Texas Tech University

Peacocks on a Plane? Texas Tech Expert Discusses Emotional Support, Service Animals

Amanda Castro-Crist

February 1, 2018

Larry Phillippe, managing director of Texas Tech University’s Student Disability Services, is available to speak about the differences between the two types of animals and federal laws that address their accommodations.

Are emotional support animals allowed on flights? For a woman trying to board a United Airlines flight with her emotional support peacock at Newark International Airport on Saturday (Jan. 27), the answer was no.

The airline cited weight and size restrictions, among other reasons, in refusing to allow the exotic bird to board. But the story brings to light the growing number of passengers accompanied by trained service animals or emotional support animals, federal guidelines regarding their accommodations and those who must serve these animals and their handlers, even when it's not clear if the animal is a true support or service animal, or just a pet.

Larry Phillippe

Larry Phillippe

Larry Phillippe, managing director of Texas Tech University's Student Disability Services, is available to speak about the differences between the two types of animals and federal laws that address their accommodations. He also can comment on measures businesses are taking to protect themselves, like new requirements introduced by Delta Airlines in response to an increase in reported animal incidents, including urination, defecation and attacks on flights.


Larry Phillippe, managing director of Student Disability Services and Texas Tech University Americans with Disabilities Act Campus Coordinator, (806) 742-2405 or larry.phillippe@ttu.edu

Talking points

  • There are several differences between emotional support animals and trained service animals, and the federal guidelines regarding their accommodations.
  • Misrepresenting a pet as an emotional support animal or trained service animal can lead to jail time and fines, and hurts those who have a genuine need for their animals.
  • Businesses are restricted by law in what they can ask about these animals, but accommodating fake service or emotional support animals is also a risk because untrained animals can cause safety, health or disruption issues.


  • “A trained service animal is only ever a dog, period. In general, anything that can be permitted as a pet can also be classified as an emotional support animal. A service animal is trained to do a specific task, while emotional support animals are only present for emotional comfort and support. They are not trained to do anything.”
  • “Trained service animals are covered the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Emotional support animals are covered under Fair Housing Act as an approved living accommodation in a residence. The Air Carrier AccessAct actually applies to both types of animals and was created to take state laws into account, as some states have very specific rules about emotional support animals and service animals-in-training. That's where a lot of the confusion is – people think the laws all address the same thing, and they don't.”
  • “The problem now is people abusing the system simply because they want to take their pet wherever they go. There are people who truly need emotional support animals to handle issues from a mental health standpoint, but others have figured out if they claim their animal is an emotional support animal, they are exempt from things like pet deposits or can take their animal on a plane free of charge.” 
  • “The biggest problem is an extreme amount of animosity toward people who genuinely need these animals. It is creating a headache in terms of extra paperwork and leading to things like public outbursts when people see an animal accommodated. The only way to get it under control is to step back, study and have a better understanding of the laws.”

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