I arrived home from Massachusetts on Saturday. I was actually supposed to arrive home Friday night, but that is another tail for another day. Suffice it to say that the plane I was scheduled to take out of Albany couldn't fly out, so the airlines put me up in a hotel for the night.
In my experience, airport personnel are, by and large, the most ignorant people when it comes to knowing the laws which apply to assistance animals and their handlers. The problem is, that most of these people don't believe that they are ignorant-- on the contrary, they tend to misquote the law to me at least once every trip, and when I argue with them and tell them to point out the applicable section of the law to me, they get miffed and can become downright nasty. This trip was sadly no exception.
Saturday morning, I showed up to the Albany airport, bright and early. Laveau was with me, naturally. We made our way to the counter so I could check my luggage, when the woman behind the counter demanded "certification" for my dog. The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) is the law which gives persons with disabilities the right to travel on aircraft in the United States with assistance animals. Certification is not required. In fact the law states that if the dog is wearing an identifying harness or vest, or if the handler gives "credible verbal assurance" that certification shouldn't be an issue. Laveau was wearing both harness and vest. She walked me up to the counter and was obviously guiding me. But this lady wants certification. So I very politely inform her that certification is not necessary as a condition of access. And then she says that my dog's harness is different than most dogs and it looks "too pretty" so she must not be a guide dog.
Juuuuuust when I thought I'd heard everything, some moron comes along, and opens their mouth thereby proving that the horizons of idiocy are boundless. I inform this woman that the ACAA does not define what equipment an assistance dog may wear. That would be like your car insurance carrier telling you which color of car you may own. Laveau's harness is zebra striped, black and white. Her cape is purple with zebra striped trim and large letters which say "PAWPOWER SERVICE DOG." So we've got the "identifying harness and vest" section of the law covered, no?
I tell this lady that my dog's gear is of no concern to her and that yes she is an assistance dog. The lady then says "So are you blind, or what?" I wanted to reply with "or what?" But I held my tongue and informed her, ever so kindly, that it is not required by law for me to disclose the nature of my particular disability/s. I will gladly tell anyone the tasks my dog performs which mitigate my disability/s but my disability/s are my own and they are personal. This person had not obviously read the law. I told her what tasks Laveau performs which mitigate my disability/s and went on my way with my dog in her pretty gear.
Then I got selected for a random search and the TSA agent managed to turn my carefully packed and organized bag into a jumble of stuff in under two minutes. Now I remember why I stick to riding the train!
With idiotic airport staff aside, it was a wonderful trip and Laveau had so much fun, and played so hard, that she slept for two days once we got home.