Squirrels are especially nurturing creatures to their own young and the nuts they store for winter. As for comforting humans, well, that's a hard one to explain to airline staff.
That's what one Orlando woman tried to do to attendants on Tuesday, October 9th on a Frontier Airlines flight destined for Cleveland. She first told workers who took her reservation that she was bringing along an "emotional support animal," but didn't let the crew on the flight know that it was a bushy-tailed, chattering rodent until she was already buckled in her seat. Explaining that rodents of any type are not allowed on any of the company's fleet, the crew tried to get her to leave, until they were forced to call the police to deal with the matter.
That involved everyone else deplaning first, so police could handle the situation. The tactic hardly caused an uproar with the rest of the passengers, some of whom initially thought there was a mechanical issue. When informed that an altercation was taking place that involved a squirrel, many of them were amused. The greatest inconvenience when all was said and done, was that the flight was delayed by two hours.
On social media, the reaction was more of the head-shaking variety as opposed to the outrage that airlines experienced in the past when forced to punt passengers off flights. "I have heard it all now. 'Emotional support' squirrels?" remarked one respondent whose tone was much akin to eyeballs rolling so far back rear-vision would have been possible.
The episode is symptomatic of what airlines have to deal with when it comes to emotional support animals. While service animals like guide dogs haven't been an issue, emotional support creatures have broadened in scope beyond dogs, cats, and birds. In Canada, that category can also include pigs, monkeys, and miniature horses on WestJet flights.
So far, major airlines like American, Southwest, and United haven't been as flexible, as most of them have reduced the species list considerably since the beginning of the year. In particular, Delta recently announced that passengers must provide 48 hours notice and fill out three forms before bring an emotional support animal on board.