Tampa woman misses flight over emotional support animal mix-up

Gate agents asked her for proper documentation
Posted at 9:52 PM, Feb 23, 2018

Tampa, Fla.- A Tampa woman missed her flight to Illinois after gate agents told her she could not board the plane with her dog because she did not have the proper paperwork.

48-year-old Erin Kerr says her dog, Patches, caused gate agents to stop her from boarding a plane at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport on Friday.

The 5-year-old dog usually travels with her after she suffered 2 strokes.

"No, I've never had a problem. He helps me with my hearing. I'm deaf in both ears," said Kerr.

Erin's family says when they booked a flight on Allegiant Air, they didn't mark the box for service dog, but instead checked the box for an emotional support animal.

Gate agents asked Erin for the proper paperwork before she got on the plane. She was unable to provide it.

"I started to cry and I have never had a letter before," said Kerr.

Allegiant Air said there is a distinction between service and emotional support animals. An airline will accept as evidence that an animal is a service animal with the presentation of identification cards, tags, or other written documentations. The presence of a harness or a verbal confirmation by the passenger is also acceptable.

An emotional support or comfort animal does not need to have specific training, but proper paperwork is required. A letter is required from a mental health professional, psychiatrist, or psychologist who is treating the passenger's mental or emotional disability.

The letter may not be older than one year from the date of the scheduled flight.

Erin did not have the proper letter from her doctor after her family checked the box stating Patches is an emotional support animal.

Her family says Erin has never had an issue traveling with the dog before.

"You just don't do that to somebody at the door, let alone somebody you know who is flying who is disabled," said Carolyn Kerr, Erin's mother.

An Allegiant spokesperson says the airline re-booked Erin's flight free of charge and they have sent Erin paperwork outlining the guidelines to traveling with her dog.