Service Dog Denied on Local Airline
Jacki Turiello, a student residing in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania has had her service dog Willow, for just over a year. In November of 2021, she was traveling from Lehigh Valley International Airport to Florida to visit relatives when she was denied the entrance of her service dog onto the plane. The following interview, which was conducted through The Digital Voice, aims to shed light on an incident that can have a severe negative impact on the mental and physical health of people with disabilities.
Q: How long have you had a service dog?
Jacki Turiello: “Just over a year.”
Q: What airline were you flying with, when the incident occurred?
JT: “Allegiant Airlines.”
Q: What was the date?
JT: November 2021
Q: What training, if any, does a service dog need to fly on an airplane?
JT: “They need to have basic obedience and public access training, as well as a few tasks.”
Q: How long has your service dog had the basic obedience training to be in public, prior to the incident?
JT: “She has been in training since she was 12 weeks old, so about a year at that point.”
Q: What was the airline’s reason for denying your service dog entry?
JT: “That they couldn't verify that she was a real service dog.”
Q: What did the airline say to you, when you attempted to bring your service dog on the plane?
JT: “They said that they contacted the organization listed on my DOT* form and they told them they didn't offer service dog training, which is true, but I was doing the task training myself, which is legally allowed.”
*A DOT form is the U.S. Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transport Form is what allows handlers to take their service animals on planes.
Q: If you feel comfortable sharing, without your service dog present, were you negatively mentally and or physically impacted?
JT: “I was extremely stressed out and anxious, and my service dog knows tasks that would have helped calm me down in that situation.”
Q: Did the airline offer compensation, or a change in flight due to this incident?
JT: “They offered to fully refund my flight, but that's it.”
Q: Have you flown with your service dog since?
JT: “No, and I don't think I plan on it, to avoid another incident, and certainly not with the same airline.”
Q: Has the airline attempted to contact you and apologize for the incident?
JT: “As of March 2022, no, they have not.”
JT: “Also wanted to note, this was not an isolated incident. Another handler in Arizona had the same problem with the same airline and that gained traction on tiktok. However, even after everything (TikTok traction and all the comments tagging Allegiant and local news in AZ) the airline never apologized or released a statement.”
There are resources and creators where people can learn more about working service dogs, and how to support people with mental and physical disabilities. Canine Matters on Instagram is a service dog training program, created and run by handler and mental health advocate Claire Nakazawa. Their program offers training of prospective service dogs, as well as educational services for people apart and not apart of the service dog community.