Woman kicked off flight after trying to board with her 'emotional support' peacock
For many of those who suffer from debilitating mental and physical health problems, emotional support animals (ESAs) are an essential part of everyday life. Most often, these animals are dogs or cats, and they help their owners to cope with any stress or difficulties they might encounter on a day-to-day basis.
As helpful as they are, though, ESAs sometimes create certain problems for their owners. Renting a home or living in shared accommodation can be difficult, for example, and taking an animal into a store or restaurant will almost always turn a few heads (and maybe even start a few arguments).
So, when Brooklyn-based artist, Ventiko, attempted to board a United Airlines flight with her emotional support peacock, she probably should have expected to be turned away.
Ventiko - whose real name is not known - was planning to travel from Newark to Los Angeles, but was turned away by the airline because her peacock, Dexter, was not allowed on board. According to United's policy, Dexter should have been able to travel in the cabin for free, as he is a registered ESA. However, due to his weight and size, he was excluded from the usual rules.
As a result, Ventiko offered to purchase an extra seat for the bird, but Dexter was still denied his right to board the plane.
Admittedly, the artist was warned three times, before she even got to the airport, that her peacock would not be allowed to fly with her, but she still turned up with Dexter in the hopes that she could persuade them to change their minds. After six hours of being told "no", however, the pair gave up, and decided they would drive to LA instead.
Ventiko originally bought Dexter, along with a peahen named Etta, for an art installation she was working on. After the project was complete, she found a home for the pair. Unfortunately, Etta disappeared, and Dexter was apparently traumatized by this. So - although she was not originally intent on keeping the bird - Ventiko rescued the peacock once more, and decided to keep him as her pet.
The pair do pretty much everything together, and Ventiko claims that she has "never left the house without having at least one person react."
And, after their airport mishap made headlines, Dexter and Ventiko became somewhat of a meme on the internet.
Some people didn't see any issues with having an emotional support peacock:
Whereas others didn't really take it all that seriously:
Since Ventiko was turned away from her flight, United has changed their policy on emotional support animals. In a statement for the airline, spokesman Charles Hobart said that the incident with Dexter "further illustrates the need for change, and the need to revise and enhance our existing policies so customers are certain what they can bring on board and for the overall safety and comfort of everyone on board the aircraft.”
ESAs are still permitted onboard, but airlines are allowed to refuse reptiles, rodents, and spiders, as well as animals that are too large or heavy, pose a threat to health or safety, or would disrupt service. As of Thursday, United have also said that they won't cater to nonhousehold birds, exotic animals, or any creatures that exude a "foul odor".