BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Dog is man's best friend and for some, a necessity.
From grocery stores to airplanes, you've seen service dogs walking down the aisles.
As airlines crack down on certain therapy animals, people are left questioning: Can I bring my animal with me?
Simply put, not all dogs have equal rights. A certified service dog can go into any store, whereas as a therapy pet cannot.
A man who has trained dogs for Kurdistan royalty, as well as common Alabama folks, introduced ABC 33/40's Patrick Thomas to one of his animals. "This is Marley," says K-9 Behaviorist Aaron McDonald.
McDonald has worked with people who rely upon what an animal can do for them. He says, “I work with a lot of people who have invisible trauma and they need their dogs to perform in society.”
A trained emotional support dog like Marley can't walk into a restaurant, the movies, or a local hardware store. And it's because this cute black lab isn't a certified service dog. McDonald says the federally-mandated distinction between certified service dogs and therapy pets commonly confuses people.
“The public needs to be educated as to the difference between the two," he says.
A service animal helps you with certain physical tasks because of a disability.
In contrast, an emotional support animal brings therapeutic benefits to a person to help them cope with things like anxiety or depression and they usually require a psychiatrist's prescription. Without one, Fido's just a pet.
“It's a bit of a rub between what works best for private companies and what works best for the rights of Americans," he says.
Starting July 10th, Delta is banning pitbull service animals, even those with proper certifications, which Dr. Ivana Sullivan at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society finds appalling.
Sullivan says, “It’s not about the breed of the animal. They’re just contributing to enforcing this misconception that this is a terrible breed.”
Delta also does not allow ferrets, snakes, reptiles and animals with tusks, horns, or hooves, even those with certification papers.
If you have a prescribed therapy animal, it's best to check each store's policy before you go. Unless your dog is ADA approved, don't assume it's allowed inside.