats, Miniature Horses, Pigs, and Monkeys; they will make acceptations on a case-to-case basis unless the animal is a Snake, Reptile, Ferret, Rodent, or Spider. Now, for the most part, this seems reasonable. Rodents are not allowed on the airplane because they tend to escape, chew, and get into places they shouldn't. Now that statement, on the whole, makes sense. However some animals within the rodent family do not exhibit these same characteristics, Guinea Pigs are one of them.
I know that some people that will not be able to relate to this problem personally, or agree with the current regulations because they have never owned a Guinea Pig. Guinea Pigs express temperaments similar to Rabbits (who are allowed within the cabins). On a side note to that, the airlines do not discriminate upon the breed of the Rabbit; Dwarf Rabbits are the same size as Guinea Pigs. Guinea Pigs can live safely within an enclosure that is not sealed across the top because they do not climb; they don't have the capability because of the size of their legs in comparison to the rest of their bodies. Guinea Pigs (or at least in my experience) do not chew as much as some other rodents, especially when compared to Mice, Rats, and Hamsters. The number one concern of the airline concerning rodents is that they are more likely to escape, find their way into a crevice, and chew on the inner workings and wires of the aircraft. This concern is reasonable with most rodents; however, it does not make sense for all rodents. This broad generalization of an entire family of animals does not make a whole lot of sense, especially when you consider how large the family is and the wide variety of animal behaviors.
Creating a policy that states, "Guinea Pigs are not allowed within the cabin of the aircraft because they are part of a family that contains other species that will chew on anything" is a lot like saying, "Your Shih Tzu is not allowed in the cabin because other members of the canine family are very aggressive and it endangers the passengers." It sounds ridiculous to say that your Shih Tzu is not permitted within the cabin because it is within the same family as a Wolves, Coyotes, and other aggressive, and dangerous animals. So why is it not ridiculous to say that Guinea Pigs are not permitted within the cabin because they are within the same family as Mice, Gerbils, and other animals that are obsessive chewers?
I would like to make the request that WestJet, in conjunction with Transportation Canada, as well as other airlines reassess their decision to include Guinea Pigs on their blacklist of animals permitted within the cabin of an aircraft.
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